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Finding aid of the San Francisco Chinatown Residential Inspection Records
MSS 130  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: San Francisco Chinatown residential inspection records
    Dates: ca. 1904
    Collection number: MSS 130
    Creator: United States Chinese Bureau (San Francisco, Calif.)
    Collection Size: .5 linear feet
    Repository: University of the Pacific. Library. Holt-Atherton Dept. of Special Collections
    Stockton, California 95211
    Abstract: Collection consists of 4 volumes listing residents by name with occupations. First volume arranged by address, others arranged alphabetically by personal name.
    Physical location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog.
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English


    Collection open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    San Francisco Chinatown residential inspection records. MSS 130. Holt-Atherton Department of Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Four volumes of San Francisco Chinatown residential inspection records. Streets include Bartlett Alley, Brenham, Bull Run, Clay, Dupont,Fish Alley, Jackson, Pacific, Ross Alley, Sacramento, Stockton and Waverly. The registers include names, occupations and, in some cases, brief descriptions of living conditions. Occupations include: cook, store owner, barber, gambler, farmer, clerk, tailor, cigar maker, railroad worker,ranch hand, doctor, dentist and ironer. The records were probably prepared by James R. Dunn, inspector in charge of U.S. Chinese Bureau, San Francisco, or by an assistant.
    According to Dr. Guenter B. Risse Affiliate Professor, Department of Medical History and Ethics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA in a 2008 email, "N.K. Foster, who was the Secretary of the California Health Board in 1904, mentions in his June 3, 1904 report to the Second Annual Conference of State Boards meeting in Washington, that there still were many difficulties in finding plague cases in their early stages among the Chinese. These people are quite reticent in reporting them, in part because of the dread of having bodies submitted to dissection but also fears that their social and business relations will be disturbed. A death from plague prompts destruction of what inspectors perceive to be rubbish, then cleanup and disinfection that they also try to avoid. To prevent this, the Chinese claim that the victim came from another place, frequently outside the district, and died as soon as he arrived.
    "To counter this persistent deception, Chinatown was divided into subdivisions with separate inspectors working in each of them. Moreover, each room in the district received a number, placed prominently on its door, and the particular inspector assigned to that sector possesses a book with house and room numbers, name of occupant and business. At each visit, the inspector recorded conditions and checked on the tenants whereabouts. In this methodic way, the inspectors kept track of the inhabitants and also had a better chance to find cases of sickness, although it was impossible to get around daily. Difficulties arose when sick people moved to other rooms or buildings, often unused ones.
    "It seems probable that these records belong to that sanitation effort; since there was no other census of Chinatown, they could have been shared with Dunn, then in charge of the Immigration Service in SF and particularly involved with the movement of migrant Chinese under the provisions of the Exclusion Act of 1902."

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Chinese Americans - History
    Chinese Americans - Employment - San Francisco
    San Francisco (Calif.) - History
    Chinatown (San Francisco, Calif.) - Social conditions