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Even commercials in the 1880s could be racist. In this soap advertisement, Uncle Sam is portrayed as kicking out Chinese labor as part of a clean-up America campaign.



In the late 1800s male Chinese immigrants were brought to the U.S. to work on the railroads and as agricultural labor on the West Coast; many also specialized in laundry services. After the transcontinental railroad was completed and it occurred to white Americans that the Chinese workers (who, though providing a large part of the labor, weren’t allowed to be in the pictures taken at the joining of the east and west sections of the railroad) were still around and might compete with them for jobs, a wave of anti-Chinese (and, eventually, anti-Japanese) sentiment swept the U.S. Chinese men were stereotyped as degenerate heroin addicts whose presence encouraged prostitution, gambling, and other immoral activities. (Note: Since most Chinese immigrants were brought here specifically as workers, the vast majority were male; few at that time were able to bring their wives.) A number of cities on the West Coast experienced riots in which Whites attacked Asians and destroyed Chinese sections of town. The Seattle riot resulted in practically the entire Chinese population being rounded up and forcibly sent to San Francisco, leading to the growth of Chinatowns in a few larger cities such as, San Francisco.
The anti-Asian movement led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (see text here).

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“Why They can live on 40 cents a day…and They can’t.” Is the title of the above image.



Strange Case of the Chinese Laundry