Creating a New Chinatown

Chinese immigrants first settled in downtown Chicago in the early 1870s. They were forced out by issues such as rising rents and anti-Chinese sentiment. Chicago’s existing Chinese community relocated to the South Side in 1912. Chinatown provided residents support and economic opportunity; its businesses attracted people from around the city. The On Leong Merchants Association represented the community, assisted new immigrants, and organized cultural events.

Architect’s rendering of On Leong Merchants Association Building, 1926

Architect’s rendering of On Leong Merchants Association Building, 1926

Courtesy of Tim Samuelson

Chinese Immigration

Eugene Kung came to Chicago as a so-called Paper Son. Only the sons of Chinese American citizens were allowed into the United States after the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. In order to enter the United States, Paper Sons purchased and assumed false identities at great personal risk. They memorized biographical information, such as this document, to convince examiners.

Eugene Kung, a Paper Son living in Chinatown, 1940

Eugene Kung, a Paper Son living in Chinatown, 1940

Courtesy of Chinese American Museum of Chicago

Reproduction of Paper Son training book belonging to Eugene Kung, 1939

Reproduction of Paper Son training book belonging to Eugene Kung, 1939

Courtesy of Chinese American Museum of Chicago