Hatchet Men: The Story of the Tong Wars in San Francisco's Chinatown

Hatchet Men: The Story of the Tong Wars in San Francisco's Chinatown

Language: English

Pages: 292

ISBN: 1618090518

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Richard Dillon, one of California's premier historians, tells the compelling story of San Francisco's exotic pre-1906 Chinatown when vicious hoodlum gangs held sway. Chinatown, as demonstrated by Dillon's fast-paced narrative, became a cauldron of chaos teeming with thugs, prostitutes, gamblers, and warlords preying on scores of helpless victims. As the Tong Wars ripped through San Francisco's Chinatown, the Chinese inhabitants lived under a reign of terror. Opium was abundant as were "slave girls," women imported for the purpose of prostitution. Hatchet-wielding killers silenced any opposition. It was a lurid and violent chapter in American history-and, in an era when the customs of an Asian people were considered foreign and frightening to begin with, the very word "Chinatown" came to suggest the mysterious, the sinister. The truth that survived the earthquake of 1906 was both colorful and tragic. Richard Dillon exposes the plight of the Chinese "average man," trapped between the Tongs that terrorized and cast their shadow over him, and a government that disastrously misunderstood him. Richard H. Dillon has written more than 20 books about California and the West.
















fighting tong, the Gee Sin Seer, before he was even of age. There is confusion here, too, for Pete admitted tong membership in court but stated he was a member of the rival Bo Sin Seer. In either case, the men he recruited were young toughs of the criminal class who were a world apart from their cultivated leader, with his native intelligence and dignity, but they were dedicated and dangerous. Pete’s tong machinations were soon so successful that tribute began to pour in. Hatchet men who were

highbinder in Chinatown and where nearly every individual could be found. But I can’t now. The streets are filled with strange faces. At one time I arrested thirty-five men in one day and did not make a single mistake. I was always careful not to arrest innocent men and give cause for complaint. Why, once we smashed eight thousand dollars’ worth of property in breaking up a tong meeting. It was a long time before they dared to come together again. But, you see, all these clubs are incorporated

not progress or freedom the keystone of his philosophy. With the partial collapse of the Six Companies in the mid-’90s, the cult of detachment or disaffiliation in Chinatown became more pronounced. John virtually hid in his warren. He bowed down and waited for the storm to rage and die. His attitude can be called selfishness, cowardice, pacificism or stoicism; whatever it was it embodied a surrender to the old Chinese proverb—“It is better to be a dog in peaceful times than a man in times of

will declare, Seven gaping wounds shall drain my blood away, Should I to alien ears my sacred trust betray. The candidate then crawled under the bench or chair on which the Ah Mah was seated, symbolizing his “rebirth” as a tong member. After renouncing all allegiance to Emperor, family and clan, the young man was led to a third portal which opened into an area where he was introduced to the secret signs of worship of Heaven and Earth and the spirits of the monks slaughtered so long before by

say the Kwong Duck tong was organized by decent folk to fight the warlike Hip Yees. For a time the Kwong Ducks worked with Customs, identifying incognito slave girls as they disembarked from Pacific Mail steamers. The Hip Yee tong, too, was said to have started out honestly by protecting unwilling slave girls. But both ended up deep in criminal activities. The Kwong Duck tong was apparently formed by Mock Tan who patterned it after San Francisco’s vigilance committees and who used terror and

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