03 August 2013

San Francisco Chinatown Bubonic Plague Records

Toy Vendor, Chinatown, San Francisco [c1 by ralphrepo, on Flickr

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  ralphrepo 

I should win a prize for finding a most obscure group of records in the most unlikely place.

The place:  Special Collections at the Holt-Atherton Library, University of the Pacific, 3601 Pacific Avenue, Stockton, California  (209) 946-2404.  

The records:  San Francisco Chinatown Residential Inspection Records from 1904.

I know, who would have thought to look in Stockton for San Francisco records!

About the records, why they were created:

Called the "Barbary Plague," San Francisco was hit with an epidemic of the bubonic plague 1900-1904.  An autopsy on a deceased Chinese man by a city health officer in 1900 reported that the man had died of the plague.  The anti-Chinese sentiment of the day caused officials to quarantine Chinatown.  After objections of the Chinese community and threatened with lawsuits, the quarantine was lifted after just a few days.  In its place, health officials ran door-to-door inspections of all the homes in Chinatown.

The 4 volumes have about 300 pages each.  Volume 1 is arranged by addresses. It describes rooms, number of inhabitants, toilets, conditions of kitchen and toilets, arrangement of rooms, entry access, stairways, etc.  The other 3 volumes are an alphabetical listing of names, addresses, occupations, children and their ages.

These records could very well be the only census type record ever taken of San Francisco Chinatown and will be a goldmine of information for anyone doing Chinese research.
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress
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