Monthly Archives: January 2019

Nelson Wah Chan King – Tie-in to Gum Moon: A Novel of San Francisco Chinatown by Jeffrey L. Staley

Jeffrey L. Staley recently published a book on his wife’s family. Although the book is fiction it is based on real people and true events. The Chinese Exclusion Act case file published in September 2017 on this blog for Nelson Wah Chan King mentions the Methodist Oriental Home in San Francisco, where Staley’s wife’s grandmother, Mei Chun Lai, was also raised.
The mother of Nelson Wah Chan King, the subject of the blog entry, was Lily Shem. She and her younger sister, May, were both raised at the Methodist Oriental Home. Mei (Maud/Maude) Chun Lai, Jeffrey Staley’s wife’s grandmother, and several other Chinese children including May Shem sang for President Theodore Roosevelt in the White House on November 5, 1908.

Shem May Oriental Home
Photos courtesy of Jeffrey Staley

The children who performed for President Roosevelt were Ruby Tsang, Pearl Tsang, Maud/Maude Lai, May Shem, Lydia Woo, Grace Woo, Ida Woo and Lum Wong. Nine-year-old Lum Wong was the musical director and Maude Lai was his accompanist on the piano. A fund-raising trip across eastern part of the United States was organized by Miss Carrie G. Davis, superintendent of the Oriental Home for Chinese Children and her assistant Mrs. D. S. Street. The home was located at 1918 University Avenue, Berkeley, California. The purpose of the trip was to raise funds to complete a new building to replace the old one which was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire. Miss Davis thought the new building would cost $35,000.1
1 “Chinese Youngsters to Sing in English,” Salt Lake Telegram, 27 Feb 1909, p 1.


Photos courtesy of Jeffrey Staley.

Benjamin Chi’s long fight to stay in the United States

Chi Benjamin 1941 photo
“Photo of Benjamin Chi, Precis of Investigation,” 1940, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Chi Po Shen (Benjamin Exner Chi) case file, Seattle Box 365, file #7027/1110.
See blog entry for 3 December 2018 for information on Emily Green Exner Chi and her children Benjamin, Sylvia, and Vernon Chi who arrived at the Port of Seattle on 13 February 1941. Emily, Sylvia and Vernon were admitted as U.S. citizens; Benjamin was not. Benjamin’s case is complicated and this blog entry will explain what happened.

The Citizenship Act of 1934 was signed by President Roosevelt on 24 May 1934. The Act allowed any child born outside the limits of the United States, whose father or mother at the time of the birth was a citizen of the United States, to be a citizen of the United States.1 Benjamin was born in 1933. His siblings were born after 24 May 1934. Their mother was a U.S. citizen and they were all born in China. His siblings were considered U.S. citizen; Benjamin was not.

Benjamin Ch’i or Chi, Chinese name Po-Shen Ch’i, was born in Tientsin, China on 18 June 1933. He was issued Section Six Certificate #901 on 5 December 1940 by the Bureau of Police at Tientsin where he was attending Chiu Chen Primary School. When he entered the U.S. at Seattle in February 1941 he was classified as a temporary visitor under Section 3(2) of the Immigration Act of 1924.

Benjamin’s temporary visa was renewed several times. If his visa could not be renewed he could be deported. His mother and younger brother and sister were considered U.S. citizen and wanted to stay in the U.S. because of distressing conditions in China [World War II]. Benjamin was 12 years old; he could not be sent back to China on his own. If he was deported his mother and siblings would need to leave too.

In February 1946, Benjamin’s mother wrote to Immigration. She was trying, once again, to renew her son’s temporary visa. In December she had sent his Chinese passport to the Consulate in China to renew it. Three months later she still had not received the renewed passport and now she did not have the necessary papers to renewal his U.S. temporary visa.

Although the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed in 1943, there was now an extremely restrictive quota—only 105 Chinese were allowed into the U.S. Letters between Mrs. Chi and Immigration went back and forth and a warrant of arrest was issued for twelve-year old Benjamin in May 1946. The deportation order was suspended four months later. In February 1947 the Central Office of Immigration informed the Seattle office that the alien was no longer a quota immigrant chargeable to the quota of China. Benjamin Chi was allowed to stay in the United States. The long struggle was finally over.

1. Orfield, Lester B. (1934)”The Citizenship Act of 1934,” University of Chicago Law Review: Vol. 2 : Iss. 1 , Article 7. http://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/uclrev/vol2/iss1/7

Pang Jin-Feng – update with parents’ information

Update of 10/08/2018 blog post for Pang Jin-Feng–Photo retake–ears not showing

The original photos of two-year old Pang Jin-Feng did not meet Immigration Services requirements regarding photos.  Pang Jin-Feng ears coveredSince the child would probably not be returning to the U.S. for many years, a photo showing her ears was needed for identification.  She was traveling with her parents Tse Sun Pang and Pao Chi Hau of Corvallis, Oregon.
“Pang Jin-Feng Form 430 photos” 1941, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Pang Jin-Feng case file, Portland Box 100, file 5017/921.

Additional information:
In July 1941 R. J. Norens, Immigration Divisional Director, returned passport No. 404999 to Tse Sun Pang, Pan Jun-Feng’s father. His student Chinese certificate and his wife’s Alien Registration Receipt Cards were also returned.

Tse Sung Pang testified that he was also known as Jin Chung Pang. He was born on 22 March 1909 in Nanchang, China and admitted into the United States on 12 January 1938 at Seattle, WA as a student. He obtained his master’s degree at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, MN. His wife, Pao-Chi Hau, was born 16 April 1910 in Peiping, China and was admitted in January 1938 at Seattle as a student. They married on 22 March 1938 in Minnesota. Their daughter was born on 15 June 1939. In July 1940 they moved to Corvallis, Oregon so they each could work on a doctor’s degree in the soils division at Oregon State College.

Tse Sung Pang and Pao-Chi Hau both had their fingerprints taken for their files. A copy of Pang Jin-Feng’s birth certificate was submitted to Immigration but was not included in the file. Pang Jin-Feng’s application was approved.