[There are only a few Chinese Exclusion Act files where one of the parents is Irish. Here is one of them in anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day.]
Katherine Lillie Shan applied for her Native’s Return Certificate on 19 June 1930 in Portland, Oregon. She was working for the Orpheum Theatre circuit and they were performing in Canada. She gave the interviewer her Chinese name as Yick May Gum and said she was the daughter of Yick Bing Shan and Gertrude [maiden name not listed]. Katherine was born at 108 third Avenue, New York City on 11 June 1912. Her mother was a white woman of Irish descent who was born in Denver, Colorado. Katherine attended P.S. No. 60 grade school in New York City and then went on to Norfield Seminary [possibly Northfield Mount Herman School]. Her father was a witness for her. Her mother was working in their restaurant on the day of the interview. Katherine had two older brothers back in China whom she had never met.
R. P Bonham, Immigration District Director in Portland sent a telegram to Immigration Service in New York City on June 19 requesting Yick May Gum’s Native Return Certificate but they could not find her file. He interrogated her the next day.
Katherine’s Application of Alleged American Citizen of the Chinese Race for Pre-investigation of Status, Form 430, is included in the file with a note saying “Application withdrawn and birth certificate returned to applicant on June 24, 1930.” Signed: R. J. Norene
[There is no more information in the file. Some files do not tell us very much. This one leaves us with more questions than answers. A cross reference sheet was not included in the file so there is no reference to her father’s file and he wasn’t found in the Seattle index.]
Bruce Lee (Lee Jun Fon) was born on 27 November 1940 in San Francisco, California. In order to establish his son’s right to his United States citizenship and before the family returned to China in April 1941, his father, Lee Hoi Chuen, filed a Citizen’s Return Certificate on his son’s behalf. This would document his son’s birth, his American citizenship and enable him to return to reside in the United States at a later date. His father was an actor at the Mandarin Theatre in San Francisco; he was 27 years old and was born in Fat San City, Nom Hoy, China. He testified that he and his wife, Ho Oi Yee, were married ten years and had four living children—one son died in Hong Kong and one daughter was adopted. Ho Oi Yee’s mother was English. Lee Jun Fon (Bruce Lee) was the only child born in the United States. The doctor gave Bruce Lee his American name. His father couldn’t pronounce it but went along with it.
A copy of Bruce Lee’s birth certificate and a corrected copy are included in the file. In the original document, Item 3B stated that his mother’s usual residence was China. This was corrected to say that she had been a resident of California for one year, two months.
[Bruce Lee returned to the United States at age 18 and attended the University of Washington in Seattle for three years. He became a celebrated actor and martial artist. Lee died of a brain edema on 20 July 20 1973 in Hong Kong and buried in Lakeview Cemetery, Seattle, WA.]
In May 1921, Tsang Gee Kay, alias Bennie One, was applying to travel from Oakland, California to Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia for two weeks. He was an actor and was playing in a skit at the Pantages. His dog was not mentioned in the file so it is assumed that the dog was part of the skit. Tsang Gee Kay was 25 years old and born in San Francisco on 2 December 1895 according to his birth certificate. His father ran a Bizarre and Chinese restaurants in Frisco. He had a brother, Ernest, and two sisters. He had never been back to China but had been to Canada three times—crossing twice at Blackrock near Buffalo, New York, and a third time at Emerson, North Dakota. Tsang Gee Kay was married to Augusta. She was living at 102-West 90th Street, New York City. They had no children. He was re-admitted at Seattle on 12 June 1921.
[Most Section 6-Travelers files for Chinese actors do not contain a photo of the individual or an interrogation. This file is unique because it includes an 8 x 10” group photograph of the troupe. Some of the names on the photo are slightly different than the names listed in the correspondence in the file. Instead of individual files the troupe is all in one file. ]
Photo: Sun Shing/Sun Fong Ching (brother), Choy Dsee Show/Choy Dsee Poo (cousin), Sun Fong Lin (manager), Sun Fong Cling/Sun Fong Lin (brother), Mrs. Sun Fong Lin (manager’s wife), Chang Ding Poo/Chong Den Foo (cousin).
The troupe was on the Pantages Theatre Circuit. They played in Minneapolis, Minnesota then went to Canada for engagements in Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary. They re-entered the United States at Sweet Grass, Montana about 19 January 1919 en route to Great Falls, Montana.
According to Sun Fong Lin, the manager, all six performers were born in China. Three of them arrived in New York in 1914 and the other three landed at San Francisco in 1917. They were originally working for Barnum & Bailey Circus.
On 1 March 1919 Charles W. Seaman, Inspector in Charge, U.S. Department of Labor, Immigration Service in Minnesota, frustrated by a lack of guidelines, wrote a letter to the Commissioner in Washington, D.C. in behalf of the inspector in Sweet Grass saying they had no official instructions for the handling of Chinese performers leaving the country temporarily for engagements in Canada. He asked for specific instructions for handling all future cases involving Chinese performers crossing the border to Canada.
The Troupe was re-admitted to the U.S. on 2 March 1919 and by 5 August 1919 all the proper paperwork was in the file.
[Many Chinese actors and performers entered the U.S. in the late 1880s through the early 1920s under the Section 6 Traveler section of the Chinese Exclusion Act. They were usually performing in theatres, circuses and world fairs and were allowed to stay up to one year. The manager of the troupe would obtain a bond typically for $500 for each member. If a troupe member did not return to China on the expected date the bond amount was forfeited.]
The Choy Ling Hee Troupe was under contract with the Ringling Brothers Circus for five years. The five members of the troupe were Chou You Chun, Mon Gow, Choy Ten, Yah Ching and Choy Wan. The Choy Ling Hee Troupe of Chinese jugglers and magicians was an exception to the usual procedure. Their bonds were renewed annually.
When the circus wasn’t active the troupe worked on the Hippodrome Circuit and played in theatres throughout California, Kansas and other places. The troupe got in trouble because they left the U.S. without notifying immigration authorities. In January 1919 Mr. Edward B. Kellie, manager of the Hippodrome Circuit, told the troupe and the eight white members to go to Vancouver, British Columbia for a performance at the Columbia Theatre, so the troupe went. They didn’t realize that they had to notify the local Immigration authorities before they could travel between the U.S. and Canada. After a brief interrogation their re-entry into Seattle was approved.
[The article, ad, and photo from The Post-Intelligencer, Seattle, Sunday edition, 5 January 1919, page 7 are included in the file.]