Category Archives: Actor

Long Mi-Na and Long Nee-Sa — Long Tack Sam Troupe

[The National Archives is still closed because of COVID-19. A few months ago, I emailed the staff at seattle.archives@nara.gov with my request for the files for Long Mi-Na and Long Nee-Sa. The request went into the queue and when my number came up a staff member scanned the files and emailed them to me. They are the greatest!]

“Long Mi-Na & Long Nee-Sa correspondence photos,” 1929, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Long Mi-Na and Long Nee-Sa case file, Seattle Box 334, file 7022/18-3 & 7022/18-4.

Long Mi-Na, age 23, and Long Nee-Sa, age 21, were the daughters of Long Tack Sam. They were actresses and members of the Long Tack Sam Troupe who made several tours the United States and Canada. There were twelve members of the troupe. On this trip to Vancouver, B.C. they left Seattle on 23 November 1932 by boat, returned via the Great Northern Railway, and were identified and admitted at Blaine, Washington, one week later.

The troupe was bonded by the National Suety Company granted by Department of Labor.

The initial correspondence in the files was for their 1929 tour. On that tour, they left the U.S. in March for vaudeville engagements at Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver, Canada; and reenter at Seattle in April 1929 to continue their tour in the United States. They were allowed to stay in the U.S. for six months. A bond of $1,000 was paid for each of the twelve members of the troupe. The substantial amount of the bond was to assure that all the members of the troupe would depart the U.S. at the end of the six-month period.

[Unfortunately, files for travelers such as actors, actresses, acrobats, and vaudeville members, usually do not contain much information. Most do not include a photograph.  Mi-Na and Nee-Sa’s files were only six pages but each file included a photo.]

See more information about Long Tack Sam from an earlier post.

Kwan Tak-hing (Kwan Duck Hing) – Member of SF touring opera troupe & and star of Cantonese talkies in the 1930s

“Kwan Duck Hing, Passport Identification Affidavit,”1931, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Kwan Duck Hing case file, Seattle Box 325, Seattle file 7022/6-49.

Today’s blog entry was brought to you by Alex Jay. Thank you Alex!

[The National Archives is still closed because of COVID-19 but the staff is working on a limited basis. They are taking requests for copies of files so get on their waiting list. If you would like a file, call or send your request to Archival Research, 206-336-5115, seattle.archives@nara.gov]

Kwan Duck Hing was a member of San Francisco touring opera troupe and star of one of the world’s first Cantonese talkies in the 1930s.

See the complete article on Kwan Tak-hing (Kwan Duck Hing)  (Guan Dexing 關德興)  on Alex Jay’s blog, Chinese American Eyes: Famous, forgotten, well-known, and obscure visual artists of Chinese descent in the United States

Alex Jay obtained the Chinese Exclusion Act (CEA) file for Kwan Tak-hing from the National Archives at Seattle. Alex has hundreds more articles about Chinese artists on his blog. This article gives us an example of the several names one Chinese individual may have been known as over his lifetime. Those names could be misspelled or spelled phonetically in various documents making the search for someone or their file even more difficult. Alex Jay’s article shows the variety of records that can be used to reconstruct someone’s life after starting with the CEA case file.

Go to Alex Jay’s blogger profile for a comprehensive list of his blogs.

Long Tack Sam – Internationally Renowned Magician & Acrobat

[The National Archives is still closed because of COVID-19. This file was copied before the closure in March 2020. I will let you know when the archives reopens. THN]

There is not much information in Long Tack Sam Company’s file. The cover sheet shows that the file contains information on actors who were members of the Long Tack Sam Company. They were admitted at Blain [sic], Wn. [Washington], ex G. N. train [Great Northern Railway], June 17, 1923.  (See 10770/1-1 to 12). It was an inventory file. The subjects were listed as Long Tack Sam, Long Lieu (Lan Ludovika), Fang Ching Hai, Sih Qua Ling, Sang Chi Hwa, Wang Kuh Yong and Li Koy Dohien.

Page 1:  23 June 1920 letter from Pantages Theatre Company, Inc., Seattle, Washington to U.S. Immigration in Seattle, notifying them that Long Tack Sam Company of Chinese magicians would be returning to the port of Seattle on Sunday, 27 June at 9 p.m.

Page 2: 7 May 1923 letter on Long Tack Sam Company stationary to Seattle Immigration Service regarding Chang Chang Ching with an attached photo of Chang.


Photo of Chang Chang Ching

Page 3: photos 1-7 with names listed  [not dated]

Page 4: five photos of nine actors with names listed  [not dated]

Page 5: eight photos of eight actors with names listed [not dated]

“Long Tack Sam and members of the Long Tack Sam Co.” 1923, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Long Tack Sam Company case file, Seattle Box 1306, files 38772/1-1 to 1-9.

John Jung posted this video of Long Tack Sam on Facebook:

Here’s the promo for it:
“This feature documentary offers a whimsical tour through the history of Chinese magicians and performers in the Western world. Long Tack Sam was an internationally renowned Chinese acrobat and magician who overcame isolation, poverty, cultural and linguistic barriers, extreme racism and world wars to become one of the most successful acts of his time. Filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming travels the globe searching for the story of her great-grandfather, the cosmopolitan Long Tack Sam. A celebration of the spirit of Long Tack Sam’s magic and art, this richly textured first-person road movie is an exhilarating testament to his legacy and a prismatic tour through the 20th Century.”

Yick May Gum (Katherine Lillie Shan) – Chinese and a wee bit of Irish

Yick May Gum Katherine Shan photo
“Yick May Gum (alias Katherine Lillie Shan) Form 430 photo” 1930, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Yick May Gum (Katherine Shan) case file, Portland Box 92, 5017/552.
[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 – anniversary of his birth – 27 November 1940

Bruce Lee Form 430 Application
“Application for Citizen’s Return Certificate, Form 430,” 1941, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives at San Francisco, Bruce Lee (Lee Jun Fon) case file, SF file 12017/53752; https://catalog.archives.gov/id/5720262, image 8.

[The complete file (31 pages) for Bruce Lee is at National Archives at San Francisco and is available at https://catalog.archives.gov/id/5720262.]

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.

Bruce Lee Birth Certificate
Bruce Lee, SF file 12017/53752, corrected birth certificate, image 23.

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.]

Bruce Lee’s tombstone at Lakeview Cemetery

Tsang Gee Kay and his dog

Tsang Gee Kay photo with dog
“Tsang Gee Kay and his dog,” 1921, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Tsang Gee Kay file, Seattle, Box 1305, Case 38749/1-1.

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.

Imperial Pekinese Troupe – Actors

Imperial Pekinese Troupe
“Imperial Pekinese Troupe, photo, 1919” Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Imperial Pekinese Troupe file, Seattle, Box1262, Case 36287/1-1 to 1/6.

[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.

Choy Ling Hee Troupe – hair-raising and daring feats

Choy Ling Hee Troupe photo
“Choy Ling Hee Troupe newspaper article, photo, and ad, 1919” Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Chow You Chun file, Seattle, Box1260, Case 36171/1-1.

Choy Ling Hee Troupe articleChoy Ling Hee Troupe Ad
[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.]