Category Archives: Certificate of Residence

Robert Eugene Lee – Chinese/African American of Philadelphia

Lee Robert Eugene 1916 Aff
“Robert Eugene Lee and Lee Chong, affidavit photos ,” 1916, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Lee Quock Bong (Robert Eugene Lee) case file, Seattle Box 686, 7030/8391.

Robert Eugene Lee (Lee Quock Bong) was born on 24 February 1897 at 208 North 9th Street in Philadelphia. His parents were Lee Chong and Musetta Lee. His father was Chinese and his mother was “a negress.” In 1902 Lee Chong and his family visited his home village, Dong Nom Ho Village, Hok Dan District, China. Mrs. Lee died two months after arriving in China. Lee Chong returned to Philadelphia in 1903 and the children stayed in China with their father’s family.

In 1916 Lee Chong was applying to have his son, Robert Eugene Lee, join him in Philadelphia. He swore in an affidavit that he was a laundryman at 1939 East Sargent Street, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; a widower and father of three American-born children, Robert Eugene Lee, aged 18; Mable Luella Lee, age 16, and Gum Len Lee, age 13, who were living in China. His son was married but his wife would be staying in China.

Mary E. Moy, age 45, was a witness for Lee Chong and his son. She testified that her sister and Dr. Bates attended Musetta Lee at Robert’s birth. Mrs. Moy, a Caucasian, was married to a Chinese, Goon Moy. Her husband and Robert’s father, Lee Chong, were close friends.

Other witnesses were Lee Tong, manager of Chong Woh Company in Philadelphia and Agnes A. Ming, a Caucasian who knew Robert’s parents well. She testified that she had known Lee Chong since she was twelve years old and that Lee Chong married Zada Brown, “a colored girl,” who lived over his laundry at 18th and Wharton streets. After their three children were born the Lee family moved to China and Zada died there in 1903. Agnes went to school with Zada, a mulatto. Agnes’ husband was Chinese and a friend of Lee Chong. The Mings lived in Albany, New York.

Lee Chong (American name Joe Lee), (marriage name Lee See Tai), was 49 years old, a laundryman. He received his certificate of identity or residence 107002 in Philadelphia in March 1894. [The file sometimes refers to the certificate as identity and sometime as residence.]
In a letter recommending approval of Robert’s documents, Charles V. Mallet, Chinese and Immigrant Inspector at Gloucester City, New Jersey stated,

“The witnesses Mary Moy and Agnes Ming are both white women
who are or have been married to Chinese, and both of them
convince me of their credibility in connection with their
testimony affecting the applicant; Mrs. Moy being a woman
whose personality should place her way above the status of
one who ordinarily consorts with Chinese. I personally know
something about this witness and have to say for her that
she has raised a family of boys in a manner which should do
credit to any mother. The Chinese witness, Lee Tong, is one
of the most responsible and respected merchant in
Philadelphia Chinatown, and his testimony should be
accorded corresponding weight. The alleged father of the
boy gives the impression of one who is disposed to tell the
truth with his knowledge, and manifests a true parent’s
interest in the applicant…”

In a 1916 statement approving Robert Eugene Lee’s arrival, H. W. Cunningham, Chinese and Immigrant Inspector, Vancouver, B.C. said, “…the claims made are genuine, and in addition applicant’s features plainly indicate an admixture of negro blood. Applicant is admitted and furnished a certificate of identity.”

The file lists the following documents were examined: the baptismal cards for Robert Eugene Lee and Mabel Luella Lee at Philadelphia, 12 December 1901; a 1911 copy of a birth certificate for Chinese female Lee, [Gum Len Lee] born 21 July 1902; and passport 62682 issued 9 October 1902 to Musetta Lee accompanied by her three minor children. [Unfortunately these documents are not included in the file.]

Robert lost his certificate of identity in 1921 but was able to get it replaced.

Robert Eugene Lee made two more trips to China. He was gone from 1922 to 1924. His son, Lee Tong Chee, arrived in the U.S. in 1928. His wife, Chong See, and his other son, Lee You Kue, stayed in China. In 1936 Robert, age 39, applied to visit China and was approved. He returned in June 1937.

William K. Lai – Vaudeville performer & vocal soloist from Portland, OR

William Lai 1913
“Lai Man Kim (William K. Lai), Form 430 photo,” 1913, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Lai Man Kim case file, Portland Box 23, 3282.

Lai Man Kim whose American name was William K. Lai was born on 5 September 1887 in Portland Oregon, the son of Lai Fong and Foong Ho. He had no siblings. His father died when he was about four years old and his mother went to live in China in 1906. Lai Kim obtained a certificate of residence in 1894 when he was seven years old. On his 1913 pre-investigation of citizenship status he listed several witnesses: Mr. Sanborn of Van Schuyver & Co., and several prominent Chinese: Lee Mee Gin, Seid Back, Moy Back Hin, Seid Back, Jr. (Said Gain) and Moy Bow Wing. Lai Kim was a charter member of the American Born Chinese Association in Portland and held certificate number 21. After his mother left Portland he lived with the Moy Bow Wing family. He listed his occupation as vocal soloist at the Majestic Theatre in Portland. Lai Kim was a student at Chinese and English schools in Portland before attending the University of Oregon at Eugene, Oregon. Lai Wai, Lai Kim’s cousin and godfather, help support him and his mother after his father’s death.
Lai Man Kim’s application was approved by the Seattle Immigration Office but he didn’t leave the country at that time. About a year later, in 1914, Martin Beck, General Manager of the Orpheum Circuit in Chicago wrote to Immigration Service in Portland to tell them that Lai Man Kim would be leaving Chicago for Canada, then returning to Seattle from Vancouver, B.C. There is no more information in the file.
Information not included in the file:
[These entries are from my 2009 blog on the Chinese at the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition held in Seattle. The newspaper articles tell a little bit more about William Lai’s earlier musical career.]
Portland student at AYPE and Harry Ding and William Lai Perform

Charley Wing – Merchant or Laborer?

Charley Wing photo 1894
“Photos of Charley Wing, 1894 & 1919,” Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Charles Wing, alias Chin Poon Leong file, Seattle, Box 1301, Case 38575/8-2

Wing Charley 1919

In December 1919 Charley Poon Wing was anxious to visit his sister in China before she died–she was very old, in ill health, and he had not seen her since they were children. Before he left The U.S. he applied to re-enter the country as a returning domiciled merchant. Although he was a laborer many years ago, he now considered himself a merchant. On his return trip Wing arrived in Seattle, Washington on 18 April 1921 on the S.S. Princess Alice but was denied admittance. His case was appealed and he was finally admitted on 6 June 1921. [He spent almost two months at a detention center waiting for the final decision.]
Wing first entered the U. S. at San Francisco in 1875 at the age of ten and remained here continuously until 1919. He was a citizen of South Dakota, owned property worth about $600, paid taxes, and was a registered voter. He voted until he was prohibited by the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1892. He had a certificate of residence No. 135,817, issued at Omaha, Nebraska in May 1894.
Charley Wing applied for readmission as a merchant but under the provision of the Exclusion Act he was deemed a laborer. Because the immigration authorities thought he was trying to enter fraudulently he was subject to deportation. An appeal was made and he was landed as a returning laborer issued nunc pro tunc. [Latin for “now for then,” this refers to changing back to an earlier date of an order, judgment or filing of a document. See Law.com]
Harry L. Gandy, a former member of the U. S. House of Representatives, and a friend of Charley’s, testified that he had known Wing many years and that he should be admitted as a citizen of the state of South Dakota. Gandy wrote a very convincing letter in Wing’s favor explaining that Wing was now an old man and if he was not admitted and forced to go back to China, he will probably die there, alone.
Mr. J. S. Gantz, testified that he had known Charley Wing over 30 years and that Wing had voted prior to 1889 when the Enabling Act [when South Dakota became a state] was passed. Wing was the manager and head cook at the Chicago Restaurant in Rapid City. [Because Wing also did manual labor as head cook, the immigration authorities considered him a laborer.]
According to the records of the Register of Deeds of Pennington County, Wing was the owner of lot 8, block 7, Feigel’s East Addition in Rapid City assessed at $400. Although Wing was the manager of the restaurant, Robert F. Davis, Immigrant inspector, did not think he qualified as a merchant.
Yee Sing Wah and Yee Wah Ong, partners at Chicago Café, testified that Charley Wing was a partner in the Cafe.
Louis W. Napier, the proprietor of a soft drink place in Rapid City, testified that he had known Charley Wing for 25 years. He said he wouldn’t classify him as a merchant but he was a businessman. His definition of a merchant was one who deals in merchandise although Wing was the proprietor of several restaurants over the years. “He always contributed to any cause, churches and civic movements, campaign finds, etc.”
George F. Schneider, president of Pennington County Bank, testified that he had known Charley Wing for over ten years. Schneider thought Wing was a merchant and in charge of supervision of his restaurant who also did manual labor as a cook so in the strict definition of the Act he was not a merchant.
Affidavits testifying to the good character of Charley Wing were filed by W. L. Gardner, a furniture dealer in Seattle; James B. Barber, a contractor and builder; Charles A. Whitson and Guy Wing, both workers at Wing’s Cafeteria; and Edmund Smith, a lawyer in Seattle.
In the five-page statement filed by Smith & Chester, Wing’s attorneys they reiterated all of Charley Wing’s qualities and point out the sad predicament he was in. They said Wing was denied re-admission because he stated he was a “restaurant man” when he left and a “merchant” when returned. They said, “The government does not mean for its functions to serve as a trap, nor to use this kind of a mistake as a snare for the unwary.” They ended their plea,

“Exercising the broad discretion given to the Secretary of Labor, we earnestly request that the decision of the local board be set aside and an order be entered nunc pro tunc, admitting appellant under his true status, if he cannot be admitted as a merchant.”

Charley Wing was admitted on 6 June 1921.

Lem Chan – Chicken Oath

photo of Rooster
Chicken Oath
Lem Chan application
Lem Chan, Application for Duplicate of Certificate of Residence, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Lem Chan, Portland Box 44 , Case 1016/38.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

Lem Chan was 19 years old when he first arrived in the United States at San Francisco in 1871. Since then he was working as a cook in a restaurant in Astoria, Oregon. He was living at Me Gin John’s place when he lost his Certificate of Residence on Christmas day 1902. In 1904 he took a chicken oath to swear that his certificate was lost and destroyed by fire in Lum Lop Wy’s store.

[The rationale behind the Chicken Oath was that the Chinese were not Christians and therefore could not be believed when they swore on the Bible. Many courts in the United Sates and Canada had them swear over a freshly killed chicken.]

Gold, Martin. ”Chinese Oath Swearing,” Forbidden Citizens: Chinese Exclusion and the U.S. Congress : a Legislative History, (Alexandria, VA: TheCapitolNet, 2012), 60; digital images, (https://https://books.google.com : accessed 15 September 2015).

Yip Fay – 1917 Certificate of Residence

Yep Fay Certificate of Residence
Yep Fay, Certificate of Residence, 1 August 1917, Yep Sue case file; Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Box 749, Case 7030/10751.

Yip Fay was Yep Sue’s father. His Certificate of Residence #49999 was included in Yep Sue’s file. The certificate had pale green ribbons and a gold seal. It was signed by A. Caminetti, Commissioner General of Immigration and Louis F. Post, Assistant Secretary of Labor.