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.