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
This letter is from Wong Fook’s employer. Wong Fook lost his original certificate of residence about 1901 or 2. He reapplied about three years later and received a duplicate certificate. That certificate was destroyed in a fire on 12th April 1909.
In the above letter Mr. Seufert states “…and Seid Beck can tell more about them then I can, he suplys [sic] the help here.”
Seid Beck (sometimes spelled Back) was a merchant and labor broker in Portland.