Sunday, March 05, 2006

Chinese RR workers - Opium Use? - Wives?


I would like to know if there is any information regarding the use of Opium by the Chinese Rail Road workers.

I also believe that the men were not allowed to bring their wives or any other females. Is there any information as to the female Chinese during the railroad building?

I do not mean to be insulting anyone, I am just curious if there has been any research in these two areas.

—Judith Belfer


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Caution: Observe all legalities regarding antiquities, controlled substances, and paraphernalia. Use good judgment and common sense when deciding what to write on a public forum. If you are uncertain, consult an attorney.

3/05/2006 6:26 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Larry Mullaly"
Subject: Chinese Women/Opium Usage

Chinese workers, were generally laborers hired in groups and brought to American by organizations based in San Francisco (but also in China, I believe) known as the Six Companies. These workers were then hired out (in groups again) to the railroads as temporary labor either for construction purposes or as track workers. They were not considered railroad employees as such but as subcontracted labor. Chinese laborers for example were not eligible for treatment by the Central Pacific hospital in Sacramento. They were nonetheless a critical element in the building and operation of the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads.

In the 1860s and 1870s Chinese labor gangs were also prime contributors to the building of the Sacramento River levee systems, and in constructing various irrigation projects in the San Joaquin Valley. They were indispensable to some types of agriculture such as fruit or vegetable cultivation.

Such peasant labor groups were not accompanied by wives or families from China. In San Francisco and other towns where Chinese workers congregated when not in the field, Chinese girls were usually available as prostitutes. The latter were brought over from China for this purpose – again traveling and contracted in groups. Marriage was possible, but most such Chinese workers, at least initially, planned to return to China rather than set up households in America.

Census data shows that even a small town such as Bakersfield in 1880 had a Chinese brothel, but few Chinese families.

Opium was regarded as a medicinal and probably recreational drug and its use (generally in moderation) seems to have been rather common among Chinese laborers.

The Chinese were extremely important to the building up of the West. But in their time there was very little understanding or appreciation of their social structures and value systems that allowed them to function in what was, for the most part, a harsh and hostile environment. ...

—Larry Mullaly

3/09/2006 10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Empty, 130 year-old-opium tins are easily seen along the old grade in Nevada. The lids of these have Chinese characters, indicating, I am told, as to the quality of the goods inside. Have never seen a full one

3/25/2006 6:57 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

See photo of empty opium cans seen West of Toano, Nevada on the old CPRR grade.

3/25/2006 9:33 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Also see a question about opium cans.

6/30/2007 9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Related reference:

Exclusion of certain Chinese women from immigration by U.S. Federal Law, Page Act, 1875.

7/02/2007 9:32 AM  

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