A trio of stories that illustrate more of the casual racism against Chinese immigrants in 1904, but with a surprising conclusion, both in the events and the reporting. First, see this earlier post for some background on anti-Chinese bigotry in general and Sonoma County attitudes specifically.

"Melican" was supposedly pidgin for "American." It often appeared in 19th century writing about Chinese immigrants at least as far back as 1858, nearly always in a "humorous" snatch of dialog intended to make the speaker appear unintelligent. As with most of those writings, the examples below reveal more about the prejudice of the author than anything about the smarts of the speaker.

To what degree people actually spoke in such heavy pidgin is unknown -- and if they did, it sometimes may have been a feint. White Americans at the time seemed uneasy when Chinese men didn't fit their racist Coolie stereotype; also on Oct. 27, the Press Democrat noted with suspicion that several "hightoned" Chinese men who arrived in town were "dressed in most approved American style and were minus their ques [sic]. The party attracted some attention on the street and at the depot." That the locals were gawking at nicely-dressed visitors shows how unaccustomed they were to having their prejudices challenged (and also says much about their ill-manners).

"I no understan', you heap savee [savvy]," the Press Democrat quoted Ah Quay as he asked his business parter for help in obtaining his marriage license. Ah Quay was a prosperous hop farmer -- the Santa Rosa Republican even called him "wealthy" -- who had succeeded against all odds. If he actually did say anything like that, he was likely playing the game of diminished expectations. Ah Quay certainly had a grasp of American bureaucracy and could make himself understood in English; a few weeks later, he confronted Santa Rosa's Superintendent and refused to allow the city to haul sewer pipe down the farm's private road because of potential damage (much to the annoyance of officials). In this situation, perhaps he feared County Clerk Pressley might obstruct or even reject his coveted marriage application on some interracial or citizenship pretext, but would be less likely to hassle a prominent white landowner.

The Press Democrat's following description of the wedding was insulting, with pidgin dialog and details to accent foreignness and race of both bride and groom. (The Republican's coverage was almost as offensive, with the headline, "Very Peculiar Combination - A Chinaman and Half Breed Indian are Married 'All Same Melican Man' Wednesday Night.") Weddings of whites were reported solemnly and respectfully, of course; never would the bride's trousseau be described as a "blue something or other."

Ah Quay's marriage came to a morose end a few weeks later, and this time the Press Democrat's news coverage was strikingly different. No pidgin english and no demeaning references to "Chinaman" or "Celestial" -- in fact, this was probably the most respectful coverage of any event in the Sonoma County Chinese community to appear in the newspaper that year. Why the change? It's impossible to be certain because stories were never bylined, but the likely reason was because editor Ernest L. Finley was then on vacation, taking a trip east to visit family and tour the World's Fair.

As this journal continues with the 1905 newspapers, it'll be interesting to see if the "Celestials" return to the pages of the Press Democrat along with Mr. Finley.

Ah Quay Wins the Hand of Rosie Hacket, a Native California Girl

When Ed Hall, the well-known hop grower presented himself before Cupid Lawrence Pressley at the County Clerk's office on Monday morning he announced that his mission was to obtain a marriage license, not for himself, however. He came at the request of Ah Quay, 45, native of China, and Rosie Hackett, 32, native of California and of Spanish descent. Ah Quay having lost his heart to the dark-eyed Spanish girl, confided his secret to Mr. Hall and asked him, "you fixee up alie same license me, I no understan', you heap savee way 'Melican man." The license was procured and the wedding will take place at the Hall hop yard where Ah Quay has a partnership interest in raising hops. Mr. Hall had to put up with some little joshing from friends to whom had been passed the word that, "Ed Hall had got a marriage license."

- Press Democrat, October 25, 1904

Ah Quay Claims Rosie as Bride But First Thought That He Was to Figure as the Whole Show

If anyone fancied for a moment that the Wednesday night wedding of Ah Quay, hop grower and Celestial, and Rosie Hackett, thirty-two, pretty in the eyes of Ah Quay, half Spanish, half Indian, and a native of California, was to be utterly devoid of the Melican way of doing things, reckoned without a desire of the couple to have Melican etiquette mixed up with the ceremony.

It was a "chrysanthemum wedding," if you please. The decorations of the "China house" at the J. E. Hall hopyard near town, which was the scene of the wedding, was en fete with the gaudiest combination of colors in the way of chrysanthemums. There was also a wedding bell. It was fashioned out of chrysanthemums and the ribbons used in the creation matched those in Rosie's hair.

Ah Quay, who is not altogether a novice in the marriage business, according to the manners of the Chinese in their country, having had a wife there twenty-five years ago, engaged Justice A. J. Atchinson to marry him and Rosie, his lady love. It was necessary that the jurist should have a very simple ceremony. Ah Quay was asked if he had ever been married before, and he replied, "Yes, me melly befo. Long time go, China. That's all lite. I tell her. She no care." The "she" was the bride-to-be. Rosie said with what might have been a blush if her complexion had been lighter, so as to reflect changes of tint, that this was her first marriage.

"Very well then," quoth the magistrate. "Ah Quay you take this woman to be your lawful wife?"

"That's all lite. That's all lite."

"You should say yes," prompted the one officiating.

"All lite, yes. I no savee yes."

Rosie said "yes," the ceremony was completed, the kissing of the bride was omitted and the bottle was passed around by way of an appetizer for the wedding feast which followed, and which consisted of cakes, pies, candies and chicken, spread on a gaily arranged table in another room.

It should have been stated that the bride wore pink silk and blue something or other. The groom wore conventional black. Among those present were a number of white people and a select gathering of Chinamen. The wedding was a novelty in more ways than one, and the feasting and merriment continued until a late hour. The honeymoon will be spent at the hop yard.

At the outset of the ceremony Ah Quay though that he was the only one necessary to figure as principle in the ceremony. For a minute or two he stood alone before the magistrate. Ed Hall and McBride Smith were the attendants, or rather they figured as official witnesses, and when Mr. Hall told Ah Quay to bring Rosie to the wedding as well as himself he did so. And after it was all over the groom paid the officiating magistrate a fiver for his trouble and all was happy.

- Press Democrat, October 27, 1904

She is Said to Have Found Some One She Liked Better, and Ah Quay Believes That Marriage May be a Failure

On Saturday and Sunday Ah Quay, the hop grower on the J. E. Hall place who was recently married to a Spanish girl in a ceremony by Justice Atchinson in the "China" house at the Hall yard, was in Santa Rosa and vicinity searching for his bride. It was rumored a few days ago that Katie had tired of her Chinese husband and there was no one more convinced of the fact than Ah Quay on Saturday and Sunday. He confided his troouble to several people and he could find no one who could offer him any suggestion where she could be found. It is said that she departed with another man who was evidently more to her liking. Ah Quay feels all the more bitter about the matter on account of the fact that the nuptials caused him an outlay of considerable capital, and that too much attention was paid to the event for it to become so soon a failure.

Ah Quay drove into town a few days ago, having hired a fine rubber tired rig to take his bride out riding. While he was in a store making some purchases, she disappeared and since then he has not been able to find her. Since the wedding a little item of expenditure he met was a doctor's bill for a number of teeth filled with gold to improve his wife's mastication of delicacies.

- Press Democrat, November 15, 1904


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