Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Baohuanghui on Mott Street, New York City Chinatown

7-9 Mott St. ca 1905, Detroit Publishing Col, BHH on 4th floor

New York City was a Baohuanghui stronghold from the early days of the organization in the United States.  Mott Street buildings would eventually house the chapter headquarters, its newspaper, an armory, and a school.  Although it's not clear when the chapter was founded, the New York Tribune of July 17, 1900 gives some evidence that the local association had formed as early as 1899 (most likely after the San Francisco chapter was organized on October 26).  In the Tribune article about rumors of a pro-Boxer secret society forming in New York:

There is a strong party in Chinatown which was organized a year ago, when the Empress Dowager was trifling with the young Emperor. The party is known to favor reform in China, and will look after any local movement of sympathy with the Chinese anti-foreign policy. It is impossible to learn just what firms are behind the reform party. They have a regular organization and a list of officers. Some money was sent to China shortly after the society was organized for the purpose of helping the reform movement.
On August 1, 1900, the Tribune also printed a dispatch from Vancouver, BC, reporting that the Empress of India had departed with "fifty prominent Chinese reformers from New-York and Boston" along with fifty from Seattle and Vancouver, "all bound for Macao and all wearing conspicuously displayed a button photograph of their Emperor, Kwang Su."  The purpose was to meet with Kang Youwei in Macao "where a council of war will be held to consider ways of raising an army among the members of the association to support the Allied Powers." So it seems likely that the New York City chapter was in existence in 1899.

Formal organization probably came later, as on August 6, 1901 the New York Tribune in "Off with their Queues" reported that the Chinese Consul General had "driven out" the organizers using the intimidation of the "big Tong." Incorporation papers were not filed until 1906.

However, by 1905 the Baohuanghui would come to have a heavy presence on Mott St. in the heart of Chinatown, near its foot at the Bowery.  In chronological order, here is what we know from American newspapers about specific Baohuanghui addresses on Mott St.:


20 Mott St.--Baohuanghui office

The New York chapter was formally organized only after the visit of Xu Qin, Kang's disciple, to the United States.  Joseph Singleton (Zhao Wansheng 趙萬勝), the New York president, wrote Tom Leung, a Baohuanghui leader in Los Angeles, on November 13, 1902

Ever since Mr. Xu [Qin} came here for several days to make speeches, people have been awakened and their enthusiasm was aroused.  Many people rose up whne they became aware of the current situation.  In just ten days, the branch Association was set up.  Now we have asked people to repair the designated office.  We can hold meetings there as soon as it is fixed.  We have already had 400 people who registered as members.
Nov. 21, 1902 open letter from NYC branch, UCLA

On November 21, 1902,  the New York branch sent an open letter using the 20 Mott St. address to "all Baohuanghui comrades and brothers," announcing the  chapter's formation and asking in return, "If you do not mind, please send us the address of your branch and photos of your board members.  We will hang them in our hall so that we can pay our respects." [UCLA Digital Library, Tom Leung Collection, #569].

American dignitaries, including judges, professors, and a Congressman, were among the special guests at the lavish celebration of the newly established chapter at the "Chinese Delmonico" restaurant at 21 Pell St.,  presided over by Singleton [New York Tribune, November 19, 1902].

In 1903, Liang Qichao "was received informally yesterday afternoon at its rooms at 20 Mott Street" ["Leong Kai Cheu Tells of China's Awakening,  New York Times, May 13, 1903].


Vol. 1, no. 1, March 10, 1904. AR-44 UC Berkeley
5 Mott St.--Zhongguo Weixin Bao [Chinese Reform News] Office (and Press)   

Editor Tong Chew [Tang Zhao 湯昭 or Tang Mingsan
湯銘三] arrived in December from Yokohama, where he was an instructor at Datong Xuexiao, to set up a new Baohuanghui newspaper for the U.S. east coast.  Apparently the idea of establishing an East Coast paper came up when Kang's daughter, Kang Tongbi, newly arrived in the U.S. herself, visited New York and lectured at the Doyers Street Theatre in Chinatown.  "Jue Chue, Lee Yick Yue, and John Chantz, three of the wealthiest and most influential merchants in Chinatown, agreed to finance it" ("Chinese to Print a New York Newspaper," New York Times, December 20, 1903).  "The press and printing plant are now on their way here, and the Chinese printers will soon start for this country.  The office, in the new building No. 5 Mott Street, will have all the latest newspaper appliances."

The weekly newspaper commenced publishing March 10, 1904 and finally closed in 1937.  The only extant copies (1904 only) are at University of California, Berkeley, Ethnic Studies Library.

As of May  12, 1904, the address on the newspaper's banner changed to 7-8 Chatham Sqr., where many Chinatown streets meet, including Mott. A year's subscription was $2 in the U.S. or $2.50 for foreign subscriptions, with a single copy five cents.  A front page advertisement offered $5 shares in the newspaper in an effort to expand its capital.


6 Mott St.--Baohuanghui Armory, Western MilitaryAcademy

Most likely this armory, where 150 Chinese cadets were drilled by New York National Guard Major George McVicker, was established earlier than the first report of its existence in the New York Times on January 22, 1905, "Drill Nucleus Here for Chinese Army".  McVicker first formed a "Chinese Battalion" under the auspices of the St. Bartholomew Episcopal Church in 1902 (Year Book of St. Bartholomew’s Parish, New York City, 1902 (New York: Winthrope Press, 1903). p. 89. Page 85 has a picture of the “Chinese Battalion.”) 

The Armory was located on the top floor of the building "in the rooms of the Oriental Club, which is composed of Chinatown's leading merchants."  The New York branch, which McVicker said was composed of two companies, was one of about thirty branches of the Western Military Academy, headquartered in Los Angeles and led by the American "General" Homer Lea. Before Kang Youwei visited New York in June, a rival American commander, Richard Falkenberg, in a fit of resentment over Kang's anointing Lea as BHH military chief, had alerted various public officials, including New York Governor Frank W. Higgins, to the potentially illegal activities of the Academy, which was conducting armed drills of soldiers whom Falkenberg said were being trained to overthrow the Chinese government.  Higgins stopped outdoor drilling with rifles by the cadets, in addition to informing the U.S. Department of War.   When Kang (and Homer Lea) arrived at the Jersey City Ferry, they were greeted by cadets carrying flags instead of rifles, although apparently guns still were used indoors (see below).  Much more can be found in Homer Lea: American Soldier of Fortune, Lawrence M. Kaplan, University of Kentucky Press, 2010, 118-123.

7-9 Mott St.--Chinese Empire Reform Association Hall and Aiguo Xuetang [Patriotic Academy]
The armory appears to have moved to the CERA hall by the time Kang arrived in late June.  "The Chinese are Drilling," New York Times, June 21, 1905, reported on the results of the New York City Police investigation of the Academy instigated by Governor Higgins:  "The Chinese cadets drill at 7 and 9 Mott Street every Thursday evening in the hall of the Chinese Reform Association . . . The cadets drill with discarded National Guard muskets and wear a uniform like that of our militia."

 A May 14, 1905 article in the Washington Post, "Chinatown's Strange People and Their Strange Ways," portrays the Chinese Empire Reform Association as "the most important" of the three organizations dominating New York Chinatown, along with the Zhigongtang and Zhonghua Gongshe:  "Its success in the five years of its existence measures the progress of the American Chinese toward European ideas" and said that of the 7,000 Chinese in New York City, 5,000 were CERA's members.

This article mentions "a boy's brigade" that drilled in the CERA "clubhouse," which also housed a school for Chinese children teaching both English and Chinese.  This is the Aiguo Xuetang whose vertical sign is seen in the picture above.  "School for Tiny Chinese," a New York World article reprinted in the Kansas City Star, December 29, 1905, describes in detail the class schedule, with Chinese classes from 9 AM to noon taught by the editor of the Chinese paper (Fong Chew, most likely the Tong Chew above) and Leong Mon Hain [Liang Wenqing 梁文卿, according to Zhongguo Weixin Bao, 8/25/1904] from Canton.  The afternoons were devoted to learning English from "Miss Grace Johnson, a sweet-faced young teacher, who is more than interested in her little charges."  Even more unusual, the 25 students, some of them girls, practiced calisthenics for half an hour daily:  "By giving the children marching exercises the teacher hopes to get them out of that shuffling step which is characteristic of their race."  Aiguo Xuetang, or Patriotic Academies, were run by CERA around the world, including in Vancouver and Victoria, BC, and Penang and many places in Java in Southeast Asia. The City of Vancouver Archives includes the specially written textbooks designed for these schools.

7-9 Mott St., Port Arthur Restaurant, Jan. 21, 1909 Chinese New Years
The most visible tenants of 7-9 Mott St. were the Chinese luxury import export store Soy Kee & Company at street level and the long-lived Port Arthur Restaurant occupying the second and third floors.  Port Arthur was owned by a CERA board member, Chu Gow, or Zhao Yuqiu, and was founded in 1897 (possibly when the present building was constructed).  This flamboyant Chinese restaurant catered both to large Chinese banquet parties and American "tourists" in Chinatown.  It was where the New York CERA frequently held dinners, including the 15-course banquet it hosted in March 1906 to celebrate the tong killing truce organized by the reformers with the help of an American judge ("Tong Killings Pause and Chinatown Feasts,"New York Times, March 29, 1906.) 


12 Mott Street, "Eastern Military Academy" and Wah Yick Company (Huayi Gongsi)

The Baohuanghui in New York expanded its activities to yet another building on Mott St.  What was called the "Eastern Military Academy" (in fact this must be the Western Military Academy from the description) by the New York Tribune, September 13, 1906, "Chinamen in Parade," seems to have been located here.

Members of the Chinese Empire Reform Association in Chinatown were jubilant yesterday over the news they had received of the first public parade in Shanghai of the 1st Chinese Volunteers.  These Chinamen were reported to have received their military training from Chinese drillmasters educated at the Eastern Military Academy, No. 12 Mott street.
Oct. 17, 1907, from Feng Jingyuan to Tom Leung, UCLA Digital Collection, #138.
The Huayi  Gongsi or Wah Yick Company was an important commercial venture for which we have letterhead from 1907 and 1908 for 12 Mott St.and 7-9 Mott St.  The company, sometimes referred to in letters as a bank, was a financial institution through which stock shares and distributions for the Baohuanghui's Commercial Corporation investments passed.  It was connected to Hong Kong's Huayi Bank and to the Mexican Huamo Bank.

Wah Yick most likely was formed in 1905. Kang wrote Tom Leung on Dec. 26, 1905 from Mexico saying, "Our New York bank has already begun business.  You can tell all other cities to deposit money in this bank” (UCLA Tom Leung Collection, #352).  We know that the bank later handled funds for the King Joy Lo Restaurant (Qiongcailou)  in Chicago, a CERA business initiated by Tom Leung to support students.  It is notable that the Wah Yick manager Feng Jingquan needed to consult with Kang on many of the financial transactions, creating delay, confusion and misunderstanding.

"Chinese Regiment Disbands," New York Times, May 28, 1907, reported that CERA held a graduation ceremony at the Tuxedo Chinese restaurant for students completing the full three-year course of  the "Eastern Military Academy in Mott Street."  This was the length of the course promised in the original announcement of the New York Academy branch in 1904, and apparently was the end of the program.  J.M. Singleton presided over the dinner and told the graduates:  

Your work is by no means done. . . It is your duty to stir up in China that same spirit which you yourselves have already displayed in your work here in this regiment. Love of country is the spirit which should be constantly more and more stirred up in the Chinese Empire.

1905 and 1907

7-9 Mott St,   CERA Plenary Meetings
Meeting room at 7-9 Mott St., 1909, Library of Congress Bain Lot
Kang Youwei chaired two international Association congresses in New York in 1905 and 1907,  held at the Mott St. headquarters, quite likely in the room seen on the left, showing New York chapter officers in 1909.  Both meetings took place over a period of days,  (July 24-26, 1905 and March 27-April 2, 1907--according to Gao Weinong, 2009), and both produced elaborate charters to regulate the central organization and its chapters.  The 1907 congress was also the formal occasional for announcing the organizational name change from Baohuanghui (Protect the Emperor Society) to Diguo Xianzhenghui (Imperial Constitutional Association), in response to Qing constitutional preparation initiatives.

Kang described the process for adopting the 1905 charter, proudly noting that the meeting used "constitutional" (xianfa) methods.  The attendance list shows only 21 delegates representing 12 cities, all in the U.S. and mostly on the east coast.  However, Kang says that over 100 proposals received from chapters in Hawaii and North America contributing ideas and agreeing to abide by any decisions made at the meeting.  " The assembly hall was solemn and congenial, the meeting participants were seated in rows, and the secretary recorded all the discussion." 

The 1907 meeting drew many more delegates, from 28 places as distant as China, Hong Kong, Macao, Hawaii, and Australia.  The U.S. once again dominated (seven delegates from New York alone), but this time there were more representatives from the western and central states as well as Canada.  Kang Youwei and his daughter kang Tongbi returned to the U.S. from Europe in mid-March.  Some delegates came early to New York to celebrate Kang's 49th birthday at a dinner given at 7 Mott St. (the Port Arthur Restaurant?) on March 17 ("Dinner to Kang Yu Wei," New York Times, March 18, 1907).  The Washington Herald (April 3, 1907) reports that "172 gold medals from the reform societies from throughout the world were presented to [Kang.]."

Gao Weinong (Ershi shiji chu Kang Youwei Baohuanghui zai Meiguo Huaqiao shehui zhongde huodong, 2009, p. 88) quotes from a description of the 1907 congress:
 The meeting was held in the New York Baohuanghui meeting hall, in a solemn atmosphere and imposing style:  “. . . with ink, paper and pen on display, all the meeting participants seated and an elevated seat for the President. . . . the spectators formed a wall of humanity and the President came in and sat down.  The secretary called the roll.  In a peaceful and disciplined manner, all rose to pay their respects.  We could visualize the future meeting of our nation’s parliament on this grand occasion!  At the close of the meeting there was a farewell banquet, and everybody was dressed in their finery and got very drunk; they raised their wine glasses to wish China and the Emperor 10,000 years!  President Kang, wan sui!  Diguo Xianzhenghui, wan sui!  Then all the members of the assembly [called yiyuan as if they were members of a legislative body] dispersed.”

 7-9 Mott Street in 2012

7-9 Mott building; photo: Robert Worden.


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