Library of Congress

Early Motion Pictures

Item 1 of 1

Arrest in Chinatown, San Francisco, Cal.

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United States : Thomas A. Edison, Inc., 1897.


60596 U.S. Copyright Office

Copyright: Thomas A. Edison; 25Oct1897; 60596.

Duration: 0:48 at 15 fps.

This film shows the arrest and conveyance of a Chinese man in Chinatown, watched by a crowd of onlookers. The precise date of this film and the arrest charge are uncertain. It is possible that the arrest was connected with the smuggling of illegal immigrants from China. By mutual agreement between China and the United States, a small quota of merchants and students were allowed to immigrate yearly, but few legal immigrants actually were of these professions, and illegal immigration continued. One of the San Francisco residences for new arrivals was located at 830/832 Washington Street, the general location from which the arrest party ascends at the start of the film. A second possible cause for the arrest is tong activity. Chinatown at this time was plagued with warfare between various tongs (gang associations of rootless and under-enfranchised immigrants and non-family members). The murder of tong kingpin Fong Ching - called "Little Pete" - in January 1897 set off a flurry of tong violence that continued for months. The practice of tying the queue up on the head, a fashion supposedly confined to tong "hit men" called "highbinders" was in fact common among laborers. The arrested man has followed this practice and his rough canvas jacket suggests he is a peddler or shophand by (legitimate) profession. A third possible arrest charge may involve illegal gambling. Stout's Alley was lined with gambling houses, many owned by the late Fong Ching. Pawnbroker shops were nearby. The circular sign seen at left in the first part of the film is a pawnbroker's sign. All of the local streets had Chinese names. Washington Street was Wa Sheng Shong Hong ("Waystation to Prosperity Street"), Stout's Alley was Lou Shong Hong ("Old Spanish (Mexican Gambler) Alley") and Waverly Place was Ten How Mui Gai ("Ten How Temple Street"). These names are still in use.

The following is a scene-by-scene description of the film: [15147] The camera was placed at the northwest corner of Washington Street and Stout's Alley (Now Ross Alley), midway between Stockton Street and Grant Avenue. The first scene shows the arrested man being led by a police officer west up the north side of Washington Street to Stout's Alley. A group of pedestrians, mostly white, watch the man's unwilling arrest [15182]. A detective is seen pointing the cameraman toward the police cart waiting in Washington Street [15536]. The next scene shows the departure of the police cart with the arrested man, policemen, and triumphant detective, who waves to the camera [15717]. The cart turns east and begins down Washington Street as a mostly Chinese crowd watches from the south side of Washington Street and the intersecting Waverly Place [15825].

Received: 10/25/1897; paper pos; copyright deposit Paper Print Collection.

Police--California-- San Francisco.
Horse-drawn vehicles--California--San Francisco.
Police vehicles--California--San Francisco.
Streets--California--San Francisco.
Commercial buildings--California--San Francisco.
Chinatown (San Francisco, Calif.)

Thomas A. Edison, Inc.
Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress) DLC

1 roll (68 ft) : si., b&w ; 35 mm. paper pos.

LC 992 (paper pos)