By the mid-nineteenth century there were few Chinese immigrants who had made their way to America. In early 1849, there were only fifty-four in the entire state of California, but that would change as word spread and gold rush fever took hold.
The prospect of work, either in the mines or whatever supporting job could be found, brought Chinese men fleeing rebellion and poverty in their own country to California and beyond. Chinese immigration continued apace until in 1876 there were over 150,000 Chinese immigrants in the United States, 116,000 in California alone.
Most men came alone, calling themselves “Sojourners,” implying they never intended to stay, but rather someday would return to their homes and families in China. As menial and low-paying as some of the jobs they took, the Chinese still earned more money in America – and if they were careful and saved it, would amass what to them would be quite a fortune.
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