San Francisco’s Chinatown

By Samuel Phineas Upham

The Chinatown in San Francisco was founded in 1848, and it is the largest Chinatown in North America and the largest community of Chinese people outside of China. Much of the history of Chinese immigrants was shaped in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and it’s an important place for those immigrants to visit and reconnect with.

Over time, it’s also become a tourist attraction. Visiting this place with a deeper understanding of its heritage will help outsiders perceive it as something more than a novelty.

During the early part of its history, Chinatown served as a residence for the many Chinese who worked on the railroad lines stretching through California. The community facilitated shopkeepers and restaurants. By 1849, the Gold Rush ensured a steady flow of traffic through the region, and even impacted Chinese-American cuisine.

Chinatown struggled during its early years. Gang violence was commonplace, and the community was decimated by the anti-immigrant legislation passed in 1882. The Chinese Exclusion Act substantially shrunk the population, which did not truly recover until after the San Francisco earthquake.   The quake itself completely leveled the neighborhood, which had the benefit of disbanding the gangs. The community rebuilt in the 1950s when the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed and veterans of World War II brought their families back.

Violence returned in the 1960s, however, as the Triads settled into the area. The so-called Tong Wars describe the ongoing gang violence that the Triads have entered into. While today’s Chinatown is safer, the 90s would see multiple shootings across the decade.

Each year, the Chinese celebrate the Autumn Moon Festival as a way to mark the changing of the seasons. The festival is always free to attend, and it’s held in September of each year.

About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Samuel Phineas Upham website or Facebook.