Thomas Nast, cartoon - "The Comet of Chinese Labor" (1870)
In 1870 workers at the &"Model Shoe Factory" of Calvin T.
Sampson in North Adams, Massachusetts, struck, protesting low
wages and the introduction of labor-eliminating machines. The
strike was considered an ominous threat to factory owners since
the workers had organized into a labor union known as The Secret
Order of the Knights of St. Crispin (1867) which by 1870 had
become the largest labor organization in the United States.
Unable to hire scabs in nearbye towns, Owner Sampson decided to
bring in a new weapon against the Crispin's: 75 Chinese laborers
imported from San Francisco and made accessible to the East Coast
based Sampson via the new wonder of the transcontinental
Thomas Nast's cartoon portrays the arriving Chinese (June
13, 1870) as a comet blazing across the sky as various interested
parties point and gaze below, many of them workers hostile to the
new arrivals. A few days after their arrival, writes Ronald
Takaki, "the Boston Commonwealth exclaimed: 'They are with us!
the "Celestials"--with almond eyes, pigtails, rare industry,
quick adaptation, high morality, and all . . . "; Sampson's
Chinese labor force handily outproduced for lower wages the
efforts of the white workers of The Knights of St. Crispin. His
pioneering effort at union busting was soon emulated by fellow
entrepreneurs in the East: 1870 is thus the date for the
beginnings of eventually large Chinese communities in the Eastern
cities of the United States.
Source: Ronald Takaki, Iron Cages: Race and Culture in 19th
Century America, New York: Oxford University Press, 1979, pp.