Wrap-Up of the Recent Tong War


Tong war, born of woman! Of few days, and full of trouble!

Seems there’s always a highbinder war simmering down in Chinatown. But despite the literality of that damn’d “huddled masses” business, there stays an easy peace down amongst the Celestials. Until.

When a Hop Sing Tong all-tong banquet (for those of you not in the know, a Tong could throw down on your local set) was held in the early weeks of June, the Bing Gon Tong was forbidden to attend—and as such, the Bing Gon elected to remove their slave girls from the Chinatown sex market.

And thus comes the storm.

At first the cops—informed (as they are to-day) by merchants and oldtimers who have little stake in any war—spent their time shaking down and locking up local Chinese for carrying Caliente-smuggled firearms, and having hired Caliente gunmen.


Then Chin Hai, local laundryman and Bing Gon fellow-traveler, was shot at by the Hop Sing Tong, and cops arrested Ah Quay, Ah Mee, Ah Soo, Tom Tong and Wong Kee. After cops picked up these men and the hammerless revolver they (or one, or perhaps none) used in the shooting, two knifing attempts by highbinders went down. It was a busy night. Chinese merchants slept in their stores. They appealed for police escorts. And all cops could uncover in the Chinese interstices were some smokeless-powder cartridges for great-caliber weapons.


lingaukThe young and fair Ling Auk, left, who had been friendly to the Bing Gon, was surprised by Hop Sing hatchetmen on June 19. Luckily, they were scared away by her protectors. The Hop Sing Tong has always been the most warlike in the Chinese settlement. They are centered at 529+1/2 North Los Angeles Street, where they have built a walled fortress replete with intricate tunnels that repeatedly prevent their capture. That White girls retire there to smoke opium is a sad, accepted fact of modernity.


Outside agitators are, of course, a factor.

Tong representatives from San Francisco are urging bloodshed. storm


Meanwhile, the bloodthirsty boys of the Hop Sing have donned their mail. What looks like an ordinary quilted silk Chinese coat to the naked eye actually conceals a screen of steel links, bullet and knife and, most importantly to the tong war, hatchet-proof.

Legendary San Fran avenger Lu Fook has even arrived in town; he is storied to have survived four shots in the back while his followers killed six hatchetmen. Heavy muscle from up north always makes copper flee in LA; where in SF the Great Six Companies War Board settle tong differences, Los Angeles just has some officers watching the trains to note incoming highbinders and look on as the Oriental Quarter, centered at Alameda and Marchessault Streets, erupts in bloodshed.

Luckily, Wong Fong, mayor of the San Francisco Chinatown, was called to Los Angeles last week to settle the dispute. Sui Hoo Fow and Sam Ham Gay were named as the perps in the Chin Hai shooting, and were ostracized by their tongs. Again we settle into an uneasy, easy peace.

Virtue Stolen, Innocence Lost

March 20, 1907
Los Angeles 

Revealed today, with the arrest of M.M. Martinez, proprietor of the Esmeralda Club at Amelia and Ducommon Streets, is a terrible tale of innocence stolen. Several young girls are willing to testify that their virtue was taken from them by Martinez and club regulars following the introduction of drugged champagne into their tender mouths.

Inside the walls of this vile palace of sin unfolded the debauchery of Miss Nellie McCarthy, 668 Date Street, and Miss Julia Wood, 812 South Wall Street. Both girls are just 17 years old, and are telling their stories to Proscecuting Attorney Adcock, and are willing to repeat these horrors for a jury. The girls are being "sent to Whittier" because their parents do not know what to do with them.

Martinez’ arrest came about at the insistence of the mothers of the broken blossoms, who declared their children were pure and lovely in character before they began attending social events at the noisome venue.  


Editrix’ note: "sent to Whittier" is a euphemism that was apparently familiar enough to the readers of the 1907 newspapers to require no further elaboration. By reading numerous c. 1900 stories that included the phrase, most dealing with delinquent and sexually promiscuous youths, I discovered that Whittier was the location of the State Reformatory (above), opened in 1891; it operated as the Fred C. Nelles School through 2004, and is currently being redeveloped as a residential/commercial project. Henceforth I will threaten Nathan that he will be "sent to Whittier" should he misbehave.