Acrobat Held at Canadian Border

An important part of the entertainment at the Chinese Village was the Tin Yung Qui troupe of magicians and acrobats. Most of the troupe arrived from Shanghai via Vancouver, B.C. Chee Yu San, one of the most prominent performers, was held over in Vancouver. He had trachoma, a serious bacterial infection of the eye. His wife elected to stay with him. He was one of the stars of the troupe. This was a crisis. They were finally admitted on June 24, more than three weeks after the other Chinese workers had been admitted into the country. Chee Yu San was allowed into the county on the condition that he would remain in the Chinese Village, apart from the public or from other Chinese. In addition he was to sleep in apartments to be used exclusively by him and his wife, disinfect all table linen, change all linen weekly, and bathe hands and face with sublimate solution. When his tour was over all effects were to be thoroughly disinfected by steam or formaldehyde.

J. E. Chilberg, president of the A-Y-P, wired the authorities in Washington, D.C. asking for immediate action in releasing Chee Yu San (some publications referred to him as Shin Yu). This negotiating highlighted the problems Chinese sometimes had trying to get into the United States. Chilberg obtained affidavits of physicians in Vancouver, B.C. sayings there was nothing wrong with Chee Yu San physically or mentally and suggested that Chee was the victim of over-zealous inspectors. One newspaper account said that Chee and his services as a magician at the exposition were contracted by the Ah King Company for $10,000 (The figures did not always agree from one article to another. Another source, the more likely of the two, says that his contract with Ah King Company was for $1,200 American money for the season.). Ah King made a special trip to Vancouver, B. C. to resolve the issue. Shin How, the local manager of the Chinese Village in Seattle, was “tearing his hair and using his most expressive English in telling what he thinks of the United States immigration officials.” After ten long days of conciliation, Chee Yu San (Shin Yu) finally arrived on the fair ground on June 20.

Sources: NARA RG 85 Case RS2225, RS2226; Seattle Times, June 19, 1909, p5; Seattle Times, June 20, 1909, p20.


One Comment on “Acrobat Held at Canadian Border”

  1. […] Kwan Ngau entered the United States at Seattle on 31 July 1927 on the S.S. Princess Marguerite. He was 21 years old and was born in Singapore. He was employed by the Mandarin Theatre Troupe in San Francisco, California. As with most actors, he was allowed a temporary stay of 12 months and a $1,000 bond was taken out to assure that he would not overstay his allotted time in the United States. His photo as a soldier was most likely for one of his acting rolls. He returned to China in July 1928. Kwan Ngau also had a membership card from the Mandarin Theatre Troupe. It contained a less flattering photo, his name, date and port of arrival, name of the steamer, immigration serial number, and stated that he was bonded by Union Indemnity Company. [Many actors came to the United States especially for World Fairs. Their files usually do not contain much information. Earlier files do not even contain a photo. None of the actors who came for the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition in Seattle in 1909 had photos in their files. See Chinese Community at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909 ] […]

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