Artifacts Hint at Chinese American Life in Early 20th-Century Oregon

Oregon Chinatown TeacupEUGENE, OREGON—According to a statement released by the University of Oregon, an archaeological investigation conducted by archaeologists Chris Ruiz, Marlene Jampolsky, and Jon Krier ahead of a construction project in downtown Eugene identified pieces of a Chinese stoneware bowl, a porcelain teacup, three Chinese brown stoneware liquor bottles, and a Japanese porcelain vessel. A 1912 fire insurance map indicates that a Chinese restaurant and a gift shop stood in the area where the artifacts were found. The restaurant, the Smeede Hotel Grill, served Chinese food and was owned by Wing Kee, who was born in Oregon to Chinese parents in 1875. Kee’s father applied for U.S. citizenship in 1886, but was denied under the Chinese Exclusion Act. In 1914, Wing Kee and his wife, Marie Westfall, opened the Hung Wo Chang & Co gift shop, which sold Chinese products to non-Chinese consumers. Historical documents also show that Wing Kee volunteered as a member of the United States food administration during World War I, while Marie Westfall worked as a Red Cross volunteer. The couple’s move out of the area in the 1920s was also recorded in local newspapers. For more on the first Chinese Americans, go to “America’s Chinatowns.”


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