Minnesota Historical Society  
The Chinese-American Experience in Minnesota
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Photo of Quong Long

Top: Quong Long, who owned a laundry in Red Wing, about 1883

Bottom: Woo Yee Sing and his laundry, about 1895.

Woo arrived in Minneapolis about 1880 and set up shop on Nicollet Avenue. Chinese laundries had a presence in the state until the 1960s.

Photo of Yee Sing

“The people of St. Paul can’t see why the Californians should fret so much about the Chinese. In this city, they conduct themselves in the most unexceptionable manner. . . . Give the Orientals a chance.”

St. Paul Pioneer Press, May 31, 1876

The first Chinese immigrants arrived in Minnesota in the mid-1870s. By the late 1880s more than 100 Chinese men had entered the state, with most settling in St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Duluth, and the rest sparsely scattered in outlying towns.

Nationally, the Chinese population declined in the United States following the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. However, the number of Chinese in Minnesota increased at this time due to migration from western states, where anti-Chinese sentiment was strong. Racial prejudice continued to restrict job opportunities. The 52 Chinese men living in the Twin Cities in 1900 were all employed in laundries, restaurants, or stores.

By 1910 the Chinese population had grown to nearly 400. This included more than 100 Chinese men in Iron Range towns, where they operated small businesses, including laundries, to meet the demands of the men who worked in lumber camps and mines.

Family life developed slowly in Minnesota's early Chinese community and elsewhere in the United States, due to the restrictions of the immigration law, Chinese tradition, and the high cost of trans-Pacific travel. Nevertheless, at least six families were established in Minnesota before 1910.

Photo of Canton John's Place, about 1915

In 1883 Woo Yee Sing and his younger brother, Woo Du Sing, opened the Canton Café in Minneapolis, the first Chinese restaurant in Minnesota. Its name was later changed to Yuen Faung Low, more commonly known as John's Place. A decorative altar from John's Place is in the Society's collections.


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