While researching the remarkable life of Seid Back for the Oregon Encyclopedia I came across some fascinating examples of historical ephemera related to the Chinese-American experience in Oregon. I’ve reproduced some below, with associated explanation:
All work courtesy Oregon Historical Society, OHS photo file # 238-A,“Chinese in Oregon”
This reproduction is entirely non-commercial.
I love the details in this picture, showcasing the personalities of both father and son. Seid Back was a complex man, well beloved by both the Chinese community and Portland’s white gentry for his proverbial honesty and generosity, who also dabbled in opium smuggling and made a fortune in what would today be called human trafficking. There are many more details in my (currently undergoing revisions) entry for the Oregon Encyclopedia, but suffice to say, he’s well worth further study. His son would go on to be a notable figure in his own right.
The following image showcases Back’s ability to operate within the parallel worlds of both Chinese and white Portland
These photos entrance me. The studio background is identical. Could they have been taken on the same day?
Both of these images were reproduced for an 1894 guidebook published by The Oregonian. This article is notably devoid of racial invective— in stark contrast to the prevailing sentiment of the time.
For those unfamiliar with the level of anti-Chinese pogroms perpetrated in this era and region, The Tacoma Method website does an excellent job of documenting these little-known atrocities.