Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Robbery and Intolerance at Eckerlen's, 1905

Racism and intolerance has a long Oregon history, alas.

Tomorrow at Mission Mill Museum, Ted Cox will lecture on "The Toledo Incident of 1925: Three Days that Made History." It's part of the Winter/Spring lecture series, "Bipartisanship and Intolerance in Oregon Politics."
Ted Cox shares The Toledo Incident of 1925: Three Days that Made History in Toledo disseminating how an angry mob in Toledo, Oregon, expelled Japanese resident workers. Cox sheds light on what happened in the days leading to the incident, and the resulting precedent-setting civil rights suit brought by the Japanese resident workers.

The episode was hardly isolated. In January of this year, as part of MKL observations, Willamette University and the Salem Public Library showed the film, The Ku Klux Klan in Oregon, 1920-1923.

A little over a century before, in January 1903 the City demolished most of "old" Chinatown, along Liberty street. What remained of Chinatown was centered on High street.

As the lecture and documentary suggest, the ugliness persisted.

An example from 1905, remarkable for its banality rather than for any exceptionalism, shows some of the ways intolerance was part of the daily background noise in Salem, something assumed and "par for the course."

This account of a robbery may not be wholly factual. It's difficult not to read the hard-boiled sensationalism without wondering how much is fabricated. Still, the derision for the "celestials" is clear, and the presumed readership was an audience that clearly shared the biases of the writer. There was no attempt at persuasion; indeed, it assumes and appeals to shared community values. The piece also uses the narrative more for entertainment than for moral outrage or analysis.


From Eckerlen's but is Caught in the Act by Paul Marnach

Lou Wah, a Chinese ex-convict, who was formerly employed as cook in the Elite Cafe, was this morning caught in the act of stealing 25 bottles of whiskey and a box of cigars from Eckerlen's wholesale house.

Paul Marnach, Eugene's head mixer, had been suspicious of the chink for some time, as he had been seen hanging around the rear of the establishment several times. Paul cautioned the waiters to be on the lookout for him, and if they saw anything suspicous to let him know.

This morning, shortly after 6 o'clock, one of the waiters came to Paul and told him that Lou was hangning around near the back door of the wholesale house, and, from his actions, intended to steal something. Paul, after arming himself with a young cannon, which he calls a revolver, hurried to the back door, arriving just in time to see the celestial come out of the other department carrying a case of Cyrus Noble whiskey, which he placed on the ground, returning to the base of supplies for something else, which proved this time to be a case of Commodore Royal; not satisfied yet he returned once more, and came forth bearing a single bottle of whiskey and a box of cigars. It must have been tha he had confederates near, for it would be impossible for him to escape with all his plunder in one trip, and if more than one trip was to have been made, he would hardly have brought all the goods outside. When Paul observed that he had carried all out that he intended to he concluded that it was his move, so he sprang out from his concealment, confronting the burglar with the question, "what are you doing?" Seeing that he was discovered, the chink attempted to strike his captor, but was forestalled by Paul, who flashed his Gatling under his nose with the request that he "elevate his lunch grabbers over his block," to which gentle hint Lou Wah complied, but with very poor grace, and was reprimanded by a gentle poke with the gun, after which his hands were raised to the fullest extent. Paul then started to march his captive into the saloon, but, when passing through the door, the chink, in a vindictive mood, slammed the door, striking Paul on teh side of the head, and leaving a slight discoloration around the eye, but his attempt at escape was unavailable, and he was quickly taken on the inside, where Paul, with the assistance of his trusty ally, Herr Ignatz Steiner, searched their prisoner, but there were no weapons disclosed. Paul then took up the line of march to the police station where he landed his man without much trouble, with the exception of an attempt to escape up the dark stairway near the telephone office.

The prisoner, who is a "hop head," has already served one term of three years in the penitentiary and it was probably only the incentive of the vision of a happy Chinese New Year that induced him to jeopardize his liberty.

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