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Apr 13, 2021
Franklin County (MA) News Archive
The Franklin County Publication Archive Index

Article Archives: Articles: Art

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Posted by stew - Wed, Feb 24, 2010

Gazette & Courier - Monday, September 20, 1875
John Chinaman in New York

John Chinaman in New York - The New York Tribune describes the haunts of the Chinese in that city as follows:

In the Sixth Ward is a small district where most of the Chinese in New York live. A visitor to their opium smoking dens may go to Baxter Street, just below Franklin, where was formerly Donovan’s lane, the resort of the most desperate villains in the city, but which is now a Y-shaped court shut in on all sides by high tenement houses.

On the ground floor of one of these buildings is the establishment of "Old John", a Chinaman 74 years old, who has been in the United States 47 years, and was the first of his race to become naturalized. His quarters comprise three rooms. By the door is seated his assistant, who gives out the drug. Upon one side of the room is a low platform or dais; sometimes there are two, one above the other, like births upon which men are to be seen reclining in the different stages of opium intoxication. [How interesting - guess that’s where the word ’berths’ comes from].

The pipes consist of a bamboo stem and a porcelain bowl about 2 inches in diameter, in the centre [sic] of which is a small receptacle for the opium. A small piece of the drug is taken up on an iron rod and heated until it is dried to a proper consistency. Then it is inserted into the pipe, and the smoker slowly draws the smoke through, soon filling the whole room with a peculiar smell.

The proprietor furnishes his customers with pipes and a place to lie down. The drug is weighed out upon a rude pair of reed scales. The weight used is a silver coin. Each smoker is provided with a small horn box, which will contain about 15 cents’ worth of opium, enough to last an average smoker all night. The preparation is undoubtedly adulterated, since it costs the druggist $23.50 a pound.

A few doors below, on the same side, is another place where smoking is carried on, which does not differ materailly from Old John’s. There is, however, a temple connected with it. On the wall is hung a gayly [sic] painted picture of some Chinese god, at whose shoulder, on one side, man’s good angel is represented, and on the other, his evil angel.

The faces are very grotesque, and resemble those painted upon tea chests. Hanging upon the picture are numerous tinsel and paper flowers, with faces painted upon the petals, and a little below the picture is a shrine upon which stand two candles, to be lighted only upon festival occasions.

In the middle is a dish containing sand, in which are the burned fragments of several joss sticks. The pious Celestial lights one of these, and placing it in the sand on the altar prays to his deity. From the ceiling hangs two Chinese lanterns, and there is also a glass vessel containing some kind of vegetable oil in which floats a burning wick.

A cup of the same oil is placed in the shrine for the especial use of the god. Upon the wall are hung bulletin boards where the news which agitates the Chinese world is pasted. A curious scroll, resembling the red cover on a pack of fire crackers, attracts attention and proves to be a directory of business of the principal Chinese merchants in San Francisco.
 

Subjects: Art, Beverages, Births, Business Enterprises, Businesspeople, Chinese, Criminals, Drug Abuse, Drugstores / Drugs, Economics, Emigration and Immigration, Fairs, Farmers & Farming / Flowers, Fires, Furniture, Glass / Windows, Households, Light, Literature / Web Pages, Names, Old Age, Racism, Religion, Roads, Smoking and Tobacco


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