San Francisco’s Chinatown during the anti-Chinese hysteria of 1885

B. Farwell / John E. Kunklet / E. B. Pond, Official Map of Chinatown in San Francisco. San Francisco: [A.L. Bancroft & Co.,] July 1885.
Lithograph printed in seven colors, 8 ½”h x 21 3/8”w at sheet edge.

A scarce and fascinating map of San Francisco’s Chinatown issued in 1885, “at the height of the anti-Chinese hysteria in California.” (Rumsey)

The map first appeared in a very large (25”h x 56”w), separately-published, and extraordinarily rare edition lithographed by Bosqui & Co. in San Francisco. This reduced edition appeared the same year in a number of official and unofficial publications, including the Report of the Special Committee of the Board of Supervisors of San Francisco on the Condition of the Chinese Quarter of that City and Willard Farwell’s The Chinese at Home and Abroad. Rather than reinvent the wheel I quote at length from a description by P.J. Mode:

“This map reflects the pervasive bias against the Chinese in California and in turn further fostered the hysteria. It was published as part of an official report of a Special Committee established by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors “on the Condition of the Chinese Quarter.” The Report resulted from a dramatic increase in hostility to the Chinese, particularly because many Chinese laborers had been driven out of other Western states by vigilantes and sought safety in San Francisco ([Nayan] Shah[, Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco’s Chinatown,] 2001, 37).


“The substance and tone of the Report is best illustrated by a few excerpts: “The general aspect of the streets and habitations was filthy in the extreme, . . . a slumbering pest, likely at any time to generate and spread disease, . . . a constant source of danger . . . , the filthiest spot inhabited by men, women and children on the American continent.” (Report 4-5). “The Chinese brought here with them and have successfully maintained and perpetuated the grossest habits of bestiality practiced by the human race.” (Ibid. 38).


“The map highlights the Committee’s points, particularly the pervasiveness of gambling, prostitution and opium use. It shows the occupancy of the street floor of every building in Chinatown, color coded to show: General Chinese Occupancy|Chinese Gambling Houses|Chinese Prostitution|Chinese Opium Resorts|Chinese Joss Houses|and White Prostitution.


“The Report concludes with a recommendation that the Chinese be driven out of the City by stern enforcement of the law: “compulsory obedience to our laws [is] necessarily obnoxious and revolting to the Chinese and the more rigidly this enforcement is insisted upon and carried out the less endurable will existence be to them here, the less attractive will life be to them in California. Fewer will come and fewer will remain. . . . Scatter them by such a policy as this to other States . . . .”” (Ibid. 67-68).

A copy of Farwell’s At Home and Abroad, complete with the Chinatown map, sold at PBA Galleries for $3300 in 2016.

Persuasive Maps: PJ Mode Collection, #1093. Rumsey #5807.


About very good, with folds as issued and faint tide mark at upper corners.