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America’s Chinese Immigrants And Their Laundries


Chinese immigrants of the late 1800s began to operate laundries in communities all over the United States and Canada. For over 50 years, it was one of the most common occupations available to them. Their enterprise led to various unsuccessful attempts of whites to limit the dominance of Chinese laundries. Eventually, it was the arrival of home washers and dryers in the 1950s and the better career opportunities for their children, that the Chinese laundry went the way of the horseless carriage.


Some of the websites listed below describe Chinese laundries in general while others focus on a specific laundry. Many of them also document the everyday lives of Chinese immigrants and the racial discrimination and violence they often faced.


Chinese Laundries in Specific Communities


San Francisco, California

Lee Yick Fights and Wins A Case Taken to the U. S. Supreme Court (Yick Wo vs. Hopkins) Against 1886 Discriminatory Law Banning Chinese Laundries Because They Were in Wooden Buildings


Los Angeles, California

Description of Chinese laundries, racial discrimination, and Chinese Exclusion Act


Healdsburg, California

A history of prejudice and violence against Chinese in Healdsburg


Olympia, Washington

Documents the role of the laundry in the history of the Chinese community.


Santa Cruz, California

Account of Chinese laundries and treatment of Chinese immigrants.


New York City

Scholarly historical account of how a union of Chinese laundry workers helped them fight discriminatory policies favoring white-owned laundries.


Baltimore, Maryland

Chinese Laundries and the Laundry Business in Baltimore, 1890-1920


Bozeman, Montana

The Chinese community in Bozeman, and how they lived and worked.


Chinese Laundries Across Canada

 (includes a virtual tour of a reconstructed laundry)


Toronto, Canada

Description of the history of Chinese laundries in Canada.



Specific Laundries


St. Louis, Missouri

Two brothers ran the Sam Wah Laundry from 1922-1986.


Providence, Rhode Island.

Closure in 2002 of the 90 year old Sam Sing laundry.


London, Ontario, Canada

Documents the life of Lem Wong, a Chinese immigrant who moved to Canada in the early 1900s and operated a laundry and other businesses, including a restaurant.


Hastings, Nebraska

Description of 4 Chinese laundries in Hastings, Nebraska.


Tucson, Arizona

Laundries and the Chinese community in Tucson, Az.


Oakland, California.

Archeological study of the remains of a laundry at 1813 Seventh St.