• "Wah Chong Tai Company, tea store, Butte." Courtesy of the University of Montana - Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

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    Wah Chong Tai Company, tea store, Butte
    • Date
    • 1900
    • Description
    • Interior of Wah Chong Tai Company on West Mercury Street in Butte, Montana. Counters line two sides of the store. A wood stove is in the background. A display case is in the middle of the room. Several Chinese men pose for the photograph. A sign sayi... more
      Interior of Wah Chong Tai Company on West Mercury Street in Butte, Montana. Counters line two sides of the store. A wood stove is in the background. A display case is in the middle of the room. Several Chinese men pose for the photograph. A sign saying 'Wah Chong Tai Co.' hangs at the back of the store. less
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    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/CNE/1.0/.
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    • Big Sky Country Digital Network
    • Contributing Institution
    • University of Montana--Missoula. Mansfield Library

  • "Flyers distributed by Silver Bow Trades and Labor Assembly and Butte Miners' Union in support of Chinese and Japanese boycott," 1898. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

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    Flyers distributed by Silver Bow Trades and Labor Assembly and Butte Miners' Union in support of Chinese and Japanese boycott
    • Creator
    • U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Montana. Butte Term. ca. 1889-1/1/1912.
    • Description
    • Like many places in the American West, Montana had its share of anti-Chinese violence in the last quarter of the 19th century. Labor unions boycotted Chinese owned businesses in 1891-92 and a circular was posted in 1884 ordering the Chinese to leave ... more
      Like many places in the American West, Montana had its share of anti-Chinese violence in the last quarter of the 19th century. Labor unions boycotted Chinese owned businesses in 1891-92 and a circular was posted in 1884 ordering the Chinese to leave Butte with no affect. In late 1896, several labor unions organized a second boycott blaming the Chinese businesses for the poor economic climate. The labor unions notified their members and the public of the boycott of all Chinese owned businesses and those businesses employing Chinese labor. In an effort to discourage patronage, union members picked stores, posted flyers, and held parades. Many Chinese were forced to seek work in other cities however, several merchants decided to fight back and filed suit in Federal court in Butte requesting an injunction to stop the boycott and damages from the labor unions. The case from which this document originates, Hum Lay, et al.. v. Baldwin, has become known as the Chinese Boycott case. less
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    • Unrestricted.
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    • National Archives and Records Administration
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    • National Archives at Seattle

  • Testimony from Hum Fay concerning the alleged boycott (December 1896-April 1897) of Chinese and Japanese business establishments in Butte, Montana. Courtesy of the Montana Historical Society Research Center via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

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    Hum Fay, et al. vs. Baldwin, et al. records, 1898
    • Date
    • 1898
    • Creator
    • Hum, Fay.
    • Description
    • Testimony from Hum Fay concerning the alleged boycott (December 1896-April 1897) of Chinese and Japanese business establishments in Butte, Montana.
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC-EDU/1.0/.
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    • Big Sky Country Digital Network
    • Contributing Institution
    • Montana Historical Society Research Center

  • View of L. A. Huffman's Miles City studio on east Main Street from the boardwalk with a Chinese Laundry sign visible on the street. Courtesy of the Montana Historical Society Research Center via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

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    Huffman Studio in Early Days
    • Creator
    • Huffman, L. A. (Laton Alton), 1854-1931.
    • Description
    • Vintage negative number : (no number). View of L. A. Huffman's Miles City studio on east Main Street from boardwalk. Sign reads "See Huffman Portraits, Natn'l Park and N. P. Views." Other visible businesses include Sing Lee's Chinese Laundry, a meat ... more
      Vintage negative number : (no number). View of L. A. Huffman's Miles City studio on east Main Street from boardwalk. Sign reads "See Huffman Portraits, Natn'l Park and N. P. Views." Other visible businesses include Sing Lee's Chinese Laundry, a meat market, and a real estate office. less
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC-EDU/1.0/.
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    • Big Sky Country Digital Network
    • Contributing Institution
    • Montana Historical Society Research Center

Chinese people fleeing civil unrest in China came to America’s west coast looking for refuge and new opportunities. Many found work with the railroads. Chinese immigrants settled in Montana territory first as miners. Chinese settlements sprang up near mining towns, where Chinese worked abandoned mines searching for any remnants of gold. When the Chinese were successful at mining these played-out claims, they were often accused of stealing. Dan Haffie, an angry miner, committed the first recorded hanging in Butte when he claimed a Chinese man was getting all the luck and hung him from a nearby tree.

The mining boom towns gave the Chinese an opportunity to open businesses such as restaurants, pharmacies, boarding houses, stores, and laundries. The largest Chinese population in Montana was centered in the city of Butte. The labor unions tried to force the Chinese out of town through a series of business boycotts. The first boycott in 1891–1892 failed due to popular support for Chinese businesses. A more organized and aggressive boycott was launched by the labor unions in 1896. Hum Fay, Dr. Huie Pock, and Quon Loy filed suit against the instigators and eventually won an injunction. They were reimbursed their legal fees, but were not able to collect the estimated $500,000 in damages incurred during the boycott from 1896 to 1901. During the boycott, hundreds of Chinese left Butte. Some moved to other Montana communities, but many left the state.