An exciting new donation just came in this month, an 1883 newspaper entitled The Chinese American founded and published by Wong Chin Foo. Wong Chin Foo was born in Shandong and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1873. He was a Chinese-American activist and journalist described as one of the most prolific Chinese writers in the English-language press during the 19th century. Wong Chin Foo was credited with coining the term “Chinese American” and his 1883 newspaper, The Chinese American, is an extension of his ideals of encouraging citizenship and assimilation of Chinese immigrants into American society.
Originally, MOCA only had a copy of just the front page of the 1883 newspaper which was found in the collections without provenance and accessioned into the collections back in 2016. Since we began our MOCA on the Road trips to various cities across the USA, a reproduction of this newspaper has been with us to every public exhibition. From Los Angeles to Boston, the newspaper has been featured as a staff favorite to display as a piece of important historical treasure to showcase what we have in the MOCA collections. We are glad to have finally received a complete physical copy of this historic newspaper thanks to our generous donor, Mr. Gordon C. H. Wang (王家軒).
When Mr. Wang dropped by the collections space a two weeks ago, he shared with the MOCA staff an interesting story of how he acquired this newspaper from an antique shop in Pennsylvania. Gordon happened to stop by the shop out of curiosity and came upon The Chinese American newspaper hanging on the wall in one of the corners of the store. Immediately, he asked to purchase the newspaper as he said he instantly recognized the significance of this publication in a way that the antique sellers in the shop did not. Once Gordon brought it home, he wrapped it in protective plastic with a paper backing board and tucked it away in his closet to avoid direct sunlight. It stayed safely stowed away for 11 years before Mr. Wang decided that it should be given to MOCA. Originally, he wanted to keep the newspaper to be passed down the family as Gordon shared the same last name as Wong Chin Foo (王), but after learning about MOCA’s fire and the damage it has done to our collections, Mr. Wang wanted to gift us this newspaper to help with the recovery. Additionally, he felt that with the recent events of COVID-19 and the increase in discrimination against Chinese-Americans, Gordon wanted to share this newspaper to showcase Chinese-American contributions to this country.