January 27, 2021: Chinese in Nevada

An interesting part of early Nevada mining history is how ethnically diverse the population was. People from all over the world came to Nevada to seek their fortunes in Nevada mining and the industries that grew up around mining. The Chinese were one of these groups.  Most Chinese who traveled to the American West during the 19th century, were from the Guangdong province. Guangdong is a coastal province located in southeastern China, where people had a long tradition of traveling overseas to seek opportunities, especially when economics or politics were difficult at home.

The Chinese immigrants prospered despite the challenges of discrimination and being far from home. They found jobs in a variety of occupations, and built Chinatowns in the large, and sometimes small communities. The Nevada State Museum’s exhibits include the altar from the Carson City Chinatown Masonic Hall and a diorama of the Winnemucca Chinatown. Also, our exhibit, “Fueling the Boom” showcases the life of Chinese woodcutters in the great basin from 1870-1920.

The Chinese also brought music and their cultural celebrations to the American West. On Wednesday, February 3, 2021 during our Curator’s Corner event, Mina Stafford, Curator of Education, will present two drums and a pair of shoes from our Chinatown collections. The large drum is a practice drum from Tuscarora, NV where the Chinatown band included a couple of white musicians. The colorful drum was manufactured in China but made for sale in America and was probably given as a gift to the donors.

Usually we celebrate Chinese New Year in the Nevada State Museum concourse, but this year we will celebrate during a live stream event at 10:00am on Saturday, February 13th.

Carson City Chinatown “Joss” House Altar preserved by the Ormsby County Sheriff when Chinatown was deserted in the 30’s. On display on the second floor of the Nevada State Museum.

This is a practice drum meant to teach a student to play the drum in the center. It is part of a collection of artifacts from the Tuscarora, NV Chinatown.

This is a Tom Tom drum manufactured in China for sale in the U.S. This type of drum is characterized by the metal tacks around the sides, an image of a dragon on one side, and an image of a peacock on the others side. They were used by 1920’s Jazz drummers.

 

Check back to watch the video of this Curator’s Corner presentation.