Cornelius Van Vorst, ca.1620; 
Jersey City Free Public Library; Grover Cleveland Political Cartoon; 
Grover Cleveland Birthplace Historical Site Collection Peter Lee, former slave, ca.1880; 
Hoboken Historical Photographs Collection; Farm Map of Hillsboro, Somerset County, 1860; 
Historical Maps of New Jersey Collection; Bathing Beauties, 1890-1930; 
American Labor Museum/Botto House National Landmark Collection; Flag Salute, 1950; 
Seabrook Farms Collection;
Lii Yuen Sooy and Jew Goon Jing
Curator(s): Urban, Andy; Delaney, Pat; Lopez, Aldo; Kushner, Aviva; Robinson, Stephen
Chinese immigrants to the United States faced many hardships during the early-twentieth century. Many did not speak the language and faced prejudice and suspicion over whether they would be able to assimilate. The Chinese faced many unfair practices that restricted their ability to enter the country, or did not allow them to return if they left.

As merchants however, Lii Yuen Sooy and Jew Goon Jing could use their class position and connections with prominent white Americans in order to prove their permitted status. Lii, for example, provided a letter from James Seymour (see image below), the Mayor of Newark, stating that he was a “highly respected merchant and resident” of the city.

Prior to coming to Newark, Jew Goon Jing resided in Havana, Cuba. Many Chinese immigrants who ended up in the New York City area came from Cuba, where a large Chinese community existed. In the 1850s, sugar planters in Cuba brought Chinese “coolies” – contracted laborers indentured to plantations – to the island. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, a more economically diverse Chinese community had developed in Cuba, and Havana’s “El Barrio Chino” was one of the largest Chinatowns in Latin America.
A letter documenting Lii Yuen Sooy’s business and personal information.
In order to go to China for “temporary business purposes,” Lii Yuen Sooy was required by the Chinese Exclusion Act to establish his right to re-enter the country prior to departure. Lii was able to prove to the State of New Jersey that he had resided in the United States for twelve years, working for the past eleven years as a grocery merchant in Newark, New Jersey. He is 5’0 tall, twenty- six years old, and owns an interest in the grocery store worth fifteen hundred dollars. He was able to prove this fact via the sworn statements of two local whites acting as witnesses.
Letter from James M. Clark, attesting to the legitimacy of Lii Yuen Sooy being a merchant.
The following affidavit, from James Clark of Newark, was used to attest to the validity of Chinese immigrants’ claims that they were merchants. Among the points that Clark’s testifies to, is the fact that he has not seen Lii engaged in any manual labor. Clark stated in the affidavit that he worked for a Machinists firm in Newark, and it is likely that he shopped at the retail grocery firm in which Lii was a partner.
Letter from Mayor James Seymour on behalf of Lii Yuen Sooy.
As a merchant, Lii Yuen Sooy could use his class position and connections with prominent white Americans in order to prove his permitted status. Lii, for example, provided a letter from James Seymour the Mayor of Newark, stating that he was a “highly respected merchant and resident” of the city.
Jew Goon Jing’s Form 431, filled out prior to leaving the United States.
Form 431 was a “preinvestigation” form that had to be filled out by Chinese merchants or students who were going to leave the country and wanted to return after a certain time. On the form, Jew indicated that he had a $1000 capital interest in the firm, therefore qualifying himself as a merchant. According to the Exclusion laws, Chinese immigrants had to name two “credible witnesses other than Chinese.” The American government did not trust Chinese witnesses to tell the truth in immigration cases, and therefore required non-Chinese witnesses. They were also required to note any physical marks or other bodily “peculiarities.” This was recorded in order to properly identify the Chinese upon their return.
A letter to the Chinese Inspector in Charge from the Inspector assigned to investigate Jew Goon Jing’s case, summing up the entire investigation process and the outcome of it [page 1 of 2].
When Jew Goon Jing’s applied for a return certificate allowing him to visit China there was an intense investigation that took place to determine the legitimacy of his claim to being a merchant. Jew, Willie Hung (the manager of the firm Sun May Lee & Co.), and three “reputable” white businessmen who shared the building with the firm that employed Jew, were interviewed and all gave sworn statements in regard to his status as a merchant. This was to determine that Jew was not a laborer, which would have barred him from reentering the United States after his visit to China.
A letter to the Chinese Inspector in Charge from the Inspector assigned to investigate Jew Goon Jing’s case, summing up the entire investigation process and the outcome of it [page 2 of 2]
When Jew Goon Jing’s applied for a return certificate allowing him to visit China there was an intense investigation that took place to determine the legitimacy of his claim to being a merchant. Jew, Willie Hung (the manager of the firm Sun May Lee & Co.), and three “reputable” white businessmen who shared the building with the firm that employed Jew, were interviewed and all gave sworn statements in regard to his status as a merchant. This was to determine that Jew was not a laborer, which would have barred him from reentering the United States after his visit to China.
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