The first Chinese immigrants arrived in Chicago in the 1870s, long after the other Chinese had settled in California, Oregon and Washington. It began with the completion of the transcontinental railroad which recruited Chinese as almost 80% of its work force. When the last railroad track was laid in 1869 and work came to an end. Chinese population began to disperse to the mid-western and eastern states from the Pacific Coast where they originally concentrated.
But the anti-Chinese sentiment along the Pacific Coast was the most potent factor that sparred the Chinese immigrants advancing eastward. The prejudice against the Chinese intensified in the 1861’s when economic conditions in America took a turn for the worse. The depression forced many laborers out of work. And because Chinese were a small, but visible minority, they became easy target for persecution and humiliation. There were many anti-Chinese riots in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The legal system was also discriminated against them: A law passed in 1863 inadvertently encouraged acts of violence against the Chinese by forbidding them to testify against white men in court.
It was under such circumstances that some ambitious and restless young men began to venture away to other places. Same of them arrived in Chicago. Though the first official report of Chinese in Chicago could be traced in 1870 census report, little was known about these settlers except they were residing in Morgan county of Southern Illinois. Mr. T C. Moy arrived in Chicago in 1878 was always considered to be the first Chinese pioneer in the city. When he found the Chicagoan more agreeable to Chinese than the people on the Pacific Coast, he settled down and wrote to his friends and relatives, urging them to join him. they responded positively and over 80 joined him in just one year, 1878. And although Chinese in Chicago suffered the same restricted immigration laws and had the same man and woman ratio (100:1) as in other parts of America in 1870-1920, the Chinese population in Chicago grew steadily. By 1890, there were 567 Chinese in the city. They took up unobtrusive occupations, mainly opening laundry and restaurants. In 1900, there were 430 laundry and 167 restaurants, all operated by Chinese.
The largest influx of Chinese came in 1950s and 1960s, a time when communist took over mainland China in 1948 and when more lenient immigration law was practiced. Improved Chinese – American relation helped spur this immigration surge also. During these two decades the Chinese population in Chicago doubled itself from 7,000 to 14,000. By 1970, Chicago ranked fourth in Chinese population in America.