The placard in front of me was hard to believe. Imagine a California governor declaring an anti-Chinese holiday. It happened. The governor was George C. Perkins; the date of the holiday was March 4, 1882.
I was at the Fremont Public Library to see "Remembering 1882," the Chinese Historical Society of America's traveling history exhibit (through Feb. 28) of the U.S. Chinese exclusion laws.
I went searching. In the Sacramento Daily Union dated March 3, 1882:
"Governor Perkins, in response to a very general demand has proclaimed Saturday a legal holiday, to the end that a general demonstration may be made in favor of the anti-Chinese legislative proceedings in Congress."
Congress was about to vote on a Chinese exclusion law.
Anti-Chinese meetings were set for 2 p.m. Saturday, March 4, at the Petaluma Theater as well as in Virginia City, Nev., to coincide with the San Francisco ones.
The Daily Alta California newspaper of San Francisco reported there would be a 12-piece band to entertain the expected throngs, which were set to meet at the Platt Theater, where three speakers platforms would be set up outside.
On that day the post office would make only one mail delivery; the Custom House would close at noon; and the Ship Caulkers' Association of San Francisco called off its workday so members could attend the meeting.
Thirty thousand people attended the San Francisco meeting, according to the March 5 Daily Alta. City business was suspended. The paper devoted its cover and an inside page to the meeting.
The headlines read, "Save Us! Our Ruin is nearly Complete ... To the Congress of the Nation defend Our Citizens, their wives and children from destruction by the vile and all corrupting hordes of Asia."
The Alta described the reaction of the women.
"Ladies graced the windows opposite the stands and waved their handkerchiefs in response to the eloquent sentiments of the speakers."
In Livermore, 250 people turned out that Saturday afternoon.
"Considering the shortness of the notice Livermore's anti-Chinese demonstration last Saturday afternoon was a most creditable one. The town cannon was brought out in the morning and a dozen rounds fired, waking up the echoes of the valley and creating the impression among some of our neighboring ranchers that a bombardment of the town was in progress. ... The Livermore Band seated in the brewery wagon ... drove through the principal streets of the town, discoursing patriotic music by the wayside," reported the Livermore Herald on March 9.
On May 6, 1882, President Chester A. Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which provided a moratorium on the immigration of Chinese immigrants for 10 years. Other anti-Chinese laws followed and weren't completely repealed until 1965.
Days Gone By appears on Sundays. Contact Nilda Rego at email@example.com.