Museum Purchase

Gold Fever! The Lure and Legacy of the California Gold Rush. Jan. 24, 1998 - Oct. 31, 1999

Pitcher (jug). Description: One porcelain jug made by the Union Porcelain Works, Greenpoint, N.Y. 10" High Design in relief represents Uncle Sam evicting the Chinaman., The handle represents the California bear pursuing the Oriental dragon, (represented by the spout of the jug). U.P.W. is incised on one side. History: The modeling was done by Karl Mueller, well known sculptor of the period. Made in recognition of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. This piece is said to be very rare. (D. Cooper, 3-94) See reference in "After the Chinese Taste: China's Influence in America 1730-1930," by Ellen Paul Denker, Peabody Museum Salem, 1985. U.P.W. stands for Union Porcelain Works, 1861-1900. "The discovery of Ah Sin's cheating, a scene from Bret Harte's poem "The Heathen Chinese", is depicted on one side; King Gambrinus, the mythical inventor of beer, is displayed on the other side. Such pitchers were used on bars to provide water for mixing with various liquors. The decorative subject matter would have been familiar to patrons." Xerox of article is in donor file. The example shown is from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (J. Nemeth,11/94) Per Grace Hudson Museum exhibit label: Rufus Wright, a genre and portrait artist who spent most of his life in New York and Washington D.C., visited California and the mining camps is 1857. Twenty-five years later, in 1882--the year of the first national Chinese Exclusion Act--he completed this period image. Almost certainly, the painting was intended as a commentary on the anti-Chinese fervor of the 1870s and 1880s, with its clear references to Bret Harte's satirical poem, "Plain Language from Truthful James" (1870), more popularly known as "The Heathen Chinee." In what would have been at the time an obvious contrast to the well-known scene described in Harte's poem, Wright's Chinese card player seems to have won the whole pot honestly. Harte's satirical poem, renamed "The Heathen Chinee," enjoyed great popularity during the height of America's xenophobic response to Chinese immigration. These undated illustrations come from one of many unauthorized reprinted editions of the work. PLAIN LANGUAGE FROM TRUTHFUL JAMES by Bret Harte Table Mountain, 1870 Which I wish to remark, And my language is plain, That for ways that are dark And for tricks that are vain, The heathen Chinee is peculiar, Which the same I would rise to explain. Ah Sin was his name; And I shall not deny, In regard to the same, What that name might imply; But his smile it was pensive and childlike, As I frequent remarked to Bill Nye. It was August the third, And quite soft was the skies; Which it might be inferred That Ah Sin was likewise; Yet he played it that day upon William And me in a way I despise. Which we had a small game, And Ah Sin took a hand: It was Euchre. the same He did not understand: But he smiled as he sat by the table, With the smile that was childlike and bland. Yet the cards they were stocked In a way that I grieve, And my feelings were shocked At the state of Nye's sleeve, Which was stuffed full of aces and bowers, And the same with intent to decieve. But the hands that were played By that heathen Chinee, And the points that he made, Were quite frightful to see,-- Till at last he put down a right bower, Which the same Nye had dealt unto me. Then I looked up at Nye, And he gazed upon me; And he rose with a sigh, And said, "Can this be? We are ruined by Chinese cheap labor,"-- And he went for that heathen Chinee. In the scene that ensued I did not take a hand, But the floor it was strewed like the leaves on a strand With the cards that Ah Sin had been hiding, In the game "he did not understand." In his sleeves which were long, He had twenty-four jacks,-- Which was coming it strong, Yet I state but the facts; And we found on his nails, which were taper, What is frequent in tapers,--that's wax Which is why I remark, And my language is plain, That for ways that are dark And for tricks that are vain, The heathen Chinee is peculiar,-- Which the same I am free to maintain.

Used: Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

Picture This Information

This artifact is part of the OMCA's Picture This website. More about the context and history of this artifact is available at Picture This.

About the Picture This web project: California's Perspectives on American History is a resource for teachers and students to learn about the experiences of diverse peoples of California by using primary source images from the Oakland Museum of California's collections. Organized into 11 time periods spanning from pre-1769 to the present, more than 300 photographs, drawings, posters, and prints tell stories from the perspectives of different ethnic groups. Historical contexts are provided to offer a framework of California's role in relation to American history.

The National Archives state that primary sources, "fascinate students because they are real and they are personal: history is humanized through them." Picture This invites students to examine the historical record, encouraging them to connect history with real people and explore how images tell stories and convey historical evidence about the human experience. History becomes more than just a series of facts, dates, and events.      

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