1888 Shipwreck Puts Racist Blame To Rest

By: Amanda Crum - April 24, 2014

The 1888 shipwreck of the City Of Chester, which was discovered last year under the Golden Gate Bridge, is speaking through the passage of time to tell us about what really happened against what some people have believed for over a century.

The passenger steamship sank after it collided with a boat carrying Chinese immigrants, killing 16 people, and for years people believed that boat, Oceanic, was to blame for the crash. Due to the bigotry still held against Chinese immigrants after California’s gold rush, it was assumed by many that their ship and crew members were responsible for the deaths. However, it was actually the captain of City Of Chester who made an unsafe turn and caused the crash.

“The Chinese crew saved a lot of lives,” James Delgado, director of maritime heritage for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Sanctuaries, said. “They pulled people onto their boats. If not for them, more people would have died.”

According to the San Francisco Museum, many Americans held hatred for the Chinese immigrants who came to the U.S. during the gold rush because there was not as much gold to be found as they had been led to believe. Once the finds began to dry up, American men began to blame those from other countries for “stealing” what was rightfully theirs.

“Governor Bigler suddenly became inspired with the realization of the value of an attack upon them as a political asset. He sent a special message to the legislature in which he charged them with being contract “coolie” laborers, avaricious, ignorant of moral obligations, incapable of being assimilated, and dangerous to the public welfare. The result was a renewal of the foreign miners’ tax, but in a milder form than its predecessor,” wrote Henry Kittredge Norton.

The ship was first found last May during a sweep of the Bay area for potential boat hazards, but new images have been released this week that clearly show the hull and gash on the port side. An attempt to raise it won’t be made, but the find is still important to people like Delgado.

“It’s a tangible link to another time,” he said.

Image via Twitter

About the Author

Amanda CrumAmanda Crum is a writer and artist from Kentucky. She's a fan of Edward Gorey, Hunter S. Thompson, and horror movies. You can follow her on Google:+Amanda Crum

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  • Jimmy The D

    Each nationality is discriminated against by the ones who arrived before them. As it was then, so it is now. Someday this will end when we become an inter-married homogenous population. Pure bloodlines will be a thing of ancient history. Then, who will society hate?

    • Brent B

      Don’t worry, there will still be religious differences…

  • Tony Ventana

    Stories like these place a “Chink in the armor” of old time racism, imagined or real.

  • Ardeare

    More states need a Governor Bigler. Truly a man with vision, courage, and impeccable character. Also, there’s nothing to prove this Captain was at fault. Clearly, the Chinese vessel was at fault. And that’s a fact, Jack!!

  • markinny

    everybody and everything is racist.telling the truth equals racism.