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Michaels 2005 - International Journal of Historical...

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Unformatted text preview: International Journal of Historical Archaeology, Vol. 9, No. 2, June 2005 ( C ° 2005) DOI: 10.1007/s10761-005-8143-6 Peck-Marked Vessels from the San Jos´e Market Street Chinatown: A Study of Distribution and Significance Gina Michaels 1 Ceramic bowls and plates with Chinese characters pecked into their surfaces are documented on almost every nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Chinatown site in California. Typically, these vessels are said to bear marks of ownership, and further analysis has been uncommon. Given the socio-political atmosphere surrounding Chinese immigration and labor during this time period, as well as the cultural relevance of this marking practice, it is the author’s belief that this explanation is incomplete. Through analysis of archaeological materials from the Market Street Chinatown in San Jos´e, California, this paper explores the possibility that Chinese immigrants were using and hybridizing the familiar Chinese cultural practice of marking vessels to aid in creating an environment within the Chinatown that was both more comfortable and more livable. KEY WORDS: Chinatown; porcelain; peck marks; hybridization. THE MARKET STREET CHINATOWN In an era of segregation and anti-Chinese violence, Chinatowns were safe havens providing a familiar cultural community as well as physical and emotional protection from outside aggressions (Young Yu, 1991, p. 21). By the late 1860s the majority of large communities in California had Chinatowns, many of them fortified with brick walls built around them to ensure extra protection for their residents (Barth, 1964, p. 122). San Jos´e, California, was no exception, and as early as 1866 San Jos´e’s first Chinatown, The Market Street Chinatown (also sometimes referred to as the Plaza Street Chinatown), was established. It was 1 Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5A 1S6; e-mail: [email protected] 123 1092-7697/05/0600-0123/0 C ° 2005 Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 124 Michaels situated on San Fernando and Market Streets in the center of today’s downtown San Jos´e (Allen et al. , 2002). In 1866, public records show that three Chinese individuals erected structures on the Southeast corner of Market and San Fernando Street. Between 1868 and 1870, the Market Street Chinatown grew rapidly and the city council recorded numerous petitions by Chinese and white landowners for permission to erect wooden structures on the property along San Jos´e Street. By June 1868, the Market Street Chinatown had grown to a sufficient size that several of the residents felt it necessary to petition the city for a special police officer to patrol the area. It is speculated that the buildings owned by white owners were being rapidly rented to the growing population of Chinese workers and families....
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