The first Chinese man in Toronto

“By the late 1800s, Toronto was growing by leaps and bounds into a major urban centre. Newcomers from England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, and Italy poured into the city. This growth was largely due to the railway that linked Toronto with everywhere else in Canada. New factories sprang up to serve the rail industry, and new businesses to serve the factories. A stock exchange opened near the train station to make money travel faster and farther away.

The first Chinese man in Toronto was Sam Ching who was recorded in the city directory of 1878. He owned a laundry at 9 Adelaide Street East, close to the railway station. Soon, other Chinese moved into the city. In the 1881 census, there were ten Chinese and by 1891, there were thirty-three. Like Sam Ching, most of them worked in laundries. At this time, a new City Hall, now called Old City Hall, was being built.

By 1915, a small cluster of Chinese businesses and residences developed on York Street, then along Queen Street West and up Elizabeth Street. Why did most Chinese end up living in the same area? One reason is that the Chinese, like most other immigrant groups, wanted to be with others who shared the same language and customs. Another reason for staying together is that the Chinese were not welcome to live and work wherever they wanted.”

Excerpted from The Chinese Community in Toronto: Then and Now by Arlene Chan, published by Dundurn Press. Copyright © 2013 by Arlene Chan

Image Credit: Toronto Public Library 

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