Tag Archives: Midway Village Museum

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

The first big wave of Chinese immigrants came to America in the mid 1800s escaping poverty in China.  They arrived on the West Coast during California’s Gold Rush.  Anti-Chinese sentiment came in full force because the newly arrived Chinese were perceived as creating job competition for miners and other laborers.  The hard-working Chinese were willing to work for lower wages than most others workers were.

In 1877 in San Francisco, railroad workers began to strike over wage cuts and poor working conditions.  A meeting to express sympathy for the strikers resulted in attacks on the Chinese, and quickly a mob turned on the Chinese neighborhood of Chinatown.  Around the same time Irish immigrant Denis Kearney organized the Workingmen’s Party of California and called for the end of Chinese immigration, nicknamed the “yellow peril.”  His party fell apart in a few short years, but by then the “yellow peril” had become a national issue.  Anti-Chinese attacks and riots continued throughout the 1870s and 1880s.

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A Harper’s Weekly magazine cover from 1877 shows throngs of Chinese immigrants entering San Francisco. Image courtesy of the Library Of Congress.

In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, prohibiting Chinese immigration and naturalization.  The Chinese were the first group to be barred from entry to the U.S. based on ethnicity, or nationality.  For 10 years, no Chinese laborer was admitted to the U.S.  Those already here were ineligible for citizenship.  In 1892, Congress updated the law with the Geary Act which extended the ban for another 10 years. At its expiration, Chinese immigration was made illegal indefinitely.

Discrimination in housing and jobs led to concentrations—and segregation– of Chinese in “Chinatowns”. Some states restricted Chinese from owning property. Few industries were open to the Chinese for employment outside of restaurants and running laundries.

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An 1896 depiction of Chinatown in New York City, published in Harper’s Weekly. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

In 1910 Angel Island, an immigration station six miles offshore of San Francisco, opened to mostly Asian immigrants.  Chinese who could claim a Chinese-American parent were allowed to enter, as well as officials, teachers, merchants, and students.  However, 30% of the Chinese who attempted entry were denied.  Those who appealed this were held in prison-like barracks for months.

In 1943, Congress purged all exclusion acts because China was an ally against Japan in World War II.  However, limitations still existed. Only 105 Chinese were allowed entry per year, but Chinese-Americans were able to become naturalized citizens.  The Immigration Act of 1965 loosened the restrictions further allowing 170,000 immigrants annually from outside of the Western Hemisphere, with a limit of 20,000 from any one country.

In Rockford, Illinois the first permanent Chinese settler was William T. Moy. In the early 1900s he opened a hand laundry at 108 South 3rd Street. In 1915 Hop Wah opened a laundry on Seventh Street that would stay open until 1930. Hop Wah was born in California to Chinese parents. The number of Asians in Rockford remained small – under 100 – until after World War I.

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Seek Loy Wong, Charley Don’s son, sits at the center of the photo in the striped shirt. He is surrounded by his family as they take a picture in the back of the laundry. Image courtesy of Patricia Fong.

 

Among the arrivals after World War II was Charley Don, who emigrated from China and spent a few years living in Chicago. When he moved to Rockford in the early 1950s he opened a laundry on Court Street across from Court Street Methodist Church. In 1956 he moved the laundry to Mulberry Street and remained in business until the 1970s. Although Charley Don’s son and grandchildren lived in Rockford as well, at least one member of the family was precluded from coming to the United States until after the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965.

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Steve and Lanny, Charley Don’s grandsons, are pictured here in front of the Court Street laundry around 1956.

 

 

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Identity Revealed: Civil War Soldier

While scanning Civil War photographs for a researcher, investigations were made to gain more information on a soldier who was later identified as Henry Martyn Thomas. Born Dec. 21, 1841, Thomas served during the Civil War in the 45th Regiment, Illinois Infantry, rising from Private to Commissary Sergeant in Company G.

Henry was one of seven children born to Dr. Alden Thomas (1791-1856). After practicing medicine for a few years, Dr. Thomas moved to a farm two miles south of Rockford on Kishwaukee Road where he lived for two years. After this, he relocated to Rockford where he operated a drug store until shortly before his death. Dr. Thomas was buried in Cedar Bluff Cemetery in Rockford.

On Sept. 28, 1863, Henry Thomas was involved in rescuing passengers from a burning steamer on the Mississippi River. An article in the Rock River Democrat (Rockford IL) stated that Thomas acted “with true heroic gallantry . . . assisted in launching a gang-plank,” and saw to the safety of others on board. He was later lost attempting to swim to shore. The newspaper proclaimed that “he died like a true soldier.” Thomas was twenty-one-years-old.

The photo below was taken seven months before his untimely death.

 

Another Rock River Democrat article, dated Nov. 25, 1863, reported that the remains of Henry M. Thomas were recovered from the Mississippi and returned to Rockford. He was also buried in Cedar Bluff Cemetery.

~Written by Doug Janicke, intern in Collections Department at Midway Village Museum & MLIS Graduate Student

 

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Arisaka Type 99 Rifle: A Japanese WWII Relic

Midway Village Museum has a permanent collection of nearly 150,000 artifacts. Within the walls of the museum are untold stories of amazing relics. In honor of our upcoming WWII Days event, we’d like to share a piece of history with our readers. In our weaponry collection, we have a Japanese Arisaka Type 99 bolt action infantry rifle from WWII, brought back by Everett Charles Sarver. Before continuing with this story, let’s get some more background on Mr. Sarver and why this particular weapon is one of the best bolt action rifles to have been produced.

Everett Charles “Son” Sarver was born on April 24, 1916 to Everett Alexander and Lauretta Sarver.  He and his father, Everett Alexander, began a livestock hauling business that evolved from Everett Alexander’s garbage hauling job from Camp Grant. E.A. Sarver & Son began circa 1934, and by 1941, E.C. had taken over the business; it became E.C. Sarver Livestock Trucking. E.C. Sarver owned and operated this trucking company before he entered the Navy.

He was drafted into the Navy in 1944 during WWII and served until 1946 in the Pacific on the U.S.S. Minotaur.  Everett was the U.S.S. Minotaur’s mailman and the Captain’s Talker (he relayed orders via an intercom system to stations beyond the bridge).  As mailman, he would go in a small boat from ship to shore to pick up mail and “other illicit things.”  It is believed that this is how he acquired an Arisaka Type 99 bolt action rifle and bayonet.

The Type 99 rifle was created as a result of Imperial Japan’s fast track to modernization, called the Meiji Restoration (1868-1912). During that time, Japan was quickly assimilating Western technologies and improving upon them in order to become a colonial power. Before WWII, Japan had already started taking over territories in China and had defeated Russia to claim land in Manchuria and Korea.  As Japan’s power grew, their military spread into other parts of Asia, leading to the Second Japanese-Russo War and later, WWII.

The Type 99 rifle and its predecessors, the Type 30 and Type 38, were created by Nariakira Arisaka during these conflicts. The type 99 came in four versions: the Type 99 short rifle (a standard infantry rifle), the Type 99 long rifle (limited production), a Takedown Type 2 Paratrooper rifle, and the Type 99 sniper rifle. The standard infantry rifle had a monopod as well as an anti-aircraft rear sight meant to take down low flying lightly armored bombers.

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Arisaka rifle evolution (from top to bottom): 1. Type 30 2. Type 38 3. Type 38 carbine 4. Type 44 carbine 5. Type “I” model 6. Type 99 (earlier model) 7. Type 99 (later model)

The Type 99 rifle was basically an improved version of Type 38, but with the increased firepower of a 7.7mm cartridge (the 38 used a 6.5mm cartridge). The 99 could chamber a 5 round stripper clip. It had a quick-release bolt and a safety measure built in so that the spent cartridges would fly away from the soldier. It also had a chrome lined bore for easier cleaning. Although it had the heavier firepower, it also had a strong kickback due to its lighter stock. The Type 99 came with its own bayonet in the form of a long slender blade, often grooved to reduce weight. The Type 99 was a strong and solid weapon and one of the best bolt action rifles of its time.

The Type 99 was produced by 8 factories over the course of its service. These included Nagoya and Kokura in Japan, the Jinsen Arsenal in Korea, and Hoten (Mukden) in Manchuria. There were also subcontractors throughout mainland Japan producing these rifles. The rifles were produced in series of 100,000 with its numbering being 0 to 99,000 before the count would start over. The Type 99 rifle was only manufactured from 1939 to 1945. As the war progressed and pressure increased for Japan to manufacture more weaponry, the quality of these weapons decreased. At the end of WWII a batch of “last ditch” rifles were produced and they are known for their crude and simple design.

Most of the weaponry collected from Japan after WWII had any significant symbols/insignia removed or defaced by the Japanese before they were handed over. The Type 99 rifle in particular had its Imperial Chrysanthemum blossom ‘mon’ (a Japanese emblem used to identify an individual or family) removed before being turned over. One theory behind this act is that it would have been disrespectful to the Emperor if his ‘mon’ was allowed to remain upon a weapon handed over the enemy. Any rifles with the ‘mon’ still intact indicate that they were taken before the surrender by Chinese, British, or American soldiers.

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Arisaka Type 99 Bolt Action Rifle from Midway Village Museum’s permanent collection 

Above is an image of the Type 99 bolt action infantry rifle in our collection. Its arsenal mark and serial number, 3976, indicate that it was part of the 31st series of rifles manufactured by Toyo Kogyo under contract to Kokura Arsenal. It was most likely manufactured during 1942-1943. The story of Mr. Sarver bringing this rifle back with him during WWII is supported by the Chrysanthemum ‘mon’ still being intact on this rifle. If the rifle had been handed over after the war, the ‘mon’ would no longer be present or fully intact. The writing below the ‘mon’ is ‘kyu-kyu-shiku’ which roughly translates to Type 99, meaning that the rifle is a Type 99. Our rifle has a flip up anti-aircraft rear sight, monopod, and is made from better quality materials than the ‘last ditch’ rifles at the end of the war.

 

The bayonet that came with our rifle has a hook guard and a serial number of 2271908, which suggests it was made in the 1910s and would have been issued originally with an Arisaka Type 38 rifle. Our rifle measures 44in in length from the butt to the barrel and is roughly eight pounds.

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Type 30 bayonet & scabbard from WWI that came with the Arisaka Type 99 rifle

 

Once Everett Charles Sarver returned home, he ran his trucking business until 1969. He had married Ruth Irene Wickens in 1941 and together they had three children: Suzanne Mary, Charles “Chuck” “Charlie” Sarver, Jr., and Linda Kay.  Everett Charles Sarver passed away on October 24, 1991.

-Post written by Tiffany Arnold, Assistant Curator at Midway Village Museum

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A 1953 Valentine Party

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, we offer you this glimpse of Valentine’s Day 1953.

The photos, of Betty Peters’ 4th grade class at Henrietta School in Rockford, is part of Midway Village Museum’s photo collection and captures the students ready for their class Valentine’s Day party. Most students have homemade Valentines and boxes on their desks.

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Henrietta School was built in 1952 at 200 N. Johnston Ave. In more recent years the building was used for Head Start programming. Since 2012, the building, which has been owned by the City of Rockford, has been used for community meetings. In 2015 the City was in negotiations to sell the building to Carl E. Ponds Funeral Home.

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“We Saved Baseball” — Betty Yahr and the Rockford Peaches

A guest post by Intern Alicia Meyer

With baseball season coming to an end, we are reminded of one of Rockford’s greatest legacies: the Rockford Peaches. The Peaches were one of fifteen teams in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League that existed from 1943-1954. The Peaches won three league championships and were portrayed in the 1992 film A League of Their Own. Though the team was based in Rockford, members of the team were selected by talent scouts throughout the United States who would choose the best women baseball players for the league. One of those chosen women was Betty Yahr.

Betty Yahr playing ball before joining the Rockford Peaches in 1946.

Betty Yahr playing ball before joining the Rockford Peaches in 1946.

Betty Ruth Yahr was born on April 22, 1923 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She began her athletic career in high school where she was a member of the Girls Athletic Club. She was involved in multiple sports such as hockey, baseball, volleyball, and basketball. When she graduated in 1941, Ann Arbor High School recognized her as the “Most Athletic” in the yearbook and they were right to do so. Yahr continued playing sports after graduating, focusing primarily on her favorite one: baseball. She played on the semi-professional Michigan team “Dad’s Root Beer” winning the Michigan state championship. While playing a game in Ft. Wayne, MI, Yahr caught the eye of a talent scout for the newly formed All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. She was then invited to play on the Rockford Peaches.

Betty Yahr while with the Rockford Peaches. She used this photo for her official baseball card.

Betty Yahr while with the Rockford Peaches. She used this photo for her official baseball card.

Yahr joined the Rockford Peaches in 1946 as a right fielder. She contributed in 22 games, had 76 at bats, 11 runs, and a batting average of .171. The Peaches achieved third place and were 60-52 for the ‘46 season. The league champions were the Racine Bells that year, though the Peaches had dominated the season in ‘45. Yahr became homesick at the end of the season and decided to head back to Ann Arbor. She later attempted to rejoin the AAGPBL but was denied due to the hundreds of applicants who were ahead of her. She continued playing recreational baseball in Michigan and had a 41 year-long career at Edwards Brothers Inc., a printing company, before retiring in 1988.

The Voss Girls' Baseball Team in Flint, MI.

The Voss Girls’ Baseball Team in Flint, MI. Yahr is in the back row, the last woman on the right.

Sadly, Betty Yahr passed away on December 30, 2010 after battling Alzheimer’s disease.  She left behind quite the legacy. She is featured in the National Baseball Hall of Fame located in Cooperstown, New York as a part of their AAGPBL exhibit. Her glove, contract, uniform hat, and other memorabilia were donated to the Hall of Fame by her nephew Ronald Yahr. Ronald kindly donated some of Betty’s possessions to Midway Village Museum in July of 2014. In the collection, we received a replica Rockford Peaches baseball hat, original photos of Betty (including the one used for her AAGPBL baseball card), copies of her contract and correspondence with the league, and an actual baseball used in her time with the Peaches.

On November 8, 2015 learn more about the Rockford Peaches at a Rockford Premiere Showing of the movie A Team of their Own, a documentary produced by Grand Valley State University students. Showings of the film will be at Midway Village Museum, 6799 Guilfird Rd., Rockford at 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 general public, $8 for Museum members. For more information or to purchase tickets online visit www.midwayvillage.com.

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World War I Trench Warfare

With the World War One centennial now entering into its second year, now seems like a good time to highlight one of Midway Village Museum’s most immersive pieces for engaging the public in the history of the war: the on-site trench.

In 2013, Midway Museum began its spring WWI Days living history event. Early on in the planning for this event, the re-enactors who partner with the Museum asked permission to construct a permanent trench addition on-site to use during the event. After investing over 2,000 hours of labor, the trench now includes over 200 feet of reproduction trench line made up of both a larger front-line trench network as well as a smaller communications trench. It serves double duty for the Museum’s WWI and WWII Days events (the latter held each September) and provides a setting for re-enactors to display objects and conduct field battles. Some re-enactors even go full immersion and live in the trenches during the events!

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The trenches are dug 6 feet deep and then built up with clay, wooden supports and sandbags. Duck boards are utilized to provide a solid footing to walk upon, and these must be repaired or replaced every year due to submersion in water and ice. Three bunkers include amenities such as bunk beds and phone wire installations. There are several volunteer events each year to ensure that the bunkers remain sound and secure against the elements and to maintain the security and integrity of the trench walls.

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By looking at aerial photographs from WWI from the collection of the Imperial War Museum, you can truly appreciate the details which might be overlooked while walking through the reproduction trenches. For example, the trenches are constructed in a zig-zag pattern. This was done to make the trenches more defensible. If artillery fire should score a direct hit on the trench, the blast radius could only extend as far as the nearest zig-zag, thereby mitigating the destruction. As well, if the trench were overrun by the enemy, the curves in the trenches would offer protection for the occupants and make it easier to reclaim the lost ground.

AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY ON THE WESTERN FRONT, 1916

AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY ON THE WESTERN FRONT, 1916© IWM (HU 91107)

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The landscape, particularly during the April event, serves very well as a visual likeness of the Western Front. Much of the vegetation in the field is stripped away, while spring has not yet brought an abundance of green to the site. The Western Front of WWI came to be described as a lunar landscape, for the impact of warfare could very quickly take a vibrant, living landscape and transform it into a muddy, lifeless, crater-filled terrain. Below are before-and-after photos from the Battle of Passchendaele, fought between 31 July and 6 November 1917 near the Belgian city of Ypres.

THE FIRST WORLD WAR 1914  1918: TRENCH WARFARE ON THE WESTERN FRONT

http://THE FIRST WORLD WAR 1914  1918: TRENCH WARFARE ON THE WESTERN FRONT© IWM (Q 42918A)

Conditions in the reproduction trenches also mimic those from the Western Front. April rains, supplemented by the melting of winter snowfall, frequently causes the trenches at Midway to flood. To counter this and make the trenches safe and accessible to re-enactors and visitors, a drainage sump was installed this year to supplement electric pumps in removing the accumulated water. WWI armies also used drainage ditches, pumps and good old-fashioned buckets to keep water out of their trenches, but there were rare instances where the elements proved too aggressive in the short-term for soldiers to keep their trenches dry and clear.
THE BRITISH EXPEDITIONARY FORCE ON THE WESTERN FRONT, 1914-1915

http://THE BRITISH EXPEDITIONARY FORCE ON THE WESTERN FRONT, 1914-1915© IWM (Q 51569)

The reproduction trenches at Midway Village continue to be a work-in-progress. A new set of opposing trench works have begun on the east side of the field, and a new Christmas in the Trenches event will be held this December to commemorate the Christmas Truce of 1914 and give a portrayal of how soldiers celebrated the holiday while in the trenches, so be sure to keep an eye out for opportunities to take advantage of this expansive and immersive resource!

Upcoming events include:

September 26-27, 2015, World War II Days

December 5, 2015, Christmas in the Trenches: A Re-enactment of the 1914 World War I Christmas Truce.

For more information go to www.midwayvillage.com

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