These bank checks from 1902 demonstrate the integration of the Chinese community in Riverside into the local financial system, including its most advanced aspects.
These were not personal checks, but were bank checks issued by the First National Bank of Riverside, payable through the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Los Angeles. These functioned a bit like money orders of the later 20th century. They are signed by a cashier of the bank in Riverside, and were issued to whatever name the customer specified, the payee’s name being written by the bank clerk. That was sometimes the customer’s own name, but was usually the name of a person or company to whom the customer needed to send money.
On most of the checks, there is no indication of the name of the buyer of the check. We believe that most of the checks were purchased by Chinese immigrant customers. These checks were selected by Kevin Akin of Riverside from a box of hundreds of checks (apparently all of these kinds of checks processed through the First National Bank of Riverside during 1902) that turned up at Coops Collector Galleries in Redlands around 2000. An unknown number were purchased by others before he found them. He selected all 20 of the checks in the box that bore Chinese names, including these. Kevin Akin and his wife, Dr. Margie Akin, are members of the Board of the Save Our Chinatown Committee.
This object was featured in the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)'s exhibit, "Gathering: Collecting and Documenting Chinese American History," October 17, 2019 - March 22, 2020.
– Save Our Chinatown Committee