Many early Chinese immigrants came to America as laborers from the rural, farming areas of southern China, but by the 1920's, they had created a national network to facilitate communication in their new country. Objects like this 1931 commercial directory challenge the assumption that these laborers were uneducated and illiterate. In Boston’s Chinatown, Poy Wong operated a printing shop, Hop Yuen Company, where he published this bilingual Chinese directory. It includes a variety of resources: greetings from city/state public officials; lists of Chinese businesses in Boston and across New England; names of Chinese students at Harvard and MIT; essays about the Chinese in New England and Chinese American trade; photos of Chinese floats at Boston’s tercentennial celebration parade; ads from Chinese and non-Chinese businesses alike, even including the First National Bank of Boston and Chesterfield cigarettes. The directories hint at the relationships within Chinese community and with the greater community and raise questions about how these connections were forged before the digital age. How is it that the Chinatown community had contacts with the Massachusetts governor and Boston mayor? Who helped with the English translations and edits? How did the Wong coordinate the list of hundreds of family owned businesses scattered across the region? What was the relationship between Chinatown's working class and the educated students who they list in the directory's pages?
– Chinese Historical Society of New England