Chinese in Califonia Sheet Music

Thousands of Chinese came to California in the 1860s to help build the transcontinental railroad. The San Francisco Chinese opera house was described and pictured in Harper's Weekly in 1880 as a cultural delight, but national political feeling led to the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882.

In 1873 the theatrical production "Aladdin" included "Ching Chow Chung" whose lyrics are in what appears to be transliterated Chinese, though my Chinese consultant claims it is gibberish; the sheet music uses both Chinese and western metal type characters for the title. It was reissued with a cover title listing "comic songs."

In 1898 another ambitious stage production "Chan Toy" led to the composition of "The First Born, Chinese Serenade" that includes a photograph of the first act on the cover. "China Heart" appeared in 1899. The San Francisco Sunday Examiner printed a picture of the star of "Wang" (1891) on the music "Every Rose Must Have Its Thorn." It is interesting to compare how successfully these pieces of music are in bringing the Chinese idiom to western performers.

There is very little Chinese about "Tell Me Lovers I Pray" from the comic opera "The Mandarin" (1896) save for the costumes on the "Tivoli Beauties" portrayed on the cover.