Mansfield’s Chinese Laundries

The photo pictured below show’s Charlie Wing’s Laundry located at 246 North Main Street in 1925.  Chinese Laundries were prevalent in the United States during this time, with 1 in 4 Chinese immigrants working in the industry.  New York alone had as many as 3,550 Chinese laundries at the start of the 1930s.  Many Chinese men came to the United States in the 19th century to work in mines during the California Gold Rush. They were also instrumental in the building of railroads in the American West.  As more immigrants came, anti-Chinese sentiment rose, forcing many into the laundry trade.  Washing and ironing were considered “women’s work” at the time and therefore, not a threat to the traditional male worker.[1]

Wing’s wasn’t the first Chinese laundry in Mansfield.  The 1900 U.S. Census shows Sing Lee running a laundry at 113 North Main Street (later 121 North Main), with partners Charlie Sung and Yung Lee.  Around 1906 Louie Sam took over operation of the laundry at 113 North Main.  A 1909 article in the Mansfield News mentions Louie Sam and his unnamed employee were the only two Chinese in Mansfield at the time.[2]  In 1910 Charley Fong took over operation of the laundry and the 1920 U.S. Census lists his employees as Charlie and George Wing.

The Mansfield News, 24 August 1910, p. 7.

Even though some of the men were listed as married in the census, there were never any women listed, which suggested that they sent money back home to China to their families.  City directories also suggest the men lived in the back of the business.  Around 1923-24 the Wings took over the laundry business and it grew like never before, opening at the 246 North Main location.  The 1926 city directory lists four locations: the two on North Main and others at 26 West Third and 10 East Second.

Often Chinese immigrants would arrive from China knowing little English.  William Wing Ng arrived in 1935 at the age of 14.  The young man came to live with his brother, James Fook Ng, and was placed in the first grade at West Fifth Street school. The teacher, Miss Elizabeth Zimmerman, said he would probably advance three grades in his first year.[3]   William would go on to served in World War II as a medic and Chines interpreter in Burma[4] and the laundry business would be named William Wing’s Laundry until it closed.  The business was run by his partner, Paul Wong, for a number of years.

The Mansfield News-Journal, 27 November 1947, p.14.

Paul Wong arrived in Mansfield around 1922. A 1956 article in the Mansfield News-Journal reports on his 18-year-old  son, Wong Sic Quen,  arriving in town.  Paul Wong had not seen his son and wife since his son’s birth in 1938.  By 1969, the only Chinese laundry listed in the Mansfield city directory was William Wing Laundry at 121 North Main St.  Wing Laundry stayed in business until the death of Paul Wong on March 11, 1976.[5]  By the end of 1976, Wong’s estate was being sold. The following year the building, which housed Mansfield’s Chinese Laundry for 76 years, was demolished.[6]

The Mansfield News-Journal, 28 June 1956, p. 28.

The Mansfield News-Journal, 05 January 1947, p. 24.


Sources:

  1. https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2015/09/04/chinese-laundry/
  2. The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 21 January 1909, p. 9.
  3. The Mansfield News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio). 25 October 1935, p. 1.
  4. The Mansfield News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio). 05 January 1947, p. 24.
  5. The Mansfield News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio). 12 March 1976, p. 8.
  6. The Mansfield News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio). 24 August 1977, p. 10.

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