Lot 110 of 435:
1879 San Francisco anti-Chinese “Queue Ordinance”  

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Lot closed - Sold For (Includes Buyers Premium):$450
$700 - $1,000

The Invalidity of the “Queue Ordinance” of The City And County of San Francisco: Opinion of The Circuit Court of The United States...in Ho Ah Kow Vs. Matthew Nunan

Field, Stephen J.

San Francisco

J. L. Rice & Co.



43 pp. (14pp. opinion + 28pp. Appendix). (8vo), 23x15cm (9.25x6"), original wrappers. First Edition. Title page reads, "Printed from a Revised Copy."

In 1876, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an Ordinance mandating that every male imprisoned in the County jail must have his hair “cut or clipped to a uniform length of one inch from the scalp” – clearly directed against Chinese immigrants, who, for centuries, had been required by strict Chinese law to shave their foreheads and braid the rest of their hair in a long “queue” or pigtail. Ho Ah Kow was a Chinatown resident arrested under a state law making it illegal to live in an over-crowded room in a boarding house. Choosing to spend five days in jail rather than pay a $10 fine, his Queue was forcibly cut off.  On his release, he brought suit against the Sheriff, claiming that the Ordinance had violated his constitutional rights. Justice Field (a Californian appointed to the Supreme Court by President Lincoln) agreed, recognizing that while the Ordinance did not mention Chinese, it was one of a long series of San Francisco acts designed to harass migrant Chinese workers. After recording Field’s opinion in the case, this pamphlet adds much background information, including the fact that an earlier Mayor of San Francisco (subsequently President of the Bank of California) had opposed the Ordinance, as well as a regulation intended to penalize Chinese laundries. This important imprint of Asian-American legal history is rare. Most institutional copies are modern reproductions copies from the Harvard Library original.

Lot Amendments

Wrappers toned and lightly soiled, chipped and creased at edges, small puncture to rear wrapper and last leaves, ownership inscription to front wrapper, toning to wrappers and first interior page, faint vertical crease to covers and interior; several pages creased at corners; a good copy or better.

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