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Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month

May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage month. In recognition of this tribute, For the Record is showcasing manuscripts and pictures documenting some communities within the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) Collection. The May 14, 2021 weblog Documenting the New Deal recounted the historical past of New York’s Unit of the FWP. It described how the draft manuscripts and pictures had been ready for 64 books, solely a handful of which had been printed, notably the New York City Guide, and New York Panorama.

Manilla Restaurant, 47 Sands Street, Brooklyn, NY, November 19, 1938. WPA Federal Writers’ Project Collection, Federal Art Project {photograph}. Photographer: Pollard. NYC Municipal Archives.

One of the extra notable analysis endeavors of the NYC FWP had been research of the handfuls of ethnic teams and communities that made up the town’s inhabitants. Then, as now, New Yorkers got here from around the globe—Armenia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Ireland, Egypt, Syria, Turkey—to call only a few counties. The record of nations additionally included a number of Asian Pacific nations—China, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines.   

For every group or neighborhood, the WPA workers researched and wrote articles on a spread of topics, sometimes “present distribution in New York,” customs and costumes, historical past, literature, music, religions, holidays, and so forth.

Friends of China Parade, Chinatown, December 1937. WPA Federal Writers’ Project Collection, Federal Art Project {photograph}. Photographer: Hawes. NYC Municipal Archives.

Friends of China Parade, Chinatown, December 1937. WPA Federal Writers’ Project Collection. Photographer:  Hawes. NYC Municipal Archives.

It seems that this analysis was primarily meant for his or her signature publication, The New York City Guide. The Chinese communities in New York acquired pretty in depth therapy. There are seventeen folders within the assortment containing articles on contributions to American tradition, occupations and professions, politics, publications, along with the matters listed above. The Guide editors distilled this analysis into 4 pages for the part on Lower Manhattan, underneath the sub-head “Chinatown.” It begins with the story of “…the first Chinese known to have visited New York… Pung-hua Wing Chong, who arrived in 1807,” and goes on to explain rising Chinese migration to New York till imposition of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

Pell and Mott Streets, Chinatown, June 1938. WPA Federal Writers’ Project Collection.  Photographer: Treistman. NYC Municipal Archives.

The passage continues with an outline of holidays celebrated locally, native customs, and a prolonged dialogue of common shops, eating places and menu objects. “Chop suey came into existence in Chicago in 1896… literally translated the name means ‘hodge-podge.’ As prepared by restaurants in Chinatown the dish is far superior to that served in drug stores and cafeterias.”

Shop inside, Chinatown, June 1938. WPA Federal Writers’ Project Collection. Photographer: Treistman. NYC Municipal Archives.

Looking on the protection of one other of the Asian Pacific nations, the Philippines, offers an attention-grabbing distinction. A complete of three folders apparently sufficed, though perhaps not shocking given the comparatively small inhabitants of Filipinos within the City at the moment. The following is among the articles:

“The Filipinos of New York

Few of the Filipinos who enter the United States come to New York City; most of them settle in West Coast cities. There are 2,000 in New York, about four percent of the country’s Filipino population. Small colonies have developed in the neighborhood of Second Avenue between Thirteenth and Sixteenth Streets, and on Sixty-fourth and Sixty-fifth Streets between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. Some Filipinos are established in Brooklyn and the district around Sands, Concord, and Nassau Streets, and along Columbia and Hamilton Avenues in South Brooklyn.

Since the establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth in 1935, Filipinos, whose former status was that of American “national” – neither residents nor aliens – have been classed as aliens, and solely 50 a yr could enter the United States.

The Filipino American Restaurant at 132 East Sixty-Fifth Street is the one Filipino consuming place in Manhattan, however in Brooklyn there are two: the Manila Restaurant at 47 Sands Street, and the Sunrise Restaurant at 67 Sands Street. Favorite native dishes served in these locations are adobon baboy—pork fried in garlic and soy sauce—and fish soups comparable to sinigang isda and sinigang visaya.

Most Filipinos listed here are Roman Catholics. About 100 belong to the Interdenominational Church at 209 Concord Street, Brooklyn. The solely Filipino paper printed within the metropolis is The Filipino Student Bulletin, organ of the Filipino Students Christian Movement of 347 Madison Avenue. There are, nevertheless, 21 Filipino social and athletic organizations in New York.”

Manilla Restaurant, 47 Sands Street, Brooklyn, NY, November 19, 1938. WPA Federal Writers’ Project Collection, Federal Art Project {photograph}. Photographer: Pollard. NYC Municipal Archives.

The Filipino article, a lot diminished, did seem within the Guide, within the part on the Navy Yard District: “…Around Sands and Washington Streets is a colony of Filipinos; native food, extremely rare in the eastern part of the United States is served in a Filipino restaurant at 47 Sands Street. Among the favorites …mixta (beans and rice), and such tropical fruits as mangoes and pomelos, the latter a kind of orange as large as a grapefruit.” 

Manilla Restaurant, 47 Sands Street, Brooklyn, NY, November 19,1938. WPA Federal Writers’ Project Collection, Federal Art Project {photograph}. Photographer: Pollard. NYC Municipal Archives.

In 1993, the National Endowment for the Humanities supported processing and microfilming the WPA Federal Writers’ Project assortment. Readers are welcome to discover the assortment information and go to the Municipal Archives to analysis this wealthy and assorted assortment.


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