In the 1890s the transcontinental railroad was completed, and the U.S. no longer needed the thousands of Chinese workers who had helped build it. They had gone from providing a valuable service in the westward expansion to competing with “native sons” for jobs and depressing the wages. The climate in the U.S., never friendly to the Chinese, was becoming downright hostile.Crimes against Chinese people were not prosecuted. The Chinese Exclusion Act, signed into law by President Chester Arthur on May 6, 1882, and other laws like it, were promulgated, prohibiting Chinese immigrants from becoming citizens or owning land. It also blocked further immigration. Although widespread dislike for the Chinese persisted well after the Exclusion Act was enacted, some capitalists and entrepreneurs resisted their exclusion because the Chinese accepted lower wages.
Many Chinese settled in Pendleton and found manual labor around town. One Chinaman was Hop Sing, who opened a laundry and bathhouse down in the basement of a building. Hop Sing ran an advertisement in the Pendleton Tribune dated Aug. 21, 1885. The ad read in part, “Hop Sing Laundry #17 Garden St., Oregon. Clothes washed & ironed, cheaper than cheapest. Satisfaction guaranteed.” He picked up laundry from Pendleton customers with a yoke, wrote on rice paper, used lye soap to clean the laundry, and wrapped the clean laundry in paper and twine to deliver back to his customers. Because Pendleton has a high water table, he had a fresh water well. He offered baths to cowboys and sheep herders, many in extreme need of a bath. The first bath was 10 cents, and each succeeding bath was 1 cent less, still using the original water. Hop Sing ran this business successfully for almost 40 years.
Hop Sing is part of the Pendleton Underground Comes Alive Tour, and has been portrayed by City Council member Myron Huie for the last 13 years.