Tong Wars: The Untold Story of Vice, Money, and Murder in New York's Chinatown

Viking. Jul. 2016. 368p. photos. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780399562273. $29; ebk. ISBN 9780399562297. CRIME
OrangeReviewStarIn the early 20th century, rival gangs (known as tongs) in New York City's Chinatown fought bloody battles over territory and to settle old scores. Historian Seligman (The First Chinese American) presents a detailed description of these events. The author traces this rivalry to the arrival of Tom Lee in New York in the 1870s. Lee made connections with local authorities, which allowed him to offer protection to illegal gambling operations. His organization became known as the On Leong tong. In the 1890s, the West Coast-based Hip Sing tong moved in under the leadership of the notorious Mock Duck and challenged Lee's enterprises. This led to a series of four wars that finally came to an end in the 1930s. Throughout this work, the author provides context by explaining how major turning points such as the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) and the collapse of the Qing Dynasty impacted the Chinese immigrant community. He illuminates the lives of early Chinese settlers in America, which enhances the narrative's value.
VERDICT This thoroughly researched and fascinating work is highly recommended for those interested in organized crime or the early history of New York's Chinatown.
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