The history of Chinese Milwaukee begins in April 1874, with the opening by Wing Wau of a Chinese laundry at 86 Mason Street. Other Chinese soon followed, and by 1888, there were at least 30 Chinese laundries operating in the city. Charlie Toy moved to Milwaukee in 1904 and within two decades had built both one of the largest Chinese trading businesses in the United States and a six-story Chinese-style building in downtown Milwaukee described as the largest and most luxurious Chinese restaurant building in the world. An example of the community’s influence as a whole is the period 1937 to 1940, when the community of less than 300 residents contributed more money to the Chinese war effort against Japan than any other Chinese community in the United States except San Francisco.
About the Author
David B. Holmes, a resident of the Milwaukee area since 1973, is an environmental consultant with a longtime interest in both Chinese and Milwaukee history. Wenbin Yuan, a native of Taiyuan, China, came to Milwaukee in 1990 and is a cofounder of several Chinese community organizations as well as the president and owner of an environmental technology and general contracting business. Holmes and Yuan are cofounders of the Milwaukee Chinese Historical Society.