Credit: Arnold Genthe, The Street of Gamblers (Ross Alley) 1898, Gelatin silver print. Fine Arts Museums of San
Tens of thousands of Chinese immigrants, many Cantonese, came to San Francisco, California, in the 1850s to participate in the gold rush. They viewed California as another place to practice their trade. However, anti-Chinese racial prejudices among miners grew in the midst of the gold frenzy. The Alta California, a San Francisco newspaper, criticized the concentration of Chinese immigrants, or “Chinatown,” that emerged in the city. Further anti-Chinese sentiment hampered economic prospects as Chinese miners were only allowed to work on sites abandoned by white miners.
After the Texas War of Independence ended in 1836, tensions between the U.S. and Mexico increased. Before gaining independence, Texas had been a refuge for runaways but eventually became a slave state. The concept of “Manifest Destiny”the idea that the U.S. had the divinely granted right tr expand geographically from Atlantic to Pacific–was well-entrenched by the time James K. Polk became President in 1845; indeed, he had run on an aggressive expansionist platform. The fact that most of the Mexican territories were already inhabited was largely ignored. Many believed that the Protestant, English-speaking Americans were better equipped to govern the Mexican territories than American Indians or Catholic, Spanish-speaking Mexicans. In 1835 and 1845, the United States tried to purchase New Mexico and California from Mexico. But the Mexican government refused. From 1846-1848 the U.S. fought the Mexican-American War, eventually acquiring the territories of California and New Mexico.