The Ship Breakers
Frederick Butman, Chinese Fishing Village, 1859. Oil on canvas, 23 1/2 x 36 in. California Historical Society, San Francisco, Gift of Albert M. Bender.

Immigration from China in response to the gold discovery introduced a growing number of Chinese to California. The Chinese settlement at Rincon Point, established in either 1850 or early 1851 as one of California's first Chinese fishing villages, was a group of piling-supported buildings perched atop the rocks abutting the beach on the south side of Rincon Point. The village represented a return to a traditional source of income for its inhabitants. While not a large group, the Chinese were a visible minority.

Since many of the Chinese immigrants had come from China's coastal Guangdong province, where harvesting the sea was the principal livelihood, building a village and boats to fish the waters of San Francisco Bay was a logical choice. This somewhat isolated (on the outskirts of San Francisco) group and primarily self-sufficient population formed a relatively inexpensive labor force when the opportunity arose to make money by scrapping ships. A story in San Francisco's Daily Evening Bulletin in February 1857 illustrates the work of the "Chinamen, who hammer and saw and chop, day after day and week after week with the most exemplary patience and perseverance. Under their continued blows, the old vessels fall to pieces, one after the other."

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