This website displays a collection of the tools, objects and materials working pioneer Chinese owned and used-- Chinese miners, railroad workers, construction workers, cannery workers, business men, homemakers. Since they were readily available, they were often used by other pioneers as well and imported from China for general sales.|
All items in the collection had North American usage as far as it was possible to determine. They were sourced in North America and the provenance checked wherever possible. Some items are from old North American collections or household items up for auction and their history may be debatable as provenance was not available. Some usage may be conjecture but hopefully well founded.
Many years of collecting gives one a good eye for something that fits in. Also, I have seen various collections over the years and online artifact illustrations that provide a guide to collecting. The Barkerville, BC collection and the collection at the Quesnel, BC museum are two that come to mind. The Asian-American Comparative Collection, the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum and the Chinese in Montana, University of Montana websites are examples of good online sources of information. You can find links on the link page.
Back in the early 1970s, when the bottle digging and collecting hobby was in full swing, there were a couple of BC collector's magazines published for a few years. One of these was The Westward Collector Quarterly and the other was Bill Barlee's Canada West magazine. These magazines often showed Chinese bottle and pottery collectables as well as many other Chinese items that had been dug or recovered from old buildings and other local sources. Both Roy and myself have many copies of these magazines. Bill Barlee also had a museum for a few years in Penticton, BC. He had a tremendous collection of Chinese items there sourced mainly in BC and the Yukon. As our inlaws lived in Penticton at that time we were often there and both of us enjoyed visiting his museum several times.
Items brought to North America from Asia for sale directly to collectors were avoided, if recognized as such. This was and remains a major guiding principal in building the collection. In the earlier days of collecting there wasn't much, if any, of this around so just about anything you came across was collectable.
New old-stock items from stores, meant to be sold for use, were also collected if found.
The majority of the collection was sourced in British Columbia--about 2/3 of mine and all of Roy's. Collectables were found in old buildings and pioneer sites, dug up, obtained from antique shops and second hand stores, bought from collectors, traded, bought on online auctions.
All items displayed are in my personal collection or that of my brother-in-law (see Roy's collection). I started collecting about 1973, Roy much earlier.
Although neither of us specifically collects Japanese, some of the items in the collection have been identified as Japanese. They were dug in Chinatowns or found with Chinese pots and bottles in Chinese digs so may have had Chinese usage. They will remain in the collection, identified as Japanese.
None of the illustrations are to scale or relative in size. When a size is thought to be important, either a common object will be displayed as well, or the size will be given in the description.
Permission will be given to academics who wish to use one or more images in presentations or papers, when requested by email. If specific dimensions are required, I will be happy to make measurements.
Best viewed with Microsoft Internet Explorer. Other browsers may interpret and display the pages differently. For instance, Google Chrome browser may display text with differing sizes on a page. Width vs height perspective is a function of screen resolution and the geometry of your monitor over which I have no control. One way is to choose a resolution that makes the brass fan-tan covers on the front page appear circular.
The new home of the collection (except for Roy's) as of 1 Dec. 2017 is The Lytton Chinese History Museum.