The Chinese Historical Society of America Presents A Book Talk:
“The Price of Salmon” – S.F. Chinese Gang and the Alaska Salmon Canning Industry
June 17, 2023, 2:00 pm-4:00 pm Pacific Time
Virtual Program via Zoom
Learn the secrets behind the Chinese involvement with the salmon canning industry. In 1922, The Daily News reporter Max Stern shared with his readers the breathtaking accounts of his adventures abroad the notorious “Hell Ship” and ashore in the worst cannery in Alaska. Stern disguised himself as a down-on-his-luck laborer and worked along with the multiple raced Chinese gang. Written with boldness and moral strength, Stern’s investigating report exposed the corrupt practices and exploitation in the salmon canning industry.
Philip and James Chiao have compiled Stern’s fascinating story that led to the exposure of long-running scandals in 1922. Now newly edited by the Chiao brothers and published in book form, the modern public can read Stern’s articles to interpret the past for themselves the many intriguing questions such as race relationship, life in San Francisco in the rolling 1920’s, the morality of men’s inhumanity to men…etc. Additional topics of discovery surely can be found in these pages for a lively dialogue. Bring your questions and curiosities to “The Price of Salmon – S.F. Chinese Gang and the Alaska Salmon Canning Industry,” Meet Philip and James Chiao, accompanied by Kristin Wong, all of them contributors to the “Chinese Workers in Salmon Canneries,” a website that documents the history of Chinese Americans who worked in the salmon cannery. Exciting discussion and an audience Q&A will follow their presentation surrounding the book “The Price of Salmon” – Max Stern’s 1922 expose of the salmon canning industry of the 1920s.
“Brothers James and Philip Chiao update and comment on investigative reporting from 1922 when Max Stern went undercover to investigate the salmon canning industry, notably, the poor working conditions that thousands of Chinese laborers endured. The Price of Salmon: The Scandal of the West Coast Canning Industry is a fascinating look at labor, migration, and the human capacity to overcome suffering. Stern’s work from more than one hundred years ago is given new relevance by James and Philip Chiao who themselves worked in salmon canning in Alaska. The combined efforts of the modern retelling of investigative journalism from the time provides an important addition to our understanding of the experience of Chinese laborers across North America. Even those who know the history of the Chinese American experience will learn new details through the deep investigation into this industry given new relevance to a modern readership. “— Mark T. Johnson. Fellow with the Institute for Educational Initiatives