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    Anti-Chinese Counter-top Trade Stimulator. Highly provocative and outrageous trade stimulator issued circa 1890 playing upon anti-Chinese prejudices and xenophobia. It consists of a wooden box with hinged lid, measuring 10 1/2" x 11" x 9 1/4". The lid has stenciled lettering reading: "Gove & Bailey Patentees M'f's. Middleboro, Mass." (in fact, it appears this company never actually filed for a patent). The front of the lid reads "The Open Door". This does not refer to the Open Door trade policy initiated by Secretary of State John Hay in 1900, but rather the unrestricted flow of Chinese immigrants to the United States. The front of the box has a paper label (darkened) that reads: "Bad For America. Fight to Defeat this unfair policy. Close The Open Door. Instructions for Playing the Game. Push Plunger to Knock Down Deceitful Sino. Read Number in Left Window for Winning Number. 1 or 2% Discount." A wooden effigy of the deceitful "Sino" referred to appears in a round opening on the upper right. If one pulls back and releases the plunger, the effigy is knocked down out of sight, a bell rings, the barrel of a cannon appears to the left and the image of Uncle Sam pops up through a slot in the lid. We are not sure of the proper sequencing but, if properly set, a closed door in the lower left will open, revealing a spinning tumbler which indicates whether the customer receives a 1 or 2% discount. A string on the left side, with ring attached, when pulled, should close the door. The mechanism appears complete, as far as we know, and apparently has been re-strung and replacement parts (screws and a bell) installed. The spring to the plunger has lost its tension, so the effigy needs to be knocked down by hand. Proper operation requires correct positioning of all components.

    As historical background, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 prohibited people of Chinese ancestry from being granted citizenship. To our national shame, it was not repealed until 1943. The act did not prevent Chinese from emigrating to America. There was a great deal of anti-Chinese sentiment (reflected in the "Chinese Must Go!" cast iron cap gun, Bret Harte's "The Heathen Chinee" and images of Chinese eating rats). The sentiment was naturally strongest in California and seemed to have reached its peak in 1885-1895. For some reason (perhaps the Panic of 1897 or American imperialism), the animus abated somewhat in the early 20th century, but simmered under the surface for decades. Despite the sentiments involved, this is a wonderful artifact of Yankee jingoism and a "window into the past".

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2020
    22nd-23rd Saturday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 6
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 805

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