Introducing “The Oriental,” the 2nd Anglo-Chinese newspaper in the U.S.

Comprising four pages per issue, the first half in English, and the second half in Chinese, The Oriental was the second Chinese-language newspaper in the U.S. It was also the first of several nineteenth-century Anglo-Chinese newspapers to establish sections in English. Edited by William Speer (1822-1904), a Presbyterian minister and Lai Sai (also known as Lee Kan), associate editor, The Oriental commenced publication on January 4, 1855.[1] Lai Sai was the first Chinese elder in San Francisco’s Presbyterian church and Speer’s former student from the Morrison Education Society School in Hong Kong. Lai was responsible for the Chinese content of the newspaper, which included advertisements and the first directory of Chinese businesses in San Francisco in 1856. The newspaper was published by Whitton, Towne. & Co. at 151 Clay Street, San Francisco. Its publication schedule was inconsistent. Intended to be published triweekly in Chinese and weekly in English, its schedule was later changed to weekly in Chinese and monthly in English. In terms of content, the paper consists of local, domestic, and international news items, religious poetry and anecdotes, updates on previous articles, targeted advertisements, and business/organization listings. Below are some images of its 2 nameplates and a closeup of the masthead.

While conducting some archival research for a different project at the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) in Worcester MA, I stumbled upon this newspaper first due to its derogatory title. Thus far I have been able to look at the AAS’s holdings, consisting of three issues, and some online versions. I welcome the names of Chinese-language translators who can help me in this project, as well as leads on accessing more of the print run, if it exists.

I have a longer article on the paper that I am working on, and shoutout to Spencer Tricker for your comments/insight at our C19 conference roundtable this April!

[1] For more on William Speer, see Gordon H. Chang’s “CHINA AND THE PURSUIT OF AMERICA’S DESTINY: Nineteenth-Century Imagining and Why Immigration Restriction Took So Long.” Journal of Asian American Studies 15, no. 2 (06, 2012): 145-169, 239.


-Joey S. Kim

Twitter: @joeykim


Filed under Uncategorized

2 responses to “Introducing “The Oriental,” the 2nd Anglo-Chinese newspaper in the U.S.

  1. Thanks for sharing info. on these interesting papers.


  2. spencertricker

    Thanks for posting, Joey, I’m going to add a quick post about Wong Chin Foo and his paper, the Chinese American.


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