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Research: A Four-Letter Word

polkablues · 10 · 272

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polkablues

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on: November 26, 2019, 08:38:18 PM
In the long-term, I figure this can be a thread about story research in general, people's approach to it, their views on its necessity, strategies for it, and whatever. But I'm starting this thread because I'm having a very specific issue and I want to vent about it.

I little while back, maybe 2-ish years ago, I read [something] that talked about the treatment of the immigrant Chinese population in Seattle during the influenza epidemic of 1918. It sparked an idea in my head that's been bouncing around ever since, and it's just recently coalesced into shape enough that I want to start turning it into a script; sort of a semi-topical take on America's history of abuse toward immigrants, through the lens of essentially a haunted house flick set in a 120-year-old Chinatown apartment building. The problem is: I can no longer find that original source of information! I can't remember if it was an article in something, some random web page, or what form I originally found it in, and nothing I can find in my Googling goes into any real detail about the specific issues I'm looking for. I can find stuff about the influenza epidemic in Seattle, I can find stuff about the treatment of Chinese immigrants in general, but I can't find anything that covers the confluence of the two (specifically related to quarantining), which I know is out there, because it's how I got the damn idea in the first place!

Don't get me wrong, I'll happily make shit up if I need to (I wrote a whole WWII movie where the most extensive research I did was looking up how to say "shut up" in German), but there are a couple reasons I want to work with real information in this case. One, because the story is going to be touching on real issues, and particularly touchy ones, I want to be as respectful as possible to the context and the history involved. And two, I have a distinct memory of reading whatever the fuck I was reading and thinking, "These would be great details to include in a story." I remember thinking that, but I don't remember what those details were. You see my dilemma.

I'm still going to write the script one way or another, but if anyone has any ideas for tracking this info down beyond my current strategy of Googling every combination of the words "Seattle," "Chinese," "Chinatown," "influenza," "epidemic," and "quarantine," I am open to any incoming suggestions.
That's what fiction is for. It's for getting at the truth when the truth isn't sufficient for the truth.


Robyn

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Reply #1 on: November 26, 2019, 08:51:43 PM
I found this, but I'm sure you've seen it already:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2862341/

Quote
In San Francisco, where nativists had stigmatized the Chinese at various times for leprosy, venereal disease, and bubonic plague, there seemed no inclination to blame the Chinese for influenza in 1918

Quote
Chinatown was quarantined, though some San Franciscans wanted to burn it to the ground. Physicians authorized by the Board of Health forcibly inoculated Asians on Chinatown's streets with Haffkine's serum, which at the time was still in the testing stage, to determine its efficacy

Source:
21. Shah N. Contagious divides: epidemics and race in San Francisco's Chinatown. Berkeley (CA): University of California Press; 2001

It doesn't mention Seattle tho.


polkablues

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Reply #2 on: November 26, 2019, 09:16:58 PM
I think I had skipped past that because I knew it wasn't the specific article I was searching for, but there is some good, useful info in there. It's also got me wondering if maybe I was wrong about the epidemic... if what I had read was actually about the 1907 plague outbreak, not the influenza epidemic.

But I don't think so, because the real-life buildings that I'm basing this around, which are historic hotels that were later converted into low-income apartments, were originally built between 1910-1915, and the key detail I remember that kicked this whole thing off was that people were being essentially imprisoned in these buildings under quarantine. So by the timeline, I'm pretty sure it has to have been the influenza epidemic. So I'll keep searching. Thanks for your help, though!
That's what fiction is for. It's for getting at the truth when the truth isn't sufficient for the truth.


Drenk

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Reply #3 on: November 26, 2019, 09:20:16 PM
I'm so many people.


polkablues

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Reply #4 on: November 26, 2019, 09:39:20 PM
Oh, nice. That's definitely worth checking out.

This one looks good, too: https://www.amazon.com/Seattles-International-District-Pan-Asian-Community/dp/0295981970/
That's what fiction is for. It's for getting at the truth when the truth isn't sufficient for the truth.


jenkins

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Reply #5 on: November 27, 2019, 12:47:56 AM
Seattle, Washington and the 1918-1919 Influenza Epidemic

Quote
Worried that a second wave of the epidemic was hitting Seattle, on December 2 Hanson and McBride drafted a resolution requiring the quarantine of all suspected cases of influenza and presented it to the city counsel for a vote. Hanson, who had just returned from a trip to Spokane, was particularly concerned by the recurrence of influenza he witnessed in that city. McBride felt the disease was making its way back into the community via outsiders arriving by boat and train. He believed that if these suspected carriers could be quarantined, Seattle might be spared another round without having to resort to a new set of closures. Presenting his case before an emergency session of the City Council on December 5, McBride told members of how fifteen men from cheap lodging houses were recently removed to hospitals. All had been severely ill for several days, but no one had contacted a physician. Under the new rule, the lodging house owners would be required to contact the Board of Health in such cases. The City Council passed the quarantine resolution.

Health inspectors were soon very busy quarantining homes. By noon the day after the City Council passed the resolution, more than 100 placards had been posted. The health department was quickly flooded with phone calls from physicians and private citizens reporting cases. By December 10, nearly 1,000 placards had been posted on Seattle homes. Residents, perhaps worried that the gathering bans and public closures they had come to detest might be enacted again, seemed eager and willing to do anything to help the Health Department rout the disease once and for all. In the public schools, attendance was more than fifty-percent below normal enrollment, in part due to illness but largely because worried parents kept their healthy children home. School officials considered closing the schools completely as a result of the low attendance.


polkablues

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Reply #6 on: November 27, 2019, 01:17:32 AM
It doesn't have that Chinatown-specific information I'm still hoping to find, but there's a ton of good, usable background in that. Thanks!

Side note, through this process I found out about a 1983 massacre of 13 people in a Chinatown gambling club that I had never known about: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wah_Mee_massacre

I used to do pest control for the building right on the other side of the alley. Crazy that I had never heard of it.
That's what fiction is for. It's for getting at the truth when the truth isn't sufficient for the truth.


Robyn

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Reply #7 on: November 27, 2019, 06:08:08 AM
Well, I went down the rabbit hole for several hours and didn't found anything either. They did put a lot of Seattle in quarantine during 1918, but nothing specific about chinatown. The plague (starting in San Francisco) believed to originate from chinese areas, so during that time Seattle put resources into preventing diseases in Chinatown. It's not exactly what you are looking for, but there's probably tons of useful information about that. Have you tried to get hold on a expert on the subject and ask them?


polkablues

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Reply #8 on: November 27, 2019, 06:57:24 AM
I havenít yet, but thatís definitely my next step. I actually have a contact who works at this museum https://www.wingluke.org/ which is right in the heart of Chinatown and that honestly should have been my first move, but I thought it would be easy to re-find the information I had already stumbled across in the past. Thanks for putting the time in trying to help! I really appreciate the effort, even if weíre all coming up empty handed.
That's what fiction is for. It's for getting at the truth when the truth isn't sufficient for the truth.


Sleepless

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Reply #9 on: November 27, 2019, 11:04:46 AM
Nothing like a holiday treasure hunt. Alas, I wasn't able to find what you're after even with resorting to Bing. I did find this resource which might be useful to you at some point.

Also, potentially interesting: the deadliest week of the 1918 pandemic coincided with Halloween.

Project sounds interesting though, I look forward to reading it!
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