The Chinatown Trunk Mystery: Murder, Miscegenation, and Other Dangerous Encounters in Turn-of-the-Century New York City

The Chinatown Trunk Mystery: Murder, Miscegenation, and Other Dangerous Encounters in Turn-of-the-Century New York City

by Mary Ting Yi Lui
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0691130485

ISBN-13: 9780691130484

Pub. Date: 02/12/2007

Publisher: Princeton University Press

In the summer of 1909, the gruesome murder of nineteen-year-old Elsie Sigel sent shock waves through New York City and the nation at large. The young woman's strangled corpse was discovered inside a trunk in the midtown Manhattan apartment of her reputed former Sunday school student and lover, a Chinese man named Leon Ling.

Through the lens of this unsolved

Overview

In the summer of 1909, the gruesome murder of nineteen-year-old Elsie Sigel sent shock waves through New York City and the nation at large. The young woman's strangled corpse was discovered inside a trunk in the midtown Manhattan apartment of her reputed former Sunday school student and lover, a Chinese man named Leon Ling.

Through the lens of this unsolved murder, Mary Ting Yi Lui offers a fascinating snapshot of social and sexual relations between Chinese and non-Chinese populations in turn-of-the-century New York City. Sigel's murder was more than a notorious crime, Lui contends. It was a clear signal that attempts to maintain geographical and social boundaries between the city's Chinese male and white female populations had failed.

When police discovered Sigel and Leon Ling's love letters, giving rise to the theory that Leon Ling killed his lover in a fit of jealous rage, this idea became even more embedded in the public consciousness. New Yorkers condemned the work of Chinese missions and eagerly participated in the massive national and international manhunt to locate the vanished Leon Ling.

Lui explores how the narratives of racial and sexual danger that arose from the Sigel murder revealed widespread concerns about interracial social and sexual mixing during the era. She also examines how they provoked far-reaching skepticism about regulatory efforts to limit the social and physical mobility of Chinese immigrants and white working-class and middle-class women.

Through her thorough re-examination of this notorious murder, Lui reveals in unprecedented detail how contemporary politics of race, gender, and sexuality shaped public responses to the presence of Chinese immigrants during the Chinese exclusion era.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691130484
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
02/12/2007
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
554,702
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations     ix
Acknowledgments     xi
Introduction: "Find Miss Sigel Dead in Trunk"     1
"Terra Incognita": Mapping Chinatown's Racial and Gender Boundaries in Lower Manhattan     17
Beyond Chinatown: Policing Chinese American Male Mobility in New York City     52
Policing Urban Girls' and Women's Mobility and Desires     81
Playing the "Missionary Game"     111
Chinese American Interracial Couples and Families in New York City     143
"The Most Remarkable Get-away in Police History"     175
"Disgrace on the Whole Body of Our People"     198
Epilogue     222
Notes     227
Bibliography     277
Index     293

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