Chinese Historical Society aims to preserve history of SF's Chinese New Year Parade

In the archives of the Chinese historical society of America, there are stories to be told. 

CHSA Executive director Justin Hoover says those stories are critical to the history of the Bay Area.

"You can't separate the history of the Chinese from the history of San Francisco."  Hoover said. "From the very beginning, 1800s, you know, 1849, 1850, you see a presence of Chinese in all the communities throughout northern California."

Parades, like the Chinese New Year Parade, have been essential to those celebrations for more than 150 years. 

Historians say the iconic San Francisco parade started in the 1860's, but it wasn't the only one.

"There are photographic records, we have in here that I can bring to you even as early as 1880’s,"Hoover said. "In 1882, on the eve of the exclusion act, there's pictures of the Chinese dragon being marched down the street." 

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was passed to keep Chinese immigrants from coming from ,coming to the United States. It remained in place for decades.

"During that period of time, there was a lot of animosity towards the Chinese," Hoover said. "This was an opportunity to, one, attract the white powers to Chinatown to say, look, here's a festival that we're proud of that shows that we're part of the political body."

After the 1906 earthquake parades continued. Hoover said the 1909 Portola parade was an economic driver for the community, with sponsored floats.

Community groups like the Cathay Club embraced the opportunity to be involved. 

In 1911, Hoover says the CHSA created the community’s first ever marching band.

"There was one leader of the band, a young guy who was in the junior," Hoover said. "He taught them marching, and they adopted this very uniquely American persona. And that continued throughout the parade." 

Today in a partnership with the Department of Public Works the CHSA is searching for more memorabilia, pictures and participants of parades of the past for a project that will create 3-
d scan and augmented reality experience that will live on the CHSA website and in a virtual gallery.

Hoover said users will be able to go to Market Street in San Francisco, and be able to participate with q-r codes bin an interactive experience that shows users the parade history of different sites.