Lew Hing (May, 1858 – March 7, 1934) was an industrialist in Oakland who started the Pacific Coast Canning Company. At its peak during canning season, the cannery provided 1,000 jobs.
Lew Hing was born in Guangzhou, China in 1858. His father had come to San Francisco before, but returned to China after failing to find prosperity. Lew came to California in 1871 after his older half brother had successfully started a small metal shop. 1
In 1877, Lew Hing married (Lew) Chin Shee (July 1860 – July 1947) in San Francisco. They had 7 children, all born in San Francisco:
- Lew Yuet-yung, aka Mrs. Quan Yick-sun (1879–1967)
- Lew Gin-gow (1885–1943)
- Lew Yuen-hing, aka Mrs. Ho Chou-won (1889–1978)
- Lew Wai-hing, aka Mrs. Ng Min-hing (1890–1969)
- Thomas Gunn-sing Lew (1894–1974)
- Lew Soon-hing Rose, aka Mrs. Francis Moon (1898–1993)
- Ralph Ginn Lew (1903–1987)
Lew Hing was the great-grandfather of 2016 city council candidate Bruce Quan.
Lew's started his first cannery in San Francisco, combining knowledge of metalwork learned from his older half-brother, and preserving foods he had learned as part of one of his odd jobs. He opened the cannery in Oakland in 1904.
Always on the cutting edge of progress, Lew built his new cannery as the first concrete building in the industrial part of Oakland, plus he insisted on the most advanced machinery for mass production of his products. Also, in contrast to San Francisco, Oakland had space for a larger cannery as well as providing the Southern Pacific railroad tracks directly to the cannery dock for easy shipping of Lew’s Buckskin brand canned goods throughout the United States. Products included asparagus, cherries, apricots, peaches, pears, and grapes. Tomatoes were the most popular. Always a stickler for quality, each morning, Lew would go to the Tasting Room and open, inspect, and taste batches of food processed the day before. Eventually, Buckskin canned goods would make their way throughout the Western hemisphere. 1
After the 1906 earthquake, Lew provided substantial assistance to earthquake refugees. He opened the cannery to the homeless, and provided tents and hired cooks. This was especially important because Chinese Americans were not welcomed in the official refugee camps because of discrimination. And as San Francisco rebuilt, there were efforts by people there to keep the Chinese community from returning, so many had an even longer stay in Oakland.
In 1907, Lew became president of the Bank of Canton, splitting his time between the cannery in Oakland and the bank in San Francisco. He also owned two hotels.
During WWI, Lew's canned goods were shipped to Europe to support the war efforts, and afterwards to support the relief efforts.
Death and Burial
In 1918, he led efforts to increase the capitalization of the China Mail Company from $2,500,000 to $10,000,000, a move which was opposed by some ultra-conservative stockholders. A "hate list" was created, with Lew's name at the top. The police became aware of the list, and Lew and the others on the list were assigned guards. Lew survived, but Fong Wing, a director of the company, grew careless, and was gunned down as he stepped outside his shop in San Francisco's Chinatown. 2,3,4
Lew Hing died in 1934. He and his wife Lew Chin Shee are interred in Mountain View Cemetery in section 9 of the Main Mausoleum.
Links and References
- Lew Hing on Wikipedia
- Long Lost Oakland: Overcoming racism, Lew Hing became king of Oakland’s canning industry East Bay Yesterday podcast
- Noted Chinese Romantic Life Comes to End Oakland Tribune March 8, 1934
- Guard Fails to Stay Hand of Assassin Oakland Tribune December 23, 1918