Old racist cap gun on eBay

For sale on eBay: an old cap gun that says "The Chinese Must Go" on the handle. Bidding opens at $195. Picture 2-91

The Chinese Must Go Mechanical cast iron cap pistol. It is in excellent condition with most of its original black paint. It is marked Pat. 2, 79 on the barrel and The Chinese Must Go on the grip. You can see where the pigtail was attached but it is missing on the Chinese man. Works Well. 5 inches long x 5 inches high.
Detroit Dave says: "One of the weirdest things I've seen... trying to suss out the historical context, maybe after the transcontinental railroad was completed? Or perhaps a more regional thing, maybe in the PNW where there were a lot of Chinese immigrants? Anyone able to shed some light on this?" Link


  1. It basically started with the Gold Rush and the railroads, and continued well into the 20th century. But this looks late 18th or turn of the century to me.

  2. Probably Truckee, California (near Lake Tahoe), where there was an organized and successful movement to drive out the Chinese that use “The Chinese Must Go” as the slogan. The local paper, the Truckee Republican, repeatedly printed this as the slogan.

    This link tells a rather sanitized version of the story, in which for some reason Truckee’s Chinatown kept suffering from fires, and the word “arson” is not used.

  3. “The Chinese Must Go” was the slogan of the Workingman’s Party of California, going back to the 1850s. A political party headed by former Irish immigrant Dennis Kearney. The organization used fear, coercion, and violence and was eventually successful in getting a nation-wide ban on Chinese immigration in the early 1880s, which principally affected the West Coast, and especially California. Very similar images as the one on this cap gun were used to sell everything from early washing machines to newspapers throughout the late 19th century.

  4. Immigration quotas for us (the “Chinee”, as we were called) were not lifted until it proved to be “bad p.r.” when the U.S. were fighting the Axis Powers alongside China. “Bad p.r.”

  5. As an archaeologist I have learned that the Chinese were despised during the mining era during the gold rush and other early mining endeavors. Apparently, the Chinese were all but run out of Idaho during the big silver mining days of the late 19th century. Typically, the Chinese ended up purchasing mining rights to claims that were already used. They reworked the tailings and were often sold bogus claims. I have often found Chinese camps on the tailings piles of earlier mined areas. We usually identified the sites as Chinese by the typical ceramics we found as well as brass canisters and other metal debris not consistent with the earlier mining claims. Boise is one of the few (larger?) cities of the west without a strong Chinese population.

    Our local Bogus Basin was named for a “bogus” claim.

  6. If it said, ‘The Chinese must come,’ I’d get it for my gf for Xmas.

    If it said, ‘The Chinese to go,’ I guess the restaurant we work at could use it for a gag at the bar.

  7. This was the label for the one at the MOCA.

    “The Chinese Must Go” cap pistol (reproduction), 1879.

    Sold for 5-10 cents each, this toy capitalized on anti-Chinese sentiment. It was patented September 2, 1879, and manufactured by E. R. Ives, Bridgeport, Connecticut.

  8. It’s not just that we haven’t been welcoming to some immigrant groups. We have a long history of importing them as cheap labor, then finding their presence intolerable when the need for their cheap labor has passed.

  9. Based on the current climate for immigrants, I expect the surface gold is running low again. If the restrictions on Asian immigration had never been put in place, the West coast would really be a different place, more like the demographics of Hawaii I would guess.

  10. I ate at “China Go” for lunch today. It was WAY more General Tso’s Chicken than a person should eat for one meal. Silly Chinese.

  11. Wow! I think that this was definitely a way that adult white-american were tryin to instill in their children the ideas of racism towards the chinese. On the gun the chimaman i clearly depicted for an 1800’s american view. the hat, the pigtail possibly shown this way because of the pig-tail ordinance, a famous san francisco law passed to make every convicted male pisoner cut their hair within one inch of their head, as a way to harass the chinamen. For more info see

  12. Today, this “child’s toy” sold for $660.00!!!

    The company catalog of 1859 lists “Fire Cracker Pistols”. As the firm expanded it produced more elaborate models. There were given names. There were also novelty pistols. In the 1890’s Stevens made a cap pistol shaped like a sea serpent with a cap-exploding jaw. Another had a monkey who, at the press of the trigger, banged a coconut down on the cap. Many were created as political statements. Cast iron is durable but also brittle and easily breaks if dropped making undamaged cast iron toys more valuable. These early pistols are collectors items today. http://www.portobello.com.au/portobello/reading/memorabilia_toys_castiron.htm

    “The Workingman’s Party was a California labor organization led by Dennis Kearney in the 1870s. The party took particular aim against Chinese immigrant labor and the Central Pacific Railroad which employed them. Its famous slogan was “The Chinese must go!” Kearney’s attacks against the Chinese were of a particularly virulent and open racism, and found considerable support among white Californians of the time.” (Wikipedia)

  13. AAS 201 OL (W) AF

    “The Chinese Must Go” Asian Americans have come a ways for equality in the United States of America.Asian Americans have assisted with the many attributes which help build this country today during a time of extreme hatred,in the Gold Rush era.The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was a mere “The Chinese Must Go” intention to force out all the Chinese because white society felt as if they were taking over.Chinese immigrants were working for low paying jobs,and collecting gold to send back to their families in China, and to the whites this was the Chinese way of trying to take over what was “rightfully there’s”. In seeing the old racist cap gun I would like to see how much this gun will go for? and to whom it goes to? This will be an interesting turn of event.

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