Journey to a New Land
Sustained Punjabi migration to California began around 1900. Events in India and the U.S. combined with numerous immigration laws created several different waves of migration. Members of the Sikh faith made up the majority of the pioneer Punjabi immigrants, though small numbers of Muslims and Hindus also made the journey. Due to immigration barriers, these pioneers were mainly men unable to bring their families. As laws changed, women and children were also able to come to the U.S. Regardless of which era they came, these Punjabi immigrants willingly took enormous risks and worked hard to make California their home.
Bakhsish Singh Dhillon Family, 1915
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- 1839 Maharaja Ranjit Singh dies. His son, Dalip Singh becomes Maharaja at age 5 (1843)
- 1845-1846 First Anglo-Sikh War, between Punjab, the last independent state in India, and the British who controlled the rest of the country
- 1848 Gold discovered in California
- 1848 Second Sikh War, Sikhs try to reclaim Punjab from the British and are defeated
- 1849 Annexation of Punjab to the British Empire
- 1850 California becomes 31st state
- 1863 Construction of the Central Pacific Railroad begins in Sacramento
- 1868 University of California founded
- 1880 California civil code prohibits inter-racial marriages
- 1899 San Francisco Chronicle reports the arrival of four Sikhs
From: San Francisco Chronicle, 6 April 1899
At the time this article appeared, immigrants from India were a rarity. The author of the article found the Sikhs strong, vigorous men, but he had a hard time pronouncing their names.
From: San Francisco Call, 13 August 1910
This racist cartoon shows how far the stereotype of Indian immigrants in 1910 differed from reality. Most immigrants were Sikh, and those Sikhs who wore a turban usually had unshorn beard. It was almost unheard of for a turbaned Sikh to smoke. And according to Dr. S. H. Lawson, ship surgeon of the Monteagle and the Tartar, they were "one hundred percent cleaner in their habits" than the European steerage passengers he encountered in his duties. "The Sikhs impressed me as a clean, manly, honest race."