1. Did Chinese people really live in the United States in the 19th century?
Even earlier. Chinese came to California in the 16th century as traders. In the 1850’s, the first major wave of Chinese came during the 1850’s in search of the Gold Mountain in California. After the gold rush was over, many stayed to work on the nation’s first transcontinental railroad.
2. Were there really cowboys in 1849?
Yes. Most people think cattle drives did not start until after the civil war, but this is not true. After the United States annexed cattle-rich Texas in 1845, the cattle industry there began to expand. Cattle drives from Texas to New Orleans were recorded as early as the 1840’s. Here’s a great article on the earliest cattle drives to California:
The California Trail Herd
3. What don’t people know about cowboys?
They were poorer than dirt, they had hemmorhoids from sitting so long, and their jobs were very dangerous as well as lonely.
4. Do cowboys wear underwear?
That’s a good question and one I’ve had to mull over on more than one occasion. Some of them wore long underwear, especially during the colder months. Others went au naturel. Not only was the wearing of underwear not common in the 1840’s, if one did have underwear, it would have been an additional expense. In addition, though I am no expert, modern cowboys claim that underwear causes chafing.
5. Were horses on the trail common?
The pioneers preferred bringing mules or oxen. Mules had steadier feet than horses, and oxen, while not as fast as mules, were less tempermental than mules, not to mention they could eat low quality grass.
6. How long did it take the pioneers to travel from east to west down the Oregon Trail?
About 5 mos to travel the 2,000 miles.
7. Why did you want to write this story?
I’m 4th generation Chinese American, but still get asked, “Why don’t you speak Chinese?” The question always made me feel like I was back in the 1800’s, when Chinese people first started coming to the U.S., and when such a question might have been legitimate. I became interested in the question of how, exactly, a Chinese girl would have been treated back then, and not only a Chinese girl, but a native speaking one.
8. Do you have a horse?
Unfortunately, I am deathly allergic to horses. But one day I hope to own a hypoallergenic curly horse of my very own.
9. Did people really call Chinese people “celestials” back in the 19th century?
Yes, this was a popular term for Chinese people who were thought to belong to the “Celestial Kingdom.”