The Highbinders

January 29th, 2009

This Image is from the newspaper Harpers Weekly.  It was published on February 13, 1886.  It is located on pg. 100 of the XXX volume of Harpers Weekly.

The main picture in the image is of a street in Chinatown, San Francisco.  In this image two Highbinders are seen standing in the middle of the street.  The caption of this image is the Haunt of the Highbinders in Chinatown.  This could be meant to illustrate how the Chinese Highbinders were an ever-present force of crime over the Chinatowns in San Francisco.  In the San Fransisco Chinatowns of the 19th century  Highbinders were the criminal element.  They were member of Tongs whcih were social gruops who controlled much of the leisure activities in Chinatown and crime.  The fame of the Highbinders and the Tongs became so well known by the white community, Tong wars were often staged for the white Tourist.

On the right of the main image four Chinese men are pictured.  They are four Highbinders, or Chinese criminals.  They are named in order of top to bottom is Wong Ah Bang, Chu Ah Lung, Chung Ah Kit, and Lee Ah Fook.
The top most images is titled the Highbinders favorite weapons.  It shows pictures of pistols, knives, clubs, hatchets, and swords.  Many of the weapons appear to be of Chinese design.
Background information on the Highbinders society depicted in the newspaper image.  Highbinders were a secret society formed in the Chinese Quarters of San Francisco; they were formed for blackmail and police purposes.  The Highbinder societies became a nest for criminal activity.  The Harpers Weekly article say they were known for their violence and disregard for human life.  They were seen to be very evasive for the authorities, even to be completely out of the scope of American Law.  The men pictured on the right of the image were all Highbinders.  They were kidnappers, murders, and robbers.  They were also known to wield weapons from their homeland even wearing chain mail for protection.
The Highbinders have made there way into pop culture through film.  There were two silent films made by the title of the Highbinders, one in 1915 and one in 1926.

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