Iron Chink

Iron Chink, 1909 Model

Welcome to the Vancouver Lexicon. Its purpose is to pin down the patois of the City of Vancouver by recording its toponyms, nicknames, slang terms, personalities, places, and other Van-centric things. Full A-Z here.

Iron Chink | industry, racism | An early 20th century machine for butchering salmon that revolutionized the canning industry by increasing efficiencies and lowering costs. Invented in 1903 and introduced to BC canneries in 1906, this industrial tool – so named because it replaced 27 out of every 30 mainly Chinese workers in the industry – was developed in Seattle by Canadian-born Edmund A. Smith and sold up and down the West Coast from Oregon to Alaska. Some modern historians have preferred to refer to the apparatus as the ‘Iron Butcher’ to avoid touching on the racism of the era in which it originated (back when white supremacists went on a violent rampage through Vancouver’s Chinatown and Japantown neighbourhoods), but the machine was unapologetically marketed and sold as the ‘Iron Chink’ through several iterations with the derogatory name proudly cast in iron on many of them.

Usage: “I don’t feel the least bit comfortable writing the words ‘Iron Chink’, let alone saying them, but they shouldn’t be forgotten.”

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