Monday, May 26, 2014

Chang Toy

Today I am going to tell you about one of the men responsible for the building of Vancouver- Chang Toy.

Born in Guangdong province in southern China in 1857, Chang Toy's father died when Toy was three. This didn't stop Chang Toy from going to school though. He was married as a child - so that his mother could have a servant.

In 1874, Chang came to Canada. Initially, he lived in Victoria before moving to New Westminster where he worked at a sawmill. In 1876, Toy moved to Granville and bought a share in a laundry. He then added a small grocery business and started labour contracting other Hakka speaking Chinese workers.

As the years passed, Chang Toy got involved in more businesses such as charcoal burning, an import and export business, steamship ticket sales and real estate. Originally, the goods were shipped from a more established Victoria merchant, the Wing Chong Company to Chang's business, the Sam Kee Company. Funny thing is that Sam Kee appears to be a totally made up name.

Chang Toy. Photo courtesy of the City of Vancouver archives.
After the Great Fire of 1886, Chang Toy moved to Steveston. But by 1888, he was back in the newly named Vancouver. Retail sales rose steadily and the company also acted as a wholesaler - bringing in goods from Hong Kong then shipping them to other parts of B.C. 

In the early 1900s, Sam Kee's store was on the south side of Pender backing onto a much larger False Creek. Sam Kee was also a clearing house for Chinese sending money back to China. By 1908, trade in things such as rice had grown hugely. Chinese sourced rice was shipped mainly to major Vancouver wholesalers like Kelly-Douglas and W H Malkin. On the export side, Hong Kong and later Shanghai had a market for salted fish.

As that trade expanded, Sam Kee made complex relationships with Japanese fishing concerns. When the sources of fish declined, the company made connections in Nanaimo. Sam Kee added a wharf, fish tanks and a saltery. Then Chang Toy's company turned around and leased the area to Japanese companies who supplied the fish Sam Kee exported. 

The different traders in Chinatown were rivals but they worked together when needed. In 1893, Alexander Cumyow and Chang Toy pooled their resources to buy property, which they then leased to Wing Sang and other merchants before selling two years later.

I want to thank the website Building Vancouver for the information on Chang Toy. I will tell you more about him on Wednesday.

I hope you find the beauty around you.


  1. Great pictures and a wonderful history lesson. :-)

    1. It is interesting to look at the people who actually built this city. I know there was a lot of racial discrimination but Chang Toy still managed to become a wealthy businessman.

  2. That was quite the Van. Nice when competitors get together to help each other out when they need the help. I admire that in business and people.

    1. I admire it too. I really found success in my writing - or at least more success - when I started working with other authors instead of trying to do it on my own.