The Laundry Man Who Had the Last Laugh

A tiny fellow with a scarred cheek and eager eyes, “John John” the Chinese laundry man was the laughingstock of Weaverville, Calif., during the gold rush of 1852. As an immigrant, he never dreamed that he could do something as simple as washing the miners’ clothes and wind up filthy rich. He never charged a penny for doing their laundry, but they were paying him nonetheless. That’s because he had washed enough gold gust out of their pants cuffs and shirttails to set himself up for life. It wasn’t long before John John began to recruit other Chinese immigrants to work for him. There was, however, a twist — he charged each of the 10 laborers a fee equal to half their wages for the privilege of working for him.