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70s Calgon’s “Ancient Chinese Secret” Commercial

In 1851, Wah Lee, a gold minor turned laundryman, opened the first Chinese hand laundry on Grant Avenue and Washington Street in San Francisco. The sign over his door read “Wash’ng and Iron’ng.” Chinese laundry establishments sprung up following the gold rush. As Chinese took over the business in the Chinese communities in major American cities, other groups tried to compete for work. Despite prejudice against the Chinese and laws designed to alienate Chinese people such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, Chinese persevered in the laundry business.

Calgon commercial in the 70s with a tag line “Ancient Chinese Secret” takes place in a Chinese laundry run by a young Chinese couple. The husband was played by Calvin Jung, who went on to star in RoboCop, among many other Hollywood productions. Japanese-American stage actress and playwright, Anne Miyamoto, played the Chinese wife. Sadly because the commercial was so successful, when Miyamoto passed away two years ago, her obituary made a prominent mention of the Calgon commercial as her iconic role.

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