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Anna May Wong: Topics in Chronicling America

Anna May Wong was the first Asian American movie star. This guide provides access to materials related to "Anna May Wong" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


"Anna May Wong's clever pose." April 13, 1932. The Washington Times (Washington, DC), Image 24. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Anna May Wong (1905-1961), born in Los Angeles, California to second generation Chinese Americans, is considered the first Asian American movie star.

During the early stages of Wong's career, newspapers referred to her as the "Chinese Cinderella." She eventually found international success through her long and varied career spanning silent films, motion pictures, theatre, television, radio and later became a fashion icon. She was outspoken against stereotypes and typecasting in the film industry in an era when Asian characters in movies were typically performed by white actors in yellow face. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


1921 Anna May Wong's acting career begins with her first screen credit for "Bits of Life."
1923 Premier of "Toll of the Sea," one of the earliest Technicolor features and Anna May Wong's first leading role.
1928 Anna May Wong travels to Germany with an offer to appear in a motion picture for Echbery Film Company of Berlin.
September 7, 1930 Hector Pedro Blomberg, Argentinian journalist, poet, and author, publishes "Cartas de amor a las estrellas del cinema" [love letter to the stars of the cinema] to Anna May Wong in the Los Angeles Spanish-language newspaper, La Opinión.
1932 Anna May Wong returns to America after achieving success in Europe.
March 1936 Anna May Wong goes to China for the first time. She stays there for a year.
June 20, 1936 Famed artist M.H. Herrin's pastel portrait of Anna May Wong appears on the Washington Times.
March 1937 Anna May Wong receives an extortion note demanding $20,000. Later, Police reveal the culprit to be a middle-aged woman from Minnesota.
Mid 1940s Anna May Wong leaves the film industry at the outbreak of World War II in order to work for United China Relief and provide humanitarian aid to China through fundraising activities in the United States.
1942 Anna May Wong writes the foreword to the United China Relief's cookbook. Proceeds from the sale would go to aid China's war sufferers.
1961 Anna May Wong suffers a fatal heart attack.