The News Media and the Making of America, 1730-1865

The Oriental, or, Tung-Ngai San-Luk




Newspapers in foreign languages catering to the growing immigrant populations popped up throughout the antebellum era. They appeared in German, French, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Welsh, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Dutch, and Hawaiian.

Chinese newspapers were also periodically published, but the character-based rather than letter-based language proved particularly challenging to printers. Whereas all of the other languages listed above could use common letterpress type, the same would not work for Chinese, with its thousands of characters. The solution for early Chinese papers was lithography, which used grease pencils on special stones to print instead of individual pieces of type.

Seen here is the second Chinese-language newspaper established in the United States, The Oriental; or, Tung-Ngai San-Luk, first published in January 4, 1855, and edited by the Reverend William Speer (1822-1904), a Presbyterian minister. Though its publication schedule was often inconsistent, it was initially intended to be published triweekly in Chinese and weekly in English. This was later changed to weekly in Chinese, monthly in English. It lasted just two years, folding in 1857. (The first Chinese-language newspaper, the Chin Shan Jih Hsin Ju; or, Golden Hill’s News, published in San Francisco in 1854, lasted for only a few months.) No Chinese newspapers were attempted again until the 1870s when a number of titles began in San Francisco.


The Oriental, or, Tung-Ngai San-Luk




April 28, 1855


Whitton, Towne & Co.


San Francisco, Calif.


69 cm.



“The Oriental, or, Tung-Ngai San-Luk,” The News Media and the Making of America, 1730-1865, accessed September 26, 2023,