A Chinese laundryman went missing in New York in 1897. The newspaper account was more concerned with how his customers were going to get their laundry back than with the fate of the laundryman. Fortunately, his German landlord had the key to the laundry, but unfortunately, that wasn’t going to solve the problem because he could not determine the laundry articles belonging to each customer from the laundry tickets on which their inventory was written in, what else, Chinese.
About a decade later, a New York legislator proposed a bill to require that the writing on Chinese laundry tickets be in English. This proposal may not have stemmed from the earlier crisis and have been just a coincidence. The New York TImes coverage of the bill described two jokes played on the legislator by his colleagues. A ‘threatening’ letter was sent to him which was signed, “Mock Duck,” and a second one that praised the bill effusively was signed, “Theodore Roosevelt.”