Timothy McCray was rinsing sand for gold on the Kern River in California on a hot May morning in 1853. He was hoping desperately to score a big find on his first day in the California gold rush. But this story is not about Timothy but about the person he would spend the money earned from gold he had found.
Ah Toy was her name and she was legend by this time. Ah Toy being the shortened version of the Daughter of Joy which was the Chinese proverb for prostitute. She was beautiful, tall, attractive and exotic… which made her even more rare and even more attractive.
She had arrived in San Francisco four years earlier. She was a slave but her husband/master had died on the voyage from Hong Kong to San Francisco. Arriving in American a free woman, she saw that men in this strange county men were noticing her. Realizing the opportunity that she had she took it. You could have had her for an ounce of gold but no one really had her. She charged $18 just to have a look at her. If you think that is cheap, think again. That $18 today would be worth $560 in our day. Young Timothy really had to work hard to be able to afford that peep show.
But Timothy was not the only one who had Ah Toy on their mind. Many out of jealousy did not like her because she grew from a prostitute to a powerful “Madam” quickly. Others hated her because she was Chinese. The Chinese mafia in San Francisco did not like her because she took a big part of their turf and they wanted a piece of the pie. She fought the mafia the whole way even taking them to court several times. This worked until 1854 when the U.S. court system passed a law where no people of Asian, African, or Native American decent could file a suit in a court of law.
Considering the battle just to be to be cut off by racism, you would think that she met a tragic end … but you would underestimate her. Being a practical business woman, Ah Toy saw the writing on the wall, cashed out her two houses as Madam and invested in real estate. Ah Toy had a long life and died at the age of one hundred.
She is remembered as someone who did not live by someone else’s rules, but became the exception to the rule. She could have lived a normal and boring life as part of the cruel and unjust system but she didn’t… she rose above and this is why we put her on the bottle of our California Common Lager.