Friday, January 3, 2014

Olive Young

Olivia Young was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, on June 21, 1903, according to her August 2, 1922 testimony at the Immigration Service, Kansas City, Missouri. A copy of the testimony was in her Chinese Exclusion Act case file and obtained from the National Archives and Records Administration branch in Seattle, Washington. This file also had a copy of her birth certificate.

Her father, Dr. Mung Fung Young, had been a resident of Kansas City, Missouri since 1896, according to an advertisement in the Kansas City Star (Missouri), July 14, 1908 (below).

Dr. Young advertised in the Star as early as 1900; below are two advertisements dated February 19, and October 23, 1900.

The Leader (Guthrie, Oklahoma), February 17, 1900, reported that Dr. Young had sued the railroad for discrimination. Dr. Young expressed his opinion on the Boxer Revolution to the Kansas City Journal; the article was reprinted in the Indianapolis Journal, June 21, 1900.

Dr. Young and his family have not been found in the 1900 and 1910 U.S. Federal Censuses; they may have been in China during the 1910 census.

In the 1919 article below, Olive had lived in Hong Kong for several years and thus spoke Cantonese. When the family returned to America, they stayed for a time in San Francisco before settling in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, where Olive aspired to be a writer.

The Evening Missourian
(Columbia, Missouri)
October 7, 1919

Olive was an independent, and perhaps impulsive, young woman as demonstrated in the following articles.

Kansas City Star
September 9, 1920

Kansas City Star
September 11, 1920

Kansas City Star
October 2, 1920

How long Olive stayed in Salt Lake City, Utah is not known. At some point her attention turned to the visual and performing arts, and she moved to China.

Buffalo Evening News
(New York)
November 21, 1925

The World-Herald
(Omaha, Nebraska)
December 17, 1925

March 1926
“Olive Young, an American-born Chinese, is seen here grinding out a street scene in Canton. She is the first woman motion-picture-photographer to produce films in China.”
(The story behind the photograph can be read at the Soft Film post, Woman with a Movie Camera.)

Syracuse Journal
(New York)
September 30, 1926

The American Weekly
October 24, 1926
(Syracuse Journal Sunday supplement)

Cleveland Plain Dealer
March 31, 1927

The Oregonian Sunday Magazine
(Portland, Oregon)
April 15, 1928

The American Weekly
November 17, 1928
(Milwaukee Sentinel Sunday supplement)

The American Weekly
August 4, 1929
(Syracuse Journal Sunday supplement)

On October 11, 1929, Olive departed Yokohama, Japan, aboard the S.S. Asama Maru. She had been living in Shanghai. Her arrival in Los Angeles, California, was October 29, 1929. Olive’s final destination was Kansas City, Missouri, where her uncle, Dr. C.B. Young, was at 315 West 12th Street.

The Oregonian
November 7, 1929

Trenton Evening Times
(New Jersey)
November 9, 1929

The World-Herald
November 10, 1929

Canton Repository
November 15, 1929

Cleveland Plain Dealer
November 17, 1929

Greensboro Record
(North Carolina)
November 26, 1929

The 1930 census recorded Olive in Los Angeles, California, at 1823 North Vine Street, Apartment 110. The twenty-six year-old was a film studio actress. Her father was born in California and her mother in China.

Rockford Register Gazette
April 25, 1930

Seattle Daily Times
May 28, 1930

Seattle Daily Times
July 7, 1930

Seattle Daily Times
July 8, 1930

San Diego Union
November 6, 1930

San Diego Union
November 7, 1930

San Diego Union
November 16, 1930

San Diego Union
November 22, 1930

U.S. Department of Labor
Immigration Service
Form 430 Triplicate
Olive’s travel application was approved. According to her January 27, 1931 testimony, at the Immigration Service, Los Angeles, California, she intended to travel through San Ysidro, San Diego to visit Mexico. A copy of the testimony was in her Chinese Exclusion Act case file and obtained from the National Archives and Records Administration branch in Riverside, California.

Aberdeen Daily News
(South Dakota)
March 22, 1931

Canton Repository
October 28, 1932

Los Angeles Times
March 26, 1933
Olive was “being coached by Bud Murray in American songs and dances, to be used in her homeland cinema productions”. (from Soft Film’s Woman with a Movie Camera)

Around 1933 Olive married Alfred C.S. Lum, a Hawaiian native born August 21, 1902. Presumably they met in Missouri. In 1938, Lum was a senior at the Kansas City Western Dental College. Below are his photographs from the school yearbook, Bushwhacker, for 1937 and 1938. The 1940 census said he attended college for five years. According to the 1937 Bushwhacker, Lum attended the University of Southern California and San Jose State College before enrolling at Western Dental College.


The World-Herald
January 25, 1934

In 1934 Olive performed at Chicago’s World’s Fair, A Century of Progress, in the ethnic village, Streets of Shanghai. K. Bernard Kim, a Korean, was a Chicago restaurant operator.

The Chicago Tribune
July 1, 1934
Blossom Chan pictured in the
advertisement which is here.

October 1934
...In Old China it was highly offensive for a woman so much as to touch the hand of any man not her husband, and for her to touch even her husband’s hand in public was forbidden. In Young China, when unmarried couples began to associate in public in the western manner, they scrupulously observed the taboo against even the slightest physical contact; today, however, it is very common in Shanghai to see Chinese couples, eager to imitate screen heroes and heroines, walking along the street hand in hand or with their arms around each other, and “petting” in the parks is not unknown.
Another once unsanctioned familiarity between men and women is kissing. The kiss is by no means unknown in the East, but it never has been so extensively nor so casually indulged in as in the West. No longer than ten years ago a kiss in public was more shocking to the Chinese than nudism probably still is to most Americans. Early Chinese motion pictures contained no kissing scenes; such a display in public in western motion pictures was enough of a sensation without any defiance of the national code by Chinese actors and actresses. In 1926, however, Olive Young, an American-born Chinese cinema star, ventured a kiss that was shown only in silhouette through a semitransparent screen. Chinese audiences gasped when they saw it...

Nashua Reporter
October 31, 1934

According to the 1940 census, Olive resided in Topeka, Kansas in 1935.

Augusta Chronicle
June 2, 1935

Augusta Chronicle
June 5, 1935

The Sandusky Register
September 15, 1935
...Another unusual feature of the revue is the Chinese girl singer, Olive Young Lum, combining oriental song numbers and renditions of popular American songs...

Buffalo Courier Express
(New York)
April 10, 1936

Buffalo Courier Express
April 12, 1936

Buffalo Courier Express
April 18, 1936

Buffalo Courier Express
April 19, 1936

Buffalo Courier Express
April 23, 1936

Buffalo Courier Express
April 26, 1936

Buffalo Courier Express
April 27, 1936

(Mansfield, Ohio)
May 1, 1936
...Club Circus...Olive Young Lum, Chinese singer...

Buffalo Courier Express
May 3, 1936

Richmond Times Dispatch
December 8, 1937

Richmond Times Dispatch
December 10, 1937
see second column

1939 Kansas City, Missouri
City Directory
Olive and her husband were named in the listing.

In the 1940 census, thirty-six year-old Olive was counted twice. Under the name “Olive Young”, she resided in New York City at the Hotel Somerset, 150 West 47th Street. Her profession was singer in the theater industry and she earned twelve-hundred-and-twenty dollars in 1939 for 30 weeks of work. She had two years of high school education.

Olive’s other residence was Kansas City, Missouri, at 313A East 12th Street. Her name was recorded as “Olive Lum”.

New York Sun
October 3, 1940

The New York Times
October 5, 1940
Bayonne, N.J., Oct. 4 (AP)—Olive Young of New York, American-born former motion-picture actress whose parents were Chinese, died today in Bayonne Hospital at the age of 37. Death was caused by pneumonia which followed her collapse on Sunday, after she had appeared as a singer in a night club floor show.

According to the Social Security Death Index, Alfred Lum passed away January 9, 2002, in Hawaii.
• • •

An illustrated profile of Young is at The Chiseler.

Photographs of Young and an annotated filmography can be viewed at Soft Film:
The Enigma of Olive Young
Looking for Olive Young 楊愛立
Olive Young 楊愛立: An Annotated Filmography (1925-1932)

Photographs of Young can be viewed at Orientally Yours, and in Chinese in Hollywood (2013).

Additional information and photographs of Young are at The Chinese Mirror.

Young is mentioned in the 2012 book, Hollywood Unknowns: A History of Extras, Bit Players, and Stand-Ins.

The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) stated incorrectly that Young was born in 1907.

(Updated January 7, 2014; today’s post supports Arthur Dong’s upcoming exhibition, “Forbidden City, USA: Chinese American Nightclubs, 1936-1965.”; next post January 10: Florence Hin Low)


  1. This is great, Alex! I've seen most of these already, but those items from the Buffalo Courier Express and the photos of Alfred Lum are totally new to me.

  2. Thanks, Dave. I look forward to your profile of Olive.

  3. I volunteer at the Excelsior Springs, Mo Museum. I was doing historic research and found news articles about Olive Young local girl making good in China. Thanks to your article I was able to find more on her and her father in our archives. No one here knew about her, trying to get her added to our local list of famous people.

  4. Hi Dana, Please send a link to your research and the museum.

  5. Hi Alex, I just added Olive to Wikipedia. I need to add a lot more specific information from the works you have collected. For now I have your site listed as a general source of information in the references. I go by Jacqke on Wikipedia, and if you click on the view history section of the article you will see me there and can message me if you see anything that should be changed or attributed better.

  6. I just came across a passing mention of Olive Young & the death of her father in the April 9, 1927 issue of the North China Herald which reads as follows:

    MISS Olive Young, the cinema star, sailed this morning for Hong-kong on the Dollar str. Pres. Polk, accompanying the body of her father, Dr. Mon Fong Young, who died in Kankas (sic) City, Missouri, on February 26.

    1. I clipped an image of it and posted it here for you in case you were interested:

  7. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS ARTICLE!!! I am related to Olive and I've learned so much about my family as a result of your website. I am very appreciative of all of this information. Thank you for taking the time to put this together!

  8. This is just fascinating... Also I found one image of Olive via media history digital library, I clipped the link here: