On April 25, 1900, Sanichi Kanda waited with about 50 other young Japanese men to board a British steamship, the Sikh, which sat in the port of Yokohama, Japan. The ship had arrived a day earlier from Kobe with about 150 people, mostly young men, on board. Its final destination—the United States of America—was halfway around the world. He knew it was unlikely he would see his parents, Junnosuke and Somi, or his homeland again.
Born in Tokyo in 1880, Sanichi had $31 in his pocket. He would turn 20 on May 10, three days before they landed in Tacoma, Washington.
A lean, handsome man, Sanichi had only attended school for six years, but he was able to speak, read and write English. After he arrived in the United States he worked for a couple of years in Seattle as a tailor, but he was restless, so he boarded a train heading east. He arrived in Maryland and was hired to work for Mrs. Louise Brinkmann at “Oakwood,” her enormous Queen Anne-style home in Catonsville, just west of Baltimore.
Mrs. Brinkmann, who was born in New Jersey, came from a German family that had made a fortune in the sugar business. She married August Helmuth Brinkmann, a successful German-born businessman, in 1879 and they had three sons. They separated in 1900, with Mr. Brinkmann returning to Germany. Before they parted company, Mrs. Brinkmann obtained a tidy financial settlement from her husband.
Mrs. Brinkmann employed several servants at her estate. In addition to the butler, she had a housekeeper and a coachman. She was a busy woman with an active social life who did a lot of charity work and she made frequent trips out of town to visit family and friends. Unfortunately, paying the wages of her servants was not at the top of her to-do list.
Sanichi became impatient when he didn’t get paid. He realized it was wrong to steal, but he also knew that if he complained, the authorities were unlikely to take the word of a Japanese immigrant over the word of a wealthy American lady. He took a valuable diamond ring from her home and headed to Washington, D.C., where he pawned the ring for $60.
Meanwhile Mrs. Brinkman reported the theft to the police.
Sanichi soon found job a working as a servant for Mrs. Howard Kingscote, an English woman staying temporarily in Staunton, Virginia. Like Mrs. Brinkmann, Mrs. Kingscote hailed from a good family and was separated from her husband. She was also an accomplished novelist, writing under the pen name “Lucas Cleeve,” in the bodice-ripper genre, a subject area with which she had extensive personal familiarity. Though no one in Staunton knew it at the time, she’d had to make a quick exit from her homeland after it was discovered that she’d seduced and bilked several men, causing their financial ruin. Her financial troubles continued in America—she’d been kicked out of several hotels for non-payment of her bills
It didn’t take long for Sanichi to figure out that Mrs. Kingscote was even less likely to pay him on time than Mrs. Brinkmann. He left the job. Undaunted by his previous bad luck with employers, he placed an ad in various newspapers, seeking work as a butler and valet.
He might not have been caught for the theft of the ring, except for the fact that he used his unusual surname in the ads. The Baltimore police traced him through the ad and sent two detectives to his rooming house.
At first, he denied taking the ring, but after some conversation with the detectives he admitted the theft. He explained he’d only done it because he hadn’t been paid. Nonetheless they arrested him and took him to Baltimore to face charges. He pleaded guilty to a charge of petty larceny and was sentenced to six months in the Maryland House of Correction (aka “The Cut”) on October 25, 1905.
After he was released from prison Sanichi decided he’d had enough of working as a servant for white ladies. He returned to Washington State and found work as a laborer in an oyster camp in Vaughn, a village on the Key Peninsula. There he met Daisy Lillian Tuthill, a young woman from Connecticut. Daisy and her only sibling, her younger brother, Frank, had been orphaned as children. They moved to Vaughn to live with their grandparents. Frank died in 1908 when he was just 20 years old.
Sanichi asked Daisy to marry him and she accepted. They applied for a marriage license near the end of September 1910. There was only one problem — officials in Seattle refused to grant the license because he was Asian and she was white. Next, they applied for the license in Tacoma because they heard that two other mixed-race couples had received marriage licenses there. The state auditor was not happy about it, but he admitted there was no law against granting them the license. “We can take our time investigating the applications and they may get tired of waiting,” the auditor commented. In fact, Washington was the only state in the western U.S. and one of only eight in the nation where inter-racial marriage was legal at the time. The couple waited patiently, and the license was eventually granted. A justice of the peace married Sanichi and Daisy on November 5, 1910 in Mason County, Washington.
By 1915 the Kandas had three children: Eugene, George and Lillian. Sanichi continued to work as an oysterman and oyster culler in South Bay, north of Olympia. Another son, Richard, joined the family in 1929.
After running the gauntlet to get married, wouldn’t it be wonderful if Sanichi and Daisy’s story were one of happy-ever-after? Sadly, that’s not the case. On November 25, 1934, their beautiful daughter, Lillian, was shot and killed on a lonely road in Thurston County, Washington, by Merritt Hunter, Jr., a jealous high school sweetheart, after she tried to break off her relationship with him. Hunter’s father told a news reporter that his son had been behaving irrationally for about a year before the murder. He said that he and his wife were unhappy about the relationship because Lillian had some Japanese ancestry.
Hunter was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. His sentence was later commuted to life in prison. He was paroled in 1951. Four years after he was released, he shot and killed his wife, Elayne, with a .22 caliber rifle. Then he turned the gun on himself, committing suicide.
Sanichi, Daisy and their three sons were sent to Tule Lake War Relocation Center, an internment camp in northern California, on June 4, 1942, after the outbreak of World War II. The camp was constructed for incarceration of Japanese people living in America and Americans of Japanese ancestry, due to irrational fears that they might collaborate with the Japanese. Daisy was not in either category, but she was sent to Tule Lake anyway. The Kanda’s sons left the camp shortly after they arrived. Sanichi and Daisy remained at the camp until October 4, 1943.
After the war ended Sanichi got a job with the railroad. He outlived Daisy, who died in 1962, by one year. They are buried with three of their children and their tiny granddaughter, Karen, in Tumwater, Washington.
Featured photo: Sanichi Kanda, 1905 carte-de-visite mugshot (front and back). Collection of the author.