Chinese arrived with kinsmen, and almost immediately they established what is known as family associations organized by language and village. The associations with official meeting halls were Chinese support groups which sprang up in Chinatown during the Gold Rush as a safety net to protect their own. They elected officers, settled disputes among members, and helped workers transfer money to their families in China. The largest and most influential became the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, still thriving today.
Tong Yun Fow later became a light industrial center during the Civil War. Chinese were willing to work cheaply as buildings were converted into factories for making cigars, shoes, and clothing. Chinese eventually owned their own factories in Chinatown after they mastered the necessary skills.
During the Gilded Age from the 1870s to the 1900s, the United States prospered with modern cities, and the first skyscrapers emerged, reshaping the American landscape. In Chinatown, shopkeepers set out dried fish while garment workers toiled on sewing machines making overalls and jeans. Merchants opened sidewalk street stalls, just 16 inches deep and 24 feet long, selling everything from toilet paper to dried plums. Chinese Telephone Exchange operators conversed in several dialects as they routed Chinatown calls, plugging wires in and out of the switchboard. All celebrated Chinese New Year with a huge parade complete with gongs, cymbals, firecrackers, and a dragon.