Not sure how I stumbled upon this but its interesting...
Origins of Chinese laundries
“The laundry came to be a stereotypical occupation for Chinese immigrants for over a century starting around 1850 before it disappeared into history as social and technological changes rendered it obsolete. Why and how did Chinese laundries come into existence and what was the role that they played on the economic and psychological status of Chinese immigrants and their families, both here and in China.
About 150 years ago, the first Chinese laundry in America is said to have opened when Wah Lee hung a sign that simply read “Wash’ng and Iron’g” in front of his shop in the Chinese quarter of San Francisco in the spring of 1851. From this inauspicious beginning, countless Chinese immigrants earned their living from hand laundries over the next century.
By 1900, Chinese laundries dotted the American landscape in small and large cities and towns all across the country. The majority of Chinese men worked in or owned Chinese laundries, which for a while dominated the laundry business. But, today, there are few if any Chinese laundries still operating.”
Tickets To Gold Mountain: A Social History of Chinese Laundries
Related: How The F Do You Clean My Clothes If They Never Get Wet?: The History of Dry Cleaning