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Lee Yen Fu


1. As a student at Yale  2. c.1905  3. c.1920


Pinyin & Chinese characters Li Enfu 李恩富

Variant Spellings & Other Names Yen Fu Lee
Yan Phou Lee
Lee Guan Foo1
Lee Hung Foo
Le Yun Foo2

Other Chinese Names Li Shaobi 李少弼

Detachment 2
LaFargue No. 40
Date of Birth 31 March 1861

Place of Birth Xiangshan, Guangdong

Age at Departure for U.S. 13 (Lunar Calendar), 12 (Western Calendar, by birth date)
Date of Death 1938 (? Final letter to U.S. friends dated 29 March 1938)

Place of Death Canton
Place(s) of residence in U.S. (1) Springfield, MA;
(2) New Haven, CT.
(3) Post-CEM: in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and other U.S. locations.

American Host Family/ies

(1) Dr. and Mrs. Henry Robert (Sarah Wilkinson Lewis) Vaille, Springfield, MA;
(2) Clarence F.Carroll, New Haven, CT.3

School(s), with dates Springfield Middle School;

Hopkins Grammar School, New Haven, CT, 1878-1880

Notable activities/ awards in school Co-editor in Chief of Hopkins Grammar School publication; first prize, English and Greek composition, and Valedictorian, Hopkins Grammar School, Class of 1880

College/University, with dates Yale College, 1880-81 (entered with Class of 1884; recalled to China on termination of CEM);

1884-87 (reentered Yale after returning to U.S. in 1884).
Yale Graduate School, 1887-88.

Entered Vanderbilt Medical College, graduated with class of 1893.4

Notable activities/ awards in College

Gamma Nu (Freshman Society), Declamation Prize, Freshman Year (1880-81)5; Phi Beta Kappa; member of Yale Chess Club, and the Pundit Club;

15 April 1886: Junior Exhibition, address on "Mencius" (Pot-pourri vol. 22, p. 87);

1887: Awarded Larned Scholarship ($300 per year for 3 years) and One-year Honors ("High Orations," equivalent of summa cum laude); oration, "The Other Side of the Chinese Question," delivered at Commencement ceremonies, 29 June 1887.6

Degree/Diploma Obtained, with date B.A. Yale College, 1887.
First Assignment in China Assigned to the navy, but avoided training by taking home leave.

Later Positions Went to Hong Kong where he worked as a clerk for some time.7

1884: Returned to U.S. from Hong Kong on tramp steamer via Suez Canal; worked for Boston publisher, D. Lothrop & Company; re-entered Yale with Class of 1887. 

1887: Published personal memoir, When I Was A Boy In China, cited on this web site as Lee (1887) or Lee (2003).  See below, "Other."

1887 & 1889: Published essays “The Chinese Must Stay” (1887) and “Why I Am Not a Heathen, A Rejoinder to Wong Chin Foo” (1889) in North American Review.  See below, "Other."

1889: In San Francisco, California, employed as clerk at the Anglo Saxon Bank.8

1890: Returned to New York; active among Chinese Christians in NY City8; court interpreter; itinerant lecturer; freelance reporter and writer. Traveled widely: to North Carolina where he was associated with a school for Chinese boys8; Florida; Nashville, Tennessee. 

1893: After medical course at Vanderbilt Medical College, traveled to Chicago for World’s Columbian Exposition; newspaper work in St. Louis. 

1896: August: Special reporter for New York Evening World during visit of Li Hongzhang 李鸿章 to NY City. 

1896: Obtained concession at Tennessee Exposition in Nashville, traveled to China; returned to U.S. in April 1897 with exhibit for Exposition.

1897: In Buffalo, New York, and Minster, Ohio. 

1899: Obtained concession to create “Chinese Village” for National Export Exposition at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but did not travel to China; lived with his family in Philadelphia.  Managed a farm in Delaware for four years. 

1904: Moved to New York City; operated a live poultry market on Chatham Square. 

1917: Returned to journalism, working 100 days for Popular Science Monthly.

1918: Assistant Editor of weekly and daily newspaper, American Banker; later, Managing Editor.

1927: Retired from editorship of American Banker; in July, returned (without family) to Hong Kong and China.

1933: Editor of Canton Gazette.

Employment sector(s) Journalism; writing/editing; miscellaneous business enterprises

Final rank, if in gov't service

Father's name (Adopted by paternal uncle as an infant.)

Mother's name  
Wife/wives (1) 6 July 1887: married in New Haven, CT, Elizabeth Maude Jerome (1864-1939), "daughter of Mrs. E[lizabeth] Gilbert Jerome of this city [New Haven]"9; divorced 21 Nov. 1890.
(2) 1897: Sophie Florence Bowles; divorce finalized Dec. 1933.10
Family relations w/ other CEM students

Children's Names (1) Jennie Jerome (1888-1979); [Amos] Gilbert Nelson Jerome, Yale 1910S (1889-1918).
(2) Clarence Vaille Lee; Louis Emerson Lee (B.S. Yale 1927).

Descendants 3rd gen: Russell Vaille Lee; Richard Vaille Lee, MD (1937-2013); Martha Spencer Winfield;
4th gen: Matthew Vaille Lee; Benjamin Bradley Lee; Carolyn Vaille Winfield; Richard Allen Winfield; Peter Winfield;
5th gen: Aurora Vaille Guilbert, Lillian Elizabeth Lee.


Publications as listed in Vicennial Record of the Class of 1887 in Yale College, George E. Hill, Class Secretary (Bridgeport, Conn.: The Marigold-Foster Printing Co., 1889), p. 68:

When I was a boy in China. 111 p. il. Boston [Lothrop] 1887.

Same, in German. Aus meinen knabenjahren in China; uebersetzt von Albert Petri. 80 p. il. Allentown, Pa., Trexler & Hartzell, 1889.

Why I am not a Heathen. (In North American review, Sept., 1887. v. 145, p. 306-312.)

The Chinese must stay. (In North American review, April, 1889. v. 148, p. 476-483.)

(Lee has also written many articles for newspapers in New York, San Francisco, St. Louis, Nashville, and the State of Delaware.  About 1889 he edited and published a small periodical called the Chinese evangelist, and is now editor of a local paper at Wood Ridge, N.J.

Notes and Sources

1. Springfield Daily Republican, 26 July 1873, 3.

2. Signature: "Le Yun Foo / Springfield / Mass." in autograph book of Yung Kwai (Rong Kui 容揆 II, 34), Yung Kwai Papers, Archives and Manuscripts, Yale University Library, New Haven, CT.

3. U.S. Census, 1880, as noted in Robyn (1996), 186.  Clarence Franklin Carroll was a student at Yale (B.A. 1881) when Lee resided with him, his wife, and their daughter.

4. U.S. Immigration Service, Interview, 6 July 1927. (Photocopy courtesy Richard V. Lee, MD.)

5. Holmes (1884), 44.

6. “The oration which attracted the greatest attention was that of Yen Phou Lee….Lee, who is 26 years old and a bright student, captured the Larned scholarship this year.” (New York Times, 30 June 1887, 4.)  The text of Lee’s oration, “The Other Side of the Chinese Question,” was published in The American Missionary, 41.9 (Sept. 1887), 269-273.  "High Orations": New York Times,  26 June, 1887.  One-year Honors at Yale: Pierson (1952), 728-29.

7. “A Young Chinaman’s Career”, New York Evening Post (date & pagination not recorded), in Connecticut Historical Society: Social Scrapbooks, Vol. 6, pp. 14-15.  Reprinted in Lee (2003), 12-15.

8. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 21 September, 1890, 16. (Photocopy courtesy F. K. Young.)

9. New York Times, 7 July, 1887, 1

10. Oakland Tribune, 3 Dec 1933, 4.