Sri Mariamman Temple and Masjid Jamae at South Bridge Road

This photograph—with an incorrect imprint that reads North Bridge Road—shows the main thoroughfare of Chinatown crowded with rickshaws in the late 19th century. The rickshaw was a mode of public transport in Singapore in 1880, not only providing a new form of mass transport but also giving rise to a new form of employment for the illiterate class. The Hokkien and Cantonese communities dominated the rickshaw trade at first but were gradually overtaken by the Hockchew and Henghua. By 1888, it was estimated that there were more than 5,000 rickshaw coolies in Singapore, a number which quadrupled by the turn of the 20th century. The age of a coolie ranged between 21 and 50, and most rickshaw coolies were single and lived in crowded tenement housing in Chinatown.