By Richard I. Gibson
Dr. Lamb was a prominent Chinese physician in Butte from about 1902-1929, probably second only to Huie Pock in the Chinese medical community here. Advertisements like the one above appeared almost daily in the Butte Miner and the Anaconda Standard in the 1910s.
Dr. Lamb was the first Chinese to receive a medical degree from the University of Southern California, one of ten graduates awarded degrees in June 1896. He had been selected by missionaries in China to come to the U.S. for his education. This began a five-generation connection to USC, as several of Dr. Lamb’s children, including Paul, Faith, and John, attended the school as pre-med students, as did later generations.
Wah Jean Lamb was born about 1870, and immigrated to the U.S. in 1885. Following his graduation from USC, he came to Butte about 1902. He left Butte with his family about 1929, and lived in San Diego at the time of the 1930 census; in 1940 he was living in Los Angeles, where he died in 1942.
Dr. Lamb’s first office was at 9 West Galena Street beginning in 1902-03; he also lived there. By the late 1910s, around 1917, much of this part of Chinatown had been demolished and he moved his office for a few years (1917-18 and perhaps later) to 116 East Mercury, near the corner with Arizona Street. Also beginning in 1917, he and his family lived in a nice home outside of Chinatown, at 1107 South Wyoming, which still stands in 2013.
By 1923, Dr. Lamb’s office was located at 46 East Galena Street, where he continued until he left Butte in 1929. This location was probably within the Copper Block (also known as the Empire Hotel), west of the intersection of Galena and Wyoming. The Copper Block hotel was known as a brothel and residence for ladies of the evening, but the ground floor held a restaurant, saloon, and at least seven storefronts, one of which was Dr. Lamb’s office in the 1920s. The Copper Block was demolished in 1990-91.
The Mai Wah has a new display of photos of Dr. Lamb’s family in Butte, donated by his grandson James Chung. (See also page 67-69 of Lost Butte, Montana)
Resources: City Directories; Sanborn Maps; USC Trojan Family Magazine Winter 1998.