Q.S. Wong, Chinese Herb Specialist

West Street Market

Chinese herbalist and chiropractor Q.S. Wong opened his practice at 138 West Street, a building whose construction he likely financed himself, in 1924. A Reno resident since at least 1913, Wong was a well-respected local businessman who occasionally found himself in the crosshairs of a community not entirely free of prejudice toward his ethnicity and traditional approach to medicine. At least twice, charges were levied against him: first in 1917 for cohabitating with a white woman, and again in 1941 for involuntary manslaughter after one of his patients died of epilepsy.

The manslaughter charge came from Myron R. Adams, Washoe County assistant district attorney, who claimed that Wong had been practicing medicine without a license, leading to the death of patient Velma Valentine Webb. A search of Wong’s offices had revealed surgical instruments which Adams claimed Wong was not licensed to use. Just one week later, notices were served to five Chinese herbalists to close their businesses immediately. The herbalists refused, arguing that the abatement notices were illegal and that they were not public nuisances but respectable service providers.

In court, Wong successfully argued that the instruments in his office were gifts and had never been used, and that his treatment of Webb had consisted solely of a standard regimen of Chinese herbs. Charges were dropped, and he went on to practice until just a few weeks before his death in August of 1945.

In addition to his private practice, Wong also served as the longtime Nevada head of the Chinese Nationalist Party, which used his building as their headquarters. The Nationalist Party was connected to the Republican government in China and was its spokesperson in the United States.

In the 1950s, 138 West Street became the home of the Reno Cancer Center, an affiliate of the American Cancer Society which offered medical examinations and information about symptoms and treatment. An insurance company and realtor also occupied offices there through the 1960s and beyond. The property was folded into the new West Street Market in 2008.

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138 West Street, Reno, NV