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Albert Nakaji Torii family collection

Identifier: 2016.003

Scope and Contents

Collection consists of photographs and albums that document both personal and professional life; 78 and 45 records (pre war WWII) commercial labels with some recordings that were made by Torii himself; 16 mm family movies, DVDs of movies and still images, personal papers and some reproductions of photographs of special dinners held in honor of Japan’s Envoys of Gratitude [group] (1930), the Imperial Highness Prince and Princess Takamatsu (1931) and his Excellency Yosuke Matsuoka (1933). A photograph of an unidentified community gathering (ca. 1930) in an outdoor setting is present as well.


  • 1918-2003

Biographical / Historical

Albert Nakaji Torii was born on September 12, 1899 in Kozakai, Japan. Albert aspired to join the Japanese Navy, but he was not eligible to do so after he lost part of his vision in a fireworks accident. Instead he joined the British Merchant Marines during World War I. He served on the ship War Wolf for about a year before the war ended in 1918. After residing in England for a spell, Albert became a merchant seaman and he was fond of saying that he had “traveled around the world twice in a sailing ship.”

In the 1920s, Albert befriended a fellow Japanese sailor and accompanied him on a trip to Chicago. Here he met several men that he decided to partner with in launching a restaurant business. Together they opened a chain of restaurants, all of which were named the Sunrise. Eventually, Albert and his friend, Henry, broke away from the larger group of partners and opened a new restaurant and also started a tea importing business. After several years they dissolved their partnership and Albert took over the restaurant while Henry assumed ownership of the tea company. Albert named his restaurant Mid City and operated it for over 30 years. The restaurant was ideally situated by a train station that received over 200 trains a day. Consequently, his restaurant was always busy with travelers and operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

After he opened Mid City, Albert met Elenore Elsie Williams (September 25, 1912-1955) whom he married on June 29, 1930. He and his wife had four children – Ron (Korean War veteran and computer programmer), Joyce (of Ohio), Dale (Union Steward for Teamsters Local 714) and Dennis (attorney and adjunct professor at College of DuPage).

During World War II, the Torii family was harassed by the FBI. They would often search the Torii house, threaten Elenore (a third generation American) and confiscated their bank account assets. Fortunately, the family house was in Elenore’s name so it was protected from government seizure. Eventually, Elenore lost her American citizenship because she was married to a foreign national and had to undergo the naturalization process after the conclusion of WWII.

In 1955, Elenore passed away and Albert retired from the restaurant business. He eventually remarried a Japanese national and then he passed away in 1960. Dennis, the youngest child, was only fifteen when his father passed and his elder sister, Joyce, quit college one semester shy of graduating to raise him in the family homestead. Throughout his life, Albert was an avid photographer and enjoyed making movies as well. In his albums and films, he documented the A Century of Progress World’s Fair (1933–34), life in Chicago pre-WWII, Japanese American Service Committee (JASC) picnics and Japanese-related events.

Source: Torii, Albert Nakaji


12 boxes

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Custodial History

Received from Dennis Torii and Michael Tanimura.


Stack 03 Cabinet 02 Shelf 04;Stack 03 Cabinet 02 Shelf 05;Stack 03 Cabinet 02 Shelf 06

Albert Nakaji Torii family collection
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Repository Details

Part of the JASC Legacy Center Repository

4427 N Clark St.
Chicago IL 60640 United States
1 (773) 275-0097