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Life in America Continued


[See also Coal Mining; Immigrant Benevolent Societies & Fraternal Orders]
The deposit of 18th cent. Catholic Irish had been in Pennsylvania, where Penn's charter permitted exercise of their religion. But N.Y. superseded Philadelphia as transatlantic port of Irish emigration, and in 1815 placed 2/3 of all Irish born in the U.S. in Penn. & N.Y..
- G. Patton, To the Golden Door, p. 175
Penn. in 1826 authorized a sizable program of internal improvements to establish communications with the lakes & the then western country & conquer the barrier of the Alleghenies. The Penn. anthracite industry, which dated from 1820, needed to find outlets at the Hudson & Philadelphia.
Irishmen came as diggers of canals & remained as diggers of coal, attracting fellow countrymen to the great tier of eastern Penn. anthracite counties. They worked the Delaware & Hudson Canal, the coal waterway to the Hudson, & dug the Lehigh Canal from Mauch Chunk to Easton 42 mi. south. They labored on the famous gravity RR that carried coal from Summit Hill to Mauch Chunk, and, as miners, were to make Summit Hill an Irish principality. This mining area later earned notoriety after the Civil War from the secret society of the Molly Maguires, which started to send threatening notes to coal operators as early as 1848.
- Ibid., p. 193

Population & Geography

The census of 1860 revealed that out of a total population of almost 31.5 million, the U.S. had 4,136,000 foreign-born inhabitants. The great bulk lived north of the Mason-Dixon Line & east of the Mississippi. The largest numbers, in order, were to be found in N.Y., Penn., Ohio, Ill., Wisc., & Mass.. The 15 slave states had only about 1/2 million foreign-born residents, or 13.4% of the total... In North & South alike the heaviest concentration of immigrants was to be found in the cities. N.Y., Chicago, Cinn., Milwa., Detroit, & San Fran. each had a population of which almost 1/2 was foreign-born; in N. Orleans, Baltimore, & Boston the proportion was well over a third; and in St. Louis it was more than 3/5.
- Maldwyn A. Jones, Am. Imm., p. 117-18
By 1850 26% of the population of N.Y. City (133,000 out of 513,000) were persons born in Ireland. If their children & other 2nd- & 3rd-generation Irish are included, N.Y. was already more than ⅓ Irish.
In 1845 Boston had an Irish-born population of only 1 in 50. Ten years later, in 1855, it was 1 in 5.
Wm. V. Shannon, The Am. Irish, p. 28
The 3,000,000 who arrived in the single decade, 1845-1855, represented, in proportion to the total population of 20,000,000, the largest influx the U.S. has ever known. (15% [- HC])
- Maldwyn A. Jones, Am. Imm., p. 94

Michigan population -
It was admitted to the Union in 1837, the population being about 100,000. In 1850 it was 387,654; in 1860, 751,960; & in 1865 it was estimated at 1,000,000.
- John Louis Peyton, Over the Alleghenies & Across the Prairies, note, p. 1681
[note from HC: "not use - too inaccurate"]

Roughness of Society (19th C.)

William Dean Howells, in writing of his boyhood home in Hamilton, Ohio in the 1840s & early '50s:
"There were always fights on election day between well-known Whig & Democratic champions... The fighting must have come from the drinking, which began as soon as the polls opened, & went on all day & night with a devotion to principle which is rarely seen now...
The traditions of a rude hospitality in pioneer times still lingered, and once there was a Whig barbecue, which had all the profusion of a civic feast in medieval Italy. Every Whig family contributed loaves of bread & boiled hams; the Whig farmers brought in barrels of cider & wagon-loads of apples; there were heaps of pies & cakes; sheep were roasted whole, & young roast pigs, with oranges in their mouths, stood in the act of chasing one another over the long tables which were spread in one of the largest pork-houses, where every comer was freely welcomed."
- W. D. Howells in A Boy's Town, quoted in Walter Havighurst,
Wilderness for Sale, p. 343-44


The Irish on the eve of emigration lived in an atmosphere of violence. The rural society, long drained by exploitation at the top, was shattering under the pounding blows of new economic demands... Men got used to lawless ways & rough, direct methods... Here in the endemic violence of rural Ireland was the breeding-ground of the tough "b'hoys" who in another decade would tear up paving stones or brandish sticks in election-day riots in N.Y. & Philadelphia. Here also was born another Irish type: the fanatic. Men grown used to violence would become the nationalist zealot & the political gunman. In their most familiar American guise they became the rebel union leaders in the coalfields of Pennsylvania.
- Wm. V. Shannon, The American Irish, p. 18
"More potent than individual crimes in demonstrating the general lawlessness were the cases of mob violence. In the north action in the thirties & forties was directed chiefly against abolitionists. Harriet Martineau2 saw a mob stone [abolitionist William Lloyd] Garrison. Next day an eminent lawyer told her "There was no mob, I was there myself & saw they were all gentlemen." (Vol. I, p. 129) Such incidents convinced her and other English abolitionists that in America mobocracy was a weapon of the upper class against the lower - the reverse of the European situation. A quarter of a century later another British traveler, Reid, denounce the abolitionist mob that freed a Mr. Sanborn who had been arrested for refusing to testify against John Brown. The tables had turned, but mob rule seemed still triumphant.
"Nowhere was it stronger than in the frontier areas. In these regions, however, Englishmen were prone to regard it as justifiable on the grounds that it was the only means available for suppressing lawless elements. They pointed to the case of Vicksburg, infamous as a den of gamblers & desperados until the citizenry hanged the leaders & drove out the small fry. Other examples were also cited of justice enforced by the mob... Mob rule was not restricted to individuals or movements. Thomson (Wm., 1842) watched a Cincinnati mob level a number of banks that could not meet the payment on their notes. The first bank was protected by a squad of soldiers who fired on the mob. This only infuriated the mob more. The troops were swept aside & the bank torn to the ground. Four other institutions of the same type were razed in rapid succession, but the sound banks were left unmolested. Once opposition was overcome, the mob worked efficiently & with good humor. In the evening everyone, even children, ran through the streets scattering bundles of paper money. Like other Britons, Thomson had had sad experiences with American paper money. As a result he enjoyed the spectacle immensely. Evidently mob violence estranged visitors only when its object displeased them."
- Max Berger, The British Traveler in Am., p. 71-72.
1 John Louis Peyton, Over the Alleghanies and Across the Prairies; Personal Recollections of the Far West One and Twenty Years Ago. New York: AMS Press, 1971 (originally published in 1869).
2 Harriety Martineau, English writer and cultural observer, who traveled extensively in the United States in the 1830s.