Emigration and Immigrant Life - Subject Cards D-M

Departure from Ireland

Departure - During Famine

Oral tradition has much to say about emigration during the famine. Preparations would often occupy whole communities for a considerable period. Where it could be managed, supplies of potato or of meal would be accumulated. Oatcake was the usual food taken; a week would be spent by neighbors & friends in making it; it would be baked three times until it was of a slate-like hardness. Emigrants would also take bedding where possible, & many would carry a sod of turf. The scenes at their departure would be heartrending. One old man in the district of the Rosses, Co. Donegal, gave a typical account which he heard in his youth. He told how before the famine people of this district were able to make a living on their poor holdings, but how the famine first uprooted them. Emigration being a new experience, people felt it more keenly. On the night before the departure, people would crowd into the house of the emigrating family, & would try to cheer them by making forced merriment until morning; but for all that the house would be "as sad as a wake-house." When the time for departure came, the emigrants would make ready and would bid farewell to the company, which would accompany them to where the car for Derry was waiting - "Some of the women would fall feinting when they saw any person going; others would hang onto the car to keep out the departing ones; but when it would go, the whole lot, men & women, would raise a cry of grief that would wrest an echo from the peaks."
[- no citation given for this entry]

After the 1845 failure & a hard winter, emigration started in the spring of
1846 - the volume was not large, [although] observers agreed had the means been
available more would have gone. These were mainly small farmers whose
resources had not been entirely exhausted &, fearing the future, decided to
leave before poverty engulfed them.

1846 - (fall) "If the next crop fails us," declared a peasant, "it is the end of the world."
It failed. A letter of Father Matthew records the suddenness of the disaster.
Traveling one day from Cork to Dublin, he saw potato patches in bloom.
Returning one week later he saw the same fields "one wide waste of putrifying
vegetation. In many places the wretched people were seated on the fences of
their decaying gardens, wringing their hands & wailing bitterly the destruction
that had left them foodless."

1847 - Probably few of those who decided on emigration in 1847 reasoned consciously
regarding their state. Their impulse was merely to get away - a curse rested on
the land. Anticipating heavy traffic, the ship companies raised the rates from 3
to 5 pounds. Only the well-off could afford this. For the poorer sort
opportunities abounded in every Irish harbor. Wherever an American or
Canadian schooner landed its cargo a bargain might be made, & on such vessels
they set out from home.

- Marcus Hansen, The Atlantic Mig., p. 244-51

Throughout the spring & early summer the village streets & country roads bustled with activity. A few carts, probably lent by philanthropic neighbors, helped transport the baggage from home to the sea. Most of the wayfarers found no difficulty in carrying their meager belongings on their shoulders. On every hand crowds of neighbors, often totaling hundreds, streamed toward the ports, where they camped in confusion upon the quays, contested for passage, & finally embarked upon the great adventure.

- Ibid., p. 250

"The critical years were 1846 & 1848. In both the potato failed completely. These hammer-blows struck home so surely because they were accompanied by disheartening forces of every kind: death by starvation & great physical suffering close at hand; the protracted, seemingly endless struggle against the wretched harvests; rising taxes & fixed rents; the partial collapse of ordinary commerce, especially in the cities depending on the provision trades... The failure was not merely economic, not merely the long-prophesied disintegration of an iniquitous, top-heavy system of land tenure, which denied anything like a tolerable standard of living to more than half the entire population. It was the failure of morale as well. The mood prevailing from 1848 onwards seems to differ from the earlier terror. It is marked by a note of doom, an air of finality, a sense that a chapter in history has come to a close. This mood explains many of the peculiarities of the famine movement, not least the bitterness & sense of wrong which so many emigrants carried with them to the New World.

The Great Famine, p. 329

One might almost say that the potato blights of 1845-49 caused a volte face in the general attitude to emigration. By relaxing the peasant's desperate hold upon his land and home, they destroyed the psychological barrier which had forbidden his going for so long... He now looked upon emigration as a possibility, as a genuine alternation to maintaining the struggle against such fearful odds.

- Ibid., p. 331

The potato blights of 1845-49 were a catastrophe which broke the Irish peasant's tenacious attachment to the soil & convinced many of the futility of further struggle against hopeless odds. As an Irish peer remarked at the time, the famine reversed the peasant's former attitude toward emigration, hitherto considered a banishment, it was now regarded as a happy release. The prevailing mood of despair gripped not only the laborer & cotter, but even those who in famine Ireland passed for substantial farmers. Thus all classes were represented in the million and a half people who left Ireland in the decade that followed. The panic-stricken flight from hunger in 1847 was followed by a more deliberate & sustained movement that continued even after the return of relative prosperity in the early 1850s.

- Maldwyn A. Jones, Am. Imm., p. 109

So it was in their various ways they decided to leave. Their deep feelings about the familiar village & the gently sloping fields were overborne by the fact of failure & the fear of further defeat. Ireland was beautiful & damned. There was no life for them there. They had to go.

- Wm. V. Shannon, The Am. Irish, p. 26
Did the fact that they were coming to another island help? [- HC]

The famine was the prime mover of the period, & many of the laborers & cotters who left did so because hunger or the workhouse ____ them at home. Their departure meant the abandonment of numerous patches of ground upon which they had barely managed to eke out their subsistence.
This was also a period of widespread forced clearance. Irish landlords, long distressed by the uneconomic practice of excessive subdivision indulged in by their tenants, & anxious also under the impact of the repeal of the corn laws to convert their lands into pasture as rapidly as possible, saw in the calamity of the famine an opportunity to consolidate their holdings. The large-scale clearances which they carried out swelled the emigrant flood.

- Franklin D. Scott, ed., World Migration in Modern Times, p. 27-28 (Wab.)

Early in 1847 the roads to Irish ports were literally thronged with immigrant families. Sometimes strong men actually battled with each other at the ports of embarkation to secure passage on ships entirely inadequate to provide transportation to all who wished to go to Am..

- Carle Wittke, We Who Built Am., p. 132[1]

Departure - Embarkation

Because of the difficulties & expense of overland travel in the early 19th cent., emigrants generally preferred to embark at the ports nearest their homes. This accounts for the popularity with immigrants of the timber ships which offered passage from a score of Irish ports. It explains, too, why emigrants were regularly to be found traveling on tiny brigs. With the improvement of internal communications the trade gradually concentrated in larger ports... Liverpool became the main port of departure for the Irish. [Did this apply to Aranmore? Roads were still primitive in middle of century.][2]
- Maldwyn A. Jones, Am. Immigration, p. 105

Departure - General Preparations

For carrying supplies, A. C. Buchanan (1828) advised "a strong deal chest in the shape of a sailor's box," broader at the bottom than the top, in order to increase its steadiness on board ship...Strong linen or sacking bags or baskets were useful for potatoes, but oatmeal & flour should be packed in a strong barrel or flax-seed cask, &, in addition to the usual hoops, "two of iron," as well as "a strong lid & a padlock," should be used.
Another writer emphasizes the care needed to prevent loss: "All packages should not only have locks but should be kept locked, & the keys taken out. This cannot be too carefully attended to, as loss of articles on shipboard are not infrequent, & such losses unfortunately cannot be supplied."

- Edwin C. Guillet, The Great Mig., p. 50

His friends rallied round to bid him Godspeed. It may be that the women of the village had brought as contributions a supply of hard oaten cakes - the journey-cakes of the Irish emigrant - baked & baked until each one "was like a slate there, and it was as good when they got there as when they left." Or a collection of potatoes had been made for him in the townland.

- Patton, To the Golden Door, p. 142

1 Carl Wittke, We Who Built America: The Saga of the Immigrant. Cleveland, OH: Press of Western Reserve University, 1964.

2 Brackets in original.


The emigrants of 1848 were farmers of a good class. "A new emigration is developing of the most fatal kind," wrote Lord Monteagle on Oct. 30, and he gave an example of a man who had just announced his intention of leaving, an excellent tenant of 30A[cres] on his estate who paid his rent regularly & put up good buildings on his farm. In Sligo & Donegal a Poor Law inspector reported that "the better & more energetic farmers are selling up & going."

- C. Woodham Smith, Hunger, p. 371

Between 1848 & 1864 13,000,000 pounds was sent home by emigrants to America to bring relatives out, and it is part of the famine tragedy that a steady drain of the best & most enterprising left Ireland, to enrich other countries.
- Ibid., p. 412

Information derived from "official statements of emigration & customs officers at the ports" (these are obviously incomplete):

Port 1846 1847 1848
U.S. Canada U.S. Canada U.S. Canada
Donegal 177 804
Killeybegs 81
Westport 371 385 447 817 376

- Halls, Vol. III, p. 447

1845 - [population] not affected
1846 - 1st time in Irish history a heavy autumn exodus - winter passage. Canadian officials
astonished at the numbers. 1st to flood Liverpool - the cotters who had nothing
to lose, followed by small landholders.
1847 - By spring it had assumed the aspects of hysteria, & certain communities lost as much
as 1/3 [of their] population in Mar. & Apr.. Probably 25% were of the relatively
better-off. "Grave disasters" were reported - 40,000, or 20%, died at sea or upon
1848 - Autumn & winter showed a wave of renewed activity, & there was social
disorganization in the country; even those who could did not prepare land for
1849-52 - 200,000 persons annually migrated; peak year 1851, when a quarter-million left for
N. America alone. In 1849 the last restraining force snapped; a mood of reckless
desperation in those who left, a feeling "they could not be worse off in America;"
gone was the fear of a winter crossing. By 1849 a rapid growth in remittance
migration - many from the workhouses.
1852-1855 - migration still the result of the cataclysm of 1845-49.

The famine movement swept away a whole segment of society, rather than an aggregate of individuals: its basic unit was the family. It was the whole family that went, not the surplus individuals. According to the figures, 42% of the emigrants were either under 20 or over 50, a proportion extraordinarily high by the common standard of migration.

The Great Famine, p. 328-29

The sudden effect of this fearful trial [the famine and insufficient relief efforts] was to increase the total emigration from the British Isles from 93,000 in 1845 to 130,000 in 1849, to nearly 400,000 in 1852. In ten years from 1846 2,800,000 had fled in horror from the country once so dear to them. From May 1847 to the close of 1866, the number of passengers discharged in New York alone amounted to 3,659,000.

- Thebaud, The Irish Race, p. 426-27

1851-1861: 1,227,710 emigrated from Ireland
1861-1871: 819,903 emigrated from Ireland
- Sherlock, Case of Ireland, p. 24

Emigration to U.S. & Canada (Scotland & England not included):
1841 - 71,392
1842 - 89,686
1843 - 37,509
1844 - 54,289
1845 - 74,969
1846 - 105,955
1847 - 215,444
1848 - 178,159
1849 - 214,425
1850 - 209,054
1851 - 257,572
1851-1871 - 2,604,292 (av. 130,215)
- Ibid., p. 194

Statistics on Irish wages are very deficient, so that a correlation with emigration over a long period of years is not possible. However there is evidence that between 1843-44 & 1860 the wages of agricultural laborers rose by more than 57%, and this, it has been maintained, was mainly attributable to emigration... As early as 1851 there were reports of the difficulty of obtaining agricultural workers.

Emigration also led to a depletion in the ranks of domestic servants. This fact was noted by the Poor Law Commissioners in 1854. About 30 years later the London Times correspondent reported from Donegal that female domestic servants were becoming scarcer everyday, because as soon as they saved up enough money for their passage they went out to America "in search of service & husbands." Less generous was the Tuam Herald, which wrote that no sooner did young girls attain working age than "away they head to slave & scrub & stifle in American cities."

- Franklin D. Scott, ed., World Migration in Modern Times, p. 29-30

Granted the existing agrarian framework, the Ireland of the early 1840s was grossly overpopulated, & now at last the overpopulation was reduced. A comparison of the censuses of 1841 & 1851 bears this out spectacularly. By 1851, the total population of Ireland had declined by 20%, & the rural population by almost 25%. The cotter class had virtually disappeared. The number of holdings under 1A[cre] had dropped from 134,000 to 36,000.

The Great Famine, p. 328

1851 - more emigrants than [in] '50.
1852 - established a record that stood for all time.
The original causes had spent their force. The tenant known as the "small holder" had disappeared - the landlord leases farms of 20-50A[cres] instead of 4-10A. The cotter who now had no land & was a farm laborer had no trouble getting work, & in 1850 a wage was paid which had never been equaled. The potato regained its position as a dependable crop.
In spite of this steady improvement, emigration continued & the higher wages only made it easier to get the passage money. If conditions at home were good, elsewhere they were better. The emigrants merely did what seemed rational, what many had done so successfully before them.
- Marcus Hansen, The Atlantic Mig., p. 282-83

The emigrants headed for America numbered about 10,000 a year up to 1825, said Alexander Buchanan; but Redmond O'Driscol told of the "incredible extent" of emigration in the spring of 1826; on one day he had seen 3 vessels sailing out of Cork for British N. Am. & 3 ready to go with passages paid. This Cork emigration was the product of the gov.- assisted emigration to Canada in 1823 & 1825; it had the effect, said Alexander Buchanan in 1828, "of opening the eyes of the peasantry of the south of Ireland" to the advantage of emigration, & he estimated for every 1,000 assisted by the government, 2,000 would follow voluntarily.

From 1825 through 1830 upwards of 125,000 migrated from Ireland to Am.:
1830-1832 - 130,000 left (a famine & epidemic in 1830-31)
1830-1839 - 341,000 left (average 38,000 a year)
(the numbers in 1833 & 1835 reduced by 1/2 each from preceding year by cholera
1838 - only 11,000 went because of political disturbances in Canada & 1837 [economic]
panic in U.S.
1842 - 92,000
1843 - 38,000 (Repeal year of political hope)
1845 - 77,000
1846 - 106,000
1847-1854 - 1,656,000 (of whom 1,321,725 entered U.S.); 1851 was peak year:
254,500 - never since topped.
1855 - 78,000; exodus exhausted
- Patton, To the Golden Door, p. 133-34

From May 1847 when the N.Y. Commissioners of Immigration first met & started to keep accurate records to the end of 1860, Europeans to the number of:
1847-1860 - 2,671,891 Europeans entered by Port of N.Y.
1,107,034 Irish (45%)
1848-1853 - 715,291 Irish (75% of Irish above)
1851 - 163,256 Irish (peak year, exceeding by 36,911 the whole number from other
- Ibid., p. 463

Immigration to U.S. (statistics):
1846 - 92,484
1847 - 196,224
1848 - 173,744
1849 - 204,771
1850 - 206,041

1860 - 1,611,304

- Carl Wittke, We Who Built Am., p. 131

Disease, Quarantine, and Mortality

Before 1831 vessels went directly to Quebec, where they were visited by a doctor to see that there was no fever aboard. Inspection was cursory, passengers allowed to land, fever patients kept on board or taken to a hospital.
Before 1823 Roman Catholic organizations took care of those arriving in distress, but in that year the great increase in numbers necessitated government provision.

In 1830 a fever hospital was opened at Point Levé.

In 1831 (when there was an outbreak of cholera in N. Europe) a quarantine hospital was opened at Grosse Point. It was an unoccupied island 33 mi. below Quebec, and the first buildings were temporary structures, called "sheds." In the plague years the congestion at Grosse Isle made the quarantine procedures an ordeal. One example (1834), the Mary, from Cork, with 300 emigrants, Capt. Henry Deaves. The vessel arrived May 18th with 40 cases of measles & typhus. One man & 6 children had died during the voyage, the capt. stating that the children had died because from lack of proper care because their parents were seasick. The passengers were landed & the capt. had to throw the bedding of straw overboard, but no fresh was sent out so when, after inspection, the people returned, some convalescent, there were 11 beds for 250 passengers. The vessel had been cleaned & fumigated & the passengers washed their clothes & themselves on the Isle with most inadequate facilities.

In the early plague years, 1832 & '34, all steerage passengers, well or sick, were forced to land at Grosse Isle & the sick frequently infected the well. By 1847 it was usual to send ashore only those suffering from disease; the others being transported to steamships or proceeding in their own vessel to Quebec or Montreal.

Example: Hugh Johnson experienced quarantine on Grosse Isle in 1847 after a voyage from Glasgow in the Euclid, which was infested with smallpox. "Bad as it was on board, it became infinitely worse when we reached quarantine. On our arrival at the dock, ropes were stretched across the dock so as to leave a passage in the middle. A doctor was stationed on each side of this passage, & only one person was allowed to go through at a time. All those who showed any symptoms of disease were forced to go into quarantine, while others were sent ashore... I am an old man now, but not for one moment have I forgotten the scene as parents left children, brothers were parted from sisters, or wives & husbands were separated, not knowing whether they should ever meet again." This is typical of many advertisements of the day: "Information wanted of Abraham Taylor, 10 years, & George Taylor, 8 years old, from Co. Leitrim, Ireland, who landed in Quebec about five weeks ago - their mother having been detained at Grosse Isle. Any information respecting them will be thankfully received by their brother, William Taylor, at this office." Montreal Transcript, Sept. 11, 1847.
- Guillet, The Great Migration, p. 145-49

The crowds of Irishmen, sailing hopefully from their stricken land, believed they were leaving misery behind, but in the 6 or 8 weeks of their voyage the pestilence they were fleeing broke out again with lethal fury that shocked even those who had witnessed the scenes of the preceding winter ('46-'47). Physicians called it "ship's fever," though it was probably a modified form of the "famine fever," or hunger typhus, a fact indicated by its absence from ships coming from the Continent. The disease in some cases originated among passengers already suffering a mild form when they embarked; often the germs were carried by lice in clothing salvaged from those who had died.

The worst scenes occurred on boats bound for Canada. In 1847 the mortality at sea was 6%, but the disease had not run its course when the ship reached port. The sick & dying were brought on shore at quarantine. The 1st lot were admitted to the hospital on Grosse Isle, 30 mi. below Quebec, on May 14 (1847). By the end of the month 12,000 were in beds & tents & 35 ships were waiting to discharge their sick. 10,037 died on the ships or on the Isle. The total mortality of those who embarked for Canada was thus 16%. Even this figure is conservative, for many families, detained in Quebec because one of their number was held at Grosse Isle, readily fell prey, if not to ship's fever, to other illnesses induced by undernourishment & temporary housing.

- Marcus Hansen, The Atlantic Mig., p. 255-56

The worst plague years were in the '40s. Crop failure, disease, & famine in Ireland in 1846-47 led to mass migration of the destitute in such numbers that almost al restrictions on ships bound for Canadian ports were withdrawn. An observer wrote, "It would, in my opinion, have been more humane to have deprived them at once of life." A particularly virulent form of dysentery, together with smallpox, measles, and "ship's fever" broke out in most of the vessels, bringing death to some 30,000 people and the most intense suffering to the survivors. Of the slightly more than 100,000 persons who left the British Isles for Am. in 1847, a total of 17,445, or 16.33%, died during the passage, in quarantine, or in hospital.

A notable result of the plague of 1847 was that the Irish immigration was largely diverted to the U.S. in subsequent years.

- Edwin Guillet, The Great Mig., p. 91

The first effect of the great calamity which occurred along the St. Lawrence in 1847 was to reduce the immigration to Canada in significant numbers, & increase that to the U.S. in quadruple ratio. Massachusetts & Connecticut in New England and the great states of New York and Pennsylvania were now the chief places of resort for the newcomers; and from New York, principally, they began to pour in a long, steady stream away by the Erie Canal westward to the Great Lakes.

- Thebaud, The Irish Race, p. 434

"The frightful fever epidemic of 1847 which caused thousands of deaths among Irish immigrants & the equally severe but smaller-scale outbreaks of cholera in 1832 & 1853-54 were altogether exceptional; in every other year most ships arrived with a clean bill of health, & the mortality rate during passage only rarely rose above 1/2 of 1 percent. Moreover, the great epidemic outbreaks originated not in bad conditions on the ships but in the fact that emigrants were infected before they embarked. Overcrowding & lack of sanitation, not to speak of the reluctance of immigrants themselves to cooperate in establishing minimum standards of hygiene, undoubtedly added to the virulence of an epidemic once it had started, but the real cause of the trouble lay in contemporary ignorance. As long as medicine did not know the causes of typhus & cholera these diseases would continue to appear on sea & land alike."

Maldwyn A. Jones, Am. Imm., p.107[1]


In the late '40s when half a million people died in Ireland of famine or pestilence, the death rate on the crowded ships bound for America was nearly 17 out of 100, including those who died almost immediately on arrival. Conditions gradually improved & a less destitute type of immigrant entered upon the great adventure; while with the easing up in numbers a more thorough inspection was enforced, & the death rate fell still lower as the traffic passed to the steamship. By 1863, when over half the trade was in steam vessels, it was only .19% - no higher than if the passengers had remained on land.
- Guillet, The Great Mig., p. 124

The deaths on board the British ships enormously exceeded the mortality on the ships of any other country. According to the records of the Commissioners of Immigration for the State of N. York, the quota of sick (deaths?) per thousand stood thus in 1848: British vessels, 30; American, 9 3/5; German, 8 3/5.
According to the "Twenty-fourth General Report" the mortality was, in 1854, 0.74%, already a remarkable diminuation on previous average; in 1860, 0.15%. This was the percentage for vessels going to N. America alone.
- Thebaud, The Irish Race, p. 431-32[2]

The startling figure of 17 1/2% is given as the death rate on the vessels carrying the famine sufferers. 89,738 emigrants embarked for Canada in 1847. One in 3 of those who arrived were received into hospitals. The deaths on the passage or soon after arrival were 15,330, over 17%.
The English ships' [mortality rates] enormously exceeded those of other countries:
The Erin Queen sailed with 493 passengers - 136 died on the voyage
The Avon sailed with 552 passengers - 246 died on the voyage
The Virgin__s sailed with 476 passengers - 267 died on the voyage
- Sherlock, The Case for Ireland, p. 195

Trip over - the normal mortality was 10%, but in 1847 it was 20%.
[- no citation is given for this entry]

In one group of immigrants about whom records were kept when they sailed for America in 1854, 20,000 of the 98,000 making the journey died before reaching the U.S..
- Kapp, "Immigration & Commissioners of Immigration," p. 23 (I [HC]
saw in note, Prot. Crusade, p. 339)

The brig Larch from Sligo, with 440 passengers, buried 108 at sea & there were 150 sick when she reached the quarantine station.

- Guillet, The Great Mig., p. 95

1 Maldwyn Allen Jones, American Immigration. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960.

2 Augustus J. Thébaud, The Irish Race in the Past and the Present. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1873. (Multiple editions extant.)

Immigrant Benevolent Societies and Fraternal Orders


The resources of these groups were inadequate for the support of thousands of immigrants who applied to them for relief. Funds were quickly exhausted even in prosperous years, while during depressions they had no hope of coping with demands for charity.

Shamrock Society - active during & after the War of 1812
Irish Emigrant Society - organized in 1817 by the exiles of 1798 - when their plan for
having 10 twps. set aside in Ill. for Irish immigrants [failed?], they died.

Emigrant Assistance Society - 1826 - 1st one formed without social functions - had a well-
rounded program of immigrant aid. It directed incoming strangers to work on the roads & canals.
Irish Emigrant Society - 1841 - founded under the auspices of Bishop (later Archbishop)
John Hughes. Its promoters were leading Catholics & Protestants & its spokesman was
a paper, the Freeman's Journal, which was devoted to Irish Catholic interests & stressed
Americanism. It had a long career.

All immigrant aid societies experienced difficulties in raising funds; 1.) the immigrant communities were poor & unable to help much with a broadly-based help program; 2.) the Native American [i.e., native-born American] communities were indifferent, saying that [3].) the Catholic Church should care for its own.

Society of St. Vincent de Paul - 1846 - The church found itself unable to care for the hordes fleeing from the famine. To grant relief & to preserve family life among the impoverished Catholic immigrants, Bishop Hughes sponsored its organization. He also brought several Sisters of Mercy from Ireland to open a home for destitute immigrant girls. At the same time the Catholic churches founded benevolent societies to minister to the poor. The Benevolent Society of St. Patrick's Cathedral held annual festivals, enabling it to donate clothing & cash to the Catholic poor, & to contribute to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

- Robt. Ernst, Immigrant Life in N.Y. City, chap. III

When Congress met in December 1817 it was greeted with petitions from the Irish societies of N.Y., Philadelphia, & Baltimore. Let Congress, they asked, set aside the existing land regulations & sell on long-term credit, instead of the usual 4 years, a township in Illinois territory to be settled by Irishmen. In February 1818 the House Committee rejected the petition - this was discriminating against natives in favor of foreigners.

- Marcus Hansen, The Atlantic Migration, p. 93-94

In most centers of population in Canada & the U.S. were to be found the national societies of St. George, St. Patrick, & St. Andrew, which served the double purpose of keeping green the memory of the Old Land & of assisting their compatriots. Many a family owed their start in the New World to these societies or other kindhearted individuals.

Guillet, The Great Migration, p. 173

Boston - Militia companies were primarily social organizations... The Irish formed their own. The earliest, the Montgomery Guards, had disbanded after 1839 [in the wake of] a dispute, but the Columbian Artillery, the Bay State Artillery, & the Saarsfield Guards took its place by 1852. Dissolved by the governor in 1853 as a result of Know-Nothing agitation, they continued their activities in new skins. The Columbian Artillery became the Columbian Literary Association, while the Saarsfield Guards became the Saarsfield Union Association, & their balls, picnics, & lectures lost nothing in popularity.

The traditional St. Patrick's Day dinners soon proved inadequate for the Irish. No banquet room was big enough, only a spectacular parade could show the full ranks. Led by music, 2,000 marched in 1841 & thereafter the number of loyal Irishmen & flamboyant bands grew. Mass usually followed, for the Church stressed the religious aspects of the day.

- Oscar Handlin, Boston's Immigrants, p. 157

...revealing reflection of group consciousness was the banding together in autonomous social organizations. This development which isolated the newcomer far more exclusively than mere geographical segregation was in most cases due to the exclusive attitudes of the natives, who tended to bar immigrants from existing societies. Most of the numerous Irish military companies came into existence only after Irishmen had been refused admission to native companies.

- Maldwyn A. Jones, Am. Imm., p. 134

Immigrant associations sometimes represented communal attempts to meet material needs in time of crisis. Thus the numerous mutual aid societies & benevolent associations strove, with varying degrees of success, to provide sickness benefits & to pay funeral expenses. But the real function of these & similar immigrant organizations was to satisfy the desire of their members for companionship & familiar surroundings, & thus to soften the effects of contact with a strange environment. Immigrant militia & fire companies, too, were essentially social clubs.

In addition each [immigrant] group sought to preserve in America the familiar cultural pattern of the old country. For this purpose the most widely-effective instruments were the church & the school.

- Ibid., p. 136

1737 - Boston: "Charitable Irish Society" organized by 26 "gentlemen, merchants, & others,
Natives of Ireland, or of Irish extraction."
1751 - Pennsylvania: "Hibernian Fire Company;" a greater Irish immigration here than in
any other colony.
1771 - Philadelphia: "The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick." About this time societies bearing
this name were founded in Boston & N.Y., as convivial clubs welcoming Irish
immigrants. These were founded upon the model of the "Friendly Brothers of St.
Patrick," which had existed in Dublin and other Irish cities a generation before, & was
well-known throughout Ireland. This organization in Philadelphia in 1780 subscribed €103,000 ($515,000), one-third the sum collected, to supply the Continental Army with food. Among its members were Commodore Barry (father of American Navy) & Gen.
Anthony Wayne. Washington, who was an honorary member, called it "a society
distinguished for the firm adherence of its members to the glorious cause in which we
are embarked."
1790 - Mar. 3, Philadelphia: "Hibernian Society for the Relief of Emigrants from Ireland." Other societies with same name & purpose organized in other seaports in the early years of the 19th century but the Philadelphia society was, from the character of its members, the extent of its beneficence, & the length of its existence, the most famous... These societies extended a strong hand to the moneyless & helpless people that came after the Revolution, & not only aided them with gifts of money but also secured employment, provided medical attention, & disseminated information. The Friendly Sons & the Hibernians worked side by side (many belonged to both), & eventually amalgamated. The Ancient Order of Hibernians claims its origins in the knightly orders of Pagan Ireland. In the 6th century they assumed the cross as their emblem & became the defenders of the Church. The Ancient Orders were revived in 1642 in the Catholic
Confederation of Kilkenny by Rory O'More, grandfather of Patrick Sarsfield.
Early 19th century - the Whiteboys, etc.. combined as Ribbonmen.
1825 - Ribbonmen changed their name to "St. Patrick's Fraternal Society," & chapters formed in Scotland & England as "Hibernian Funeral Society."
1836 - A charter of the above granted in N.Y. City & in Schuylkill Co., Penn..
1848 - Irish Republican Union formed, which was succeeded by the Emmet Monument
Association. These societies were influential in the organization of 69th & 75th
Regiments of the N.Y. Militia - famous in the Civil War & WWI.
1851 - A charter granted to the N.Y. City divisions under the "Ancient Order of Hibernians."
1857-67 - Fenian Brotherhood formed to promote revolution in Ireland. They invaded
Canada under Col. William R. Roberts. The U.S. government stopped this & the Fenians
were disbanded.

- John O'Dea (Nat. Historian of the Ancient Order of Hibernians), in the
collection by Dunn & Lennox, The Glories of Ireland, p. 176

In New York City -
For closer & more permanent associations, the newcomers founded or joined huge number of fraternal & benevolent societies. Their members, whose meager earnings induced them to band together for protection against the uncertainties of life in an era which saw only the beginnings of life insurance.[1]
In the twenties the Irish formed a Hibernian Universal Benevolent Society & a St. Patrick Friendly Society, which were the first of many groups appearing in the next 3 decades.
Robt. Ernst, Imm. Life in N.Y. City, chap. XI

Most of the larger benevolent associations, like the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, were composed of wealthy merchants & professional men. Thus it was customary for these groups to help the poor of their own nationalities, but their charity relieved only a minute portion of the needy, & new societies attempted futilely to accomplish the same ends.

Sport & athletic clubs -
As early as 1833 the East River Fishing Club was organized by Irishmen. An Irish Hurling & Football Club was formed "to revive that truly Irish national sport."

N.Y. Irish Bank (Irish Immigrant Society)
Ignorance, suspicion, lack of interest, & insufficient funds had prevented the establishment of savings banks until the winter of 1850-51, when the untiring efforts of the Irish Emigrant Society secured a charter for an Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank. Most of the Bank's depositors, numbering about 2,300, were servants & laborers, but some were well-to-do; their accounts in 1856 averaged $238.56, & ranged from $1.00 to $10,000.
- Robt. Ernst, Imm. Life in N.Y., chap. XI

Ancient Order of Hibernians

The Ancient Order of Hibernians, organized in 1836 by members of St. Patrick's Fraternal Society of N.Y., a burial society, as an American auxiliary of the Ribbon Society of Ireland, had become (in 1853) a benevolent, mutual-aid organization which steadily attracted membership in the 1850s.
- Geo. Patton, To the Golden Door, p. 574

The outgrowth of the Ribbonmen & Ancient Order of the Friendly Brothers of St. Patrick, St. Patrick's Fraternal Society, etc.. Some sort of an amalgamation of all these societies became the Ancient Order of Hibernians, first in America, then later in a reverse transplant, back in Ireland.

By the 1870s it was the most powerful benevolent & immigrant-aid lodge in the country.
The qualifications for membership were set around 1836-38. All members had to be Roman Catholics & Irish or of Irish descent, & none "shall join in any secret societies contrary to the laws of the Catholic Church."
- Wayne G. Broehl, Jr., The Molly Maquires, chap. II

[Pinkerton Detective Agency agent James] McParlan - When there is a job to be done (men to be beaten or murdered) the matter is never brought up in open lodge - but the Bodymaster receives the grievance or complaint & appoints a man or men privately & secretly notifies them of what they are to do, and then the "job" is done, & the members of the lodge are never made aware of the transaction, or who the avengers are which must be kept a profound secret.
There was then an inner circle, composed of AOH bodymasters & other officers, who acted, sometimes singly, more often in concert, to settle grievances privately. The AOH membership probably knew in a general way that such a system existed, but were not made privy to the plans. In the anthracite region most people used the name Molly Maguires as synonymous with AOH lodges.
- Wayne Broehl, Jr., The Molly Maguires, p. 169

A.O.H., Molly Maguires, & the Catholic Church -
In 1875 Father O'Reilly (in Shenandoah) read a long list of names of members from the pulpit & asked the congregation to pray for their lost souls. Though far short of formal excommunication, it was a startling experience for the members involved.

- Broehl, The M. Maquires
Public opinion was bitterly against the Molly Maguires. This had been true for over 10 years (1875). The notion of forming vigilante groups had been openly advocated (even in the press) as far back as the late 1860s.
At 3 a.m. Dec. 10, 1875 the Wiggins Patch murders took place.

The Freeman's Journal said, "The exceedingly ugly fact exists that while some archbishops & bishops declare, as of their personal & sure knowledge, that the AOH is such a society as falls under the condemnation of the Catholic Church, other Catholic prelates treat the society as composed for the most part of Catholics obedient to their wishes."

James Frederic Wood became Archbishop in Feb. 1875; flatly opposed to M. M.s. In a pastoral Jan. 1864 he had roundly condemned the "Molly Maguires & others." Not a formal excommunication but a severe warning. After the Wiggans Patch affair, on Dec. 15, 1875, he reissued his pastoral, significantly adding after "the Molly Maquires" the additional words "otherwise the Ancient Order of Hibernians." The following Sunday it was read in most of the parish churches of Schuylkill Co.. This time there was no doubt about it being an excommunication. Rev. Daniel O'Connor of Mahanog Plane said that Sunday when he read the Archbishop's letter, "Beware of the Molly Maguires. If you have a brother among them, pray for his repentance but have nothing further to do with him - remember that he is cut off from the Church."

- Ibid.

In the 1877 National Convention of the A.O.H. issued an "Address to the People of the U.S.": "For some time a stigma or cloud has rested over the Ancient Order of Hibernians on account of certain portions of Penn.. ...The Order does not recognize any connection with...that terrible band of misguided men." After a searching investigation it had been decided "to cut off from all connections with our organization the Schuylkill, Carbon, Northumberland, & Columbia County lodges." The A.O.H. said it realized that because of this action "a great number of good men would suffer for the misdeeds of a few...but the character of the organization was involved."

- Ibid.

The authors feel that there was an inner circle of men in the lodges that were the Mollys, & that the membership in general was not connected with the crimes.

Fenian Brotherhood

The Civil War left Anglo-American relations strained. The Am. Irish rejoiced at this & tried to use it to turn the U.S. government to a pro-Irish-freedom policy.

One famous incident was the Fenian Invasion of Canada. The Fenian Brotherhood organized thousands of Irish-Americans with "circles" in the army & navy, as well as in the civilian population. A Fenian Convention met in Cincinnati & created on paper an Irish Republic and began to sell bonds & prepare for an invasion of Canada... On June 1, 1866, the hosts of Fenianism crossed the Niagara border 1,500 strong, seized Fort Erie, and threw up entrenchments. The American authorities proved extremely lax in preventing the mobilization of the Fenians along the border, & the Am. Sec. of State, probably with an eye on the Irish voters, waited 5 days before issuing a neutrality proclamation. Several minor engagements were fought, & then the foolhardy adventure collapsed.

We Who Built Am., p. 177

(There is no evidence that this caused a ripple on the Island, in spite of its proximity to Canada. One month later, July 4, 1866, the large party of McCauleys, Greens, & Gallaghers arrived from Aranmore.)

Fire Companies

(In New York City) After mid-century a number of the city's volunteer fire companies were completely dominated by immigrants, usually Irish. Feasting & drinking were an integral part of the fireman's life, & until the temperance movement crept into the firehouses, a barrel of liquor was frequently hauled along with the engine to each fire for the resuscitation of the fire laddies.

- Robt. Ernst, Imm. Life in N.Y. City, chap. XI

(In New York City) For many years fire-fighting in the U.S. was in the hands of volunteer companies. The opportunity to become a "fire laddie" was irresistible for many Irish... Each firehouse, especially in large cities like N.Y., also attracted a large group that ran along to every fire, so that "running with the machine" eventually degenerated into a sport which attracted the hoodlums & gangs of the Bowery district. The volunteer firemen of the '40s & later decades appeared in brilliant uniforms, with ponderous equipment of the comic-opera variety. Much feasting & drinking seemed to be part of the routine business of these organizations, and until the temperance movement made its inroads upon the profession, companies frequently had a steward, whose business it was to ladle out liquor to exhausted firemen from a barrel hauled along with the engine to each fire.

When an alarm sounded, the rivalry between companies was likely to be so keen that a race was started for the only fireplug available in the vicinity of the fire. Specially competent fighters raced ahead to capture the hydrant or cistern & to hold it at all costs until their colleagues arrived with the machine. Feuds & brawls were frequent, & occasionally a building burned to the ground while the heroic fire laddies were settling their long-standing rivalries. In 1845 the Philadelphia Commissioners reduced the annual appropriation for fire companies because of their turbulent & riotous conduct. But nine years later (1854) a lively battle was fought in the City of Brotherly Love between Irish Catholic & Irish Protestant fire companies. In 1860 there was another battle royal of firemen in N.Y., involving several companies "with stones, trumpets, & pistols. A dozen were carried off to the hospital" (Boston Pilot, July 14, 1860).
- Carl Wittke, We Who Built America, p. 145-46

Firefighting in America, though not especially efficient, was picturesque. In New York, the location of a fire was indicated by a crimson ball or lantern suspended from the cupola of the City Hall. The position of the ball [in relation] to the cupola indicated the direction of the fire. Mrs. Felton (in N.Y. 1836-37) narrates that one night fires were discovered in 3 separate locations. The lantern was shifted from one location to another, with the result that the firemen raced around in circles 'til messengers were sent out to direct them...

Immediately the alarm was given the volunteer firemen would rush to the engine houses for their apparatus & race to the fire. It was established for the first brigade to reach the scene to be in command. This produced keen competition. The engines were pulled through the streets by companies [of] from 20 to 100 men. Persons in the way, even stumbling firemen, were ruthlessly run over. So great was the rush to arrive first, affirmed British visitors, that firemen ran out dressed only in boots & overcoats & finished their wardrobe at the fire. Should two companies arrive at the same time, a bloody battle quite frequently ensued between them while the flames raged unchecked. After the fire, or in the event of a false alarm, the firemen adjourned to a tavern & made a night of it.

- Max Berger, The British Traveller in America, p. 30

Military Companies

[See also Civil War]

(New York) A compelling reason for the establishment of "foreign" military companies was the unwillingness of the native[-born] companies to admit immigrants. Thus in 1836, when the N.Y. cadets resolved to prohibit foreigners from joining the corps, 10 Irish members immediately declared their independence & organized an Irish company, the Montgomery Guards. Because newcomers were rarely admitted to native units of the state militia, scores of Irish & German companies were soon organized, & although they bought their own uniforms, the state supplied them with arms & equipment. In 1850 some 700 men of the Irish Dragoons, Guyon Cadets, Felon Light Guards, Carroll Light Guards, Saarsfield Guards, Erina Guards, & other Irish companies combined as the "Irish Volunteers" to form the 9th Regiment of the N.Y. State Militia, the first Irish regiment in America. During the next 10 years Irish companies appeared in such profusion that they dominated the 69th & 75th Regiments, & were included in the 10th, 11th, 14th, & 70th Regiments, while several maintained their independence of the state militia.

The significance of the immigrant military companies is evident in the fact that in 1853 more than 4,000 of the 6,000 uniformed militia in N.Y. City were of foreign birth. Of these, 2,600 were Irish & 1,700 German.

In parades, when the men of the Napper Tandy Light Artillery Company marched in their green jackets with yellow braid, light-blue trousers with scarlet stripe, & blue caps with braid & tassel, they never failed to win the admiring applause of the Irish onlookers, especially the ladies.

- Robt. Ernst, Imm. Life in N.Y. City, chap. XI

In the years of the heavy Irish migration, just before the Civil War, military companies were extremely popular in the U.S., and every important immigrant [group] had them. They satisfied a love for military drill, gaudy uniforms, & display; but above all they provided an excuse for arranging many a convivial occasion that gratified the social instincts of a good-natured, friendly, hospitable, & patriotic people. Irish militia companies under various names - such as "Jasper Greens," "Hibernian Greens," "Napper Tandy Light Artillery," "Emmett Guards," "Irish Rifles," & "Jackson Guards" - sprang up even in the smaller towns & attracted much newspaper comment by their frequent parading. Some served valiantly in the Mexican War, although most of them were organized in the following decade.

In 1853 the Irish militia of N.Y. City numbered 2,6000 [2,600 or 26,000?]... The 4th of July was an especially popular day for parades. It was then that visits were exchanged between companies in different cities, accompanied with much conviviality & banqueting. Parades & balls seemed to be especially appropriate, too, on St. Patrick's Day. On these occasions the parades were generally reviewed by majors & the city councils, and at the banquets the toasts were eloquent & the punch-bowls full.

- Carl Wittke, We Who Built America, p. 144-45

Molly Maguires

[see also Life in America - Coal Mines]

Pennsylvania coal-mining region -
Difficulties faced law enforcement during the 1862-64 period. Much of the crime centered around the Irish group, & the age-old desire to protect members of the clan came into play. The fact that false swearing for alibis was perjury was little or no deterrent, & any accused Irishman could depend on his friends for whatever testimony was needed to absolve him. Coupled with this was a marked reluctance on the part of the populace to testify against an Irishman for fear of reprisals. Already the name of "Molly Maguire" struck fear into the hearts of many - an unreasoning fear that stopped not to ask whether there was in fact such a secret society. There were enough coffin notices, mob action, & ambushes to give a ring of truth to the allegations.

- Ibid., p. 107

A series of trials were held in Mauch Chunk2 in late-1876; three were found guilty of 1st-degree murder & sentenced to be hanged. Old cases were dug up - by far the most important - the oldest case of all - took place over 14 years before, in 1862. The murdered man was [mine foreman] Frank Langdon. For this murder John Kehoe was found guilty & sentenced to be hanged.

The first of the 10 condemned men were scheduled to be hanged on June 21, 1877, six at Pottsville, four at Mauch Chunk. Ten men hanged in one day. And down to today that terrible day of retribution is bitterly remembered among the survivors of the hanged men, both in the Penn. coal fields & in Ireland. Among the McGehan clan in Co. Donegal the story is still told of the families gathered around the kitchen table on that day in 1877 to pray for Hugh, & at the moment he was on the gallows the sky blackened as if by an eclipse over the bogs of Glen Fin.

- Wayne G. Broehl, Jr., The M. M.

One Donegal oldster said of the Mollies, "They had their good & their bad points... Here in the Glenies mountains3 where I was born & brought up the men & women spent most of their time in bare feet, they were so poor... They used to hold meetings in secret all over the place in different centers. A meeting would be held this month in this town & next month in [a] townland 10 mi. away, one or two men from each district would attend... They never fixed punishment locally for a local person. They always got strangers to do this, & when any dirty job was to be done, it was strangers that was brought in to do it... They didn't want anyone to take advantage of the poor... At the start a whole lot of people had respect for them... In the end they became very cruel."

The Molly Maguires were well-known in Donegal - feared & respected, and remembered vividly. A Donegal emigrant leaving for America during the 1840s or 1850s would not likely forget that name.

- Broehl, The Molly Maguires, chap. [2]

"These Molly Maguires are generally stout, active young men, dressed up in women's clothing, with faces blackened or otherwise disguised."
- Ibid., p. 54

Shamrock Friendly Association

The Irish immigration of 1816 was centered in the U.S. & the Maritime Provinces [of Canada]. As the numbers of newcomers increased, contractors found that they could not employ all the hands offered. N.Y. became congested with workers without jobs or resources who were obliged to seek charity from their more fortunate fellow countrymen. The leaders of the Irish community formed the Shamrock Friendly Association, which gave temporary assistance & tried through correspondence & newspaper publicity to find opportunities for employment in the interior.

- Marcus Hansen, The Atlantic Migration, p. 84

1 Sentence fragment in original.

2 Mauch Chunk ("Bear Mountain"), Pennsylvania. In the early 1950s the town was renamed "Jim Thorpe," in honor of the famous Native American athlete.

3 Glentie - a town 15 miles from Burton Port in County Donegal.

Inland Passage

Steam navigation was introduced on Lake Ontario in 1817.

Kingston was where many immigrants transferred to sailing vessels (above the rapids of the St. Lawrence). In 1894 a monument was erected there to the memory of some 400 Irish immigrants buried there in the plague year of 1847. In Toronto alone 863 Irish died during the summer & autumn of 1847. It is estimated that 7,000 were buried in Montreal, Prescott, Kingston, & other settlements on the route inland.

[As] the St. Lawrence canals were gradually completed in the 1840s the hardships of the assent of the river lessened. In 1843 a guide book for immigrants said, "The ordinary conveyances up country are the small steamboats & barges departing from the Lachine Canal, which commences at Montreal Harbor; & proceeding up the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers, & through the Rideau Canal, reach Kingston, a distance by this route of about 250 mi., & which is usually accomplished in 3 days by the steamers if they have no barges in tow. The barges, & those steamers towing them, take about 6 days. The fare by steamboat is usually $3 steerage. The fare of the barges is 1 to 2 dollars. A second edition of this guidebook, in 1851 (by James B. Brown) omitted all reference to older type transport & said, "On arriving at Quebec emigrants may go directly from the ship's side on board commodious steam vessels without going ashore; & in those steam vessels they can be conveyed to their destination, to any of the main ports on the St. Lawrence or the Great Lakes without transshipment & [with?] great rapidity." In from 7 to 10 days the traveler might now proceed in one vessel from Quebec to Chicago at the cost of 35s, exclusive of meals.

No sooner was the St. Lawrence system opened than the RR era began. The Grand Trunk Line reached Toronto in 1856. The steamship felt the competition of the RR & the "emigrant train" became the usual means of travel to the interior of America.

- Guillet, The Great Migration, p. 167-78

"At Erie we changed cars & I saw numerous emigrants sitting on large blue boxes, looking disconsolately about them; the Irish physiognomy being the most prominent. They are generally so dirty that they travel by themselves in a partially-lighted van called the Emigrants' Car, for a trifling payment. I once got into one by mistake, & was almost sickened by the smell of tobacco, spirits, dirty fustian, & old leather which assailed my olfactory organs."

Bird, The Englishwoman in Am., p. 111[1]

Though we had a hot journey from Buffalo to N.Y., yet we had the advantage for a considerable part of the way, of going through charmingly shadowy forests. RRs in the U.S. are not like RRs in other countries, for they fly, plunging through the deep umbrageous recesses of these ____, wide-spreading woods, whose sweeping verdure-loaded boughs go circling & branching about [or above] the "cars" in all directions, shedding a deep, delicious intensely green light around, which bathes everything and everybody in a sea of molten emerald.

- Lady Emmeline Stuart-Wortley, Travels in the U.S. (1851), p. 33[2]

Combe took the RR (Albany to Niagara, 1837), & the train broke down after a few miles. The passengers alighted & pushed the entire train to a station a third of a mile back. There one horse was obtained, which pulled the train toward Schenectady. Yet Marryat called this the best & speediest RR in America at that time (1837). The train improved rapidly, however, until it usurped most of the traffic that had formerly gone on the canals & stage-coaches. After 1848 only the poverty-stricken immigrants still used the canal transport because of its cheapness.

- Max Berger, The British Traveller in Am., 1836-1860, p. 39[3]

Bunn (Alfred) in 1853 noted that there had been 40 RR accidents in the preceeding 4 months, resulting in 12 deaths & injuries to 200 others. ...What was the cause for this terrific toll? Prentice in 1848 claimed that RRs were poorly constructed, with short & frequent curves, without proper gradients & ballast, & with rails made of strips of iron nailed to horizontal sleepers.

- Ibid., p. 41

While Marryat had complained, in 1838, of the difficulty of receiving a bed to himself at the overnight stage-stops, two decades later sleeping cars were available on the better RRs. These cars accommodated 70 passengers on 3 tiers of padded shelves, at an additional charge of only 50¢ a night.

- Ibid., p. 51

Immigrants are said to have been brought to the western shore of Mich. by way of the Lakes as early as 1830.
[- no citation given for this entry]

Lake Transportation (Great Lakes) -
The Straits opened:
1870 - April 17
1871 - April 3
1872 - April 28
1873 - April 29
1874 - April 29
1875 - April 30
1876 - April 28
1877 - April 18
1878 - March 15
1879 - April 22
1880 - April 4
1881 - May 3

Insurance on ships expired Nov. 30, considered the close of the season.
- from book for immigrants, 1881

"On Thursday, the 24th of Aug., 1848 we sailed in the Buffalo steamer packet for Detroit. The vessel...was constructed on the model of ocean steamers & was of similar strength. This was very necessary, since the navigation of these lakes is both difficult & dangerous. Besides the storms which occur on them are no less severe than those upon the Atlantic. The furniture, decorations, & general "fitting up" of this particular boat was superb... The company was large, & composed, not including two-hundred emigrants who were in steerage, of many fashionable tourists, en route for Mackinaw & Lake Superior, for the Beever Islands, Milwaukee, & Chicago...

From Sandusky we first sailed to Toledo, a rising town at the extremity of Lake Erie & the terminus of the canal connecting the waters of the Lake with those of the Ohio & Cincinnati. A delay of a few hours discharging freight & passengers, & on our gallant ship proceeded to Detroit... Detroit was an ill-built, rambling town of about 12,000 inhabitants...

An accident to the machinery of our boat caused a delay of 3 days.
- Payton, Over the Alleghenies & Across the Prairies (1870), p. 148, 152
The damage to our steamer having been repaired, we set sail from Detroit Aug. 30, 1848... We entered Lake Huron. The water was exceedingly clear and bright in this as it is in all of the lakes & rivers of this latitude; and the scenery on the shore, which is heavily wooded, very attractive... The shores of Lake Huron are almost uninhabited except by roving bands of savages, & the country, except an occasional log cabin in which some pioneer has established himself, in a wild state."

- Ibid., p. 167-68

In the month of May, 1833, ninety steamboats arrived at Detroit, each bringing hundreds of eager settlers to the west. In a single day 5,000 persons took passage out of Buffalo. During the navigation season of 1836, 200,000 land-seekers passed through Detroit. By wagon & ox-cart, on horseback & afoot, they pushed on to public lands.

By 1840 the immigrant trade moved past Detroit and steered up the long seaway of Lake Huron, through the Straits & down Lake Michigan. It was a long way from Buffalo to Sheboygan, Manitowoc, Milwaukee, & Chicago... Old-world peasants in homespun shawls counted their coins in secret & stared at the wide new country with its public land. Staring from the rails, these people had many memories - a grey fishing town in Ireland, the cobbled streets of a town in Germany, but they shared a common hope. Beyond the blue waters in a new country they would mark the corners of their land & bring the fields to harvest.

Some of them did not drive their corner stakes. On a windless summer night in 1841 the steamship Erie, bound from Buffalo to Chicago, exploded in the middle of Lake Erie... Fourteen years later a salvage tug brought up the sunken hull. From it came thousands of foreign coins: sovereigns & francs, marks & kroner, that had left the Old World to buy American land. There had been 200 immigrants onboard. There were many disasters - the Phoenix burned on a November night in Lake Michigan, with 250 Hollanders aboard; the big new Atlantic, with 500 passengers, rammed by the Ogdensburg on a foggy night in Lake Erie; the G. P. Griffith burned like a torch just before a June daybreak a few miles out of Cleveland.

- Walter Havighurst, Wilderness for Sale, p. 323-24

"The steamer Madison arrived with a crowd of emigrants for the West, one of whom had died on the passage from Detroit." He was a man from Groton, NH.

- from Schoolcraft's journal, Oct. 1, 1838

Mrs. Jameson, 1837 - "At the other end of the vessel we have about 100 emigrants (she was on the Thomas Jefferson) on their way to Illinois & the settlements to the west of Lake Michigan. Among them I find a large party of Germans & Norwegians, with their wives & families; a very respectable, orderly community, consisting of farmers & some artisans, having with them a large quantity of stock & utensils... Then we have 20 or 30 poor, ragged Irish emigrants, with good-natured faces, & strong arms & willing hearts. Men are smoking, women nursing, washing, sewing; children squalling & rolling about."

- E. O. Wood, Historic Mackinac, p. 274

Great Lakes steamers (1840)

"During our stay in Chicago we saw some of the largest & finest steamboats that exist in the U.S.. These are employed in the navigation of the Lakes from hence to Buffalo, a distance of nearly 1,000 miles, and a great portion of the way out of sight of land. They are accordingly built of large size, from 600 to 800 tons, of great solidity, equal to that of ships navigating the ocean, with their engines, some few of high, but the greater number of low pressure, of the best construction, & all interior arrangements of sleeping-berths, staterooms, cabins, & saloons excellent. The Illinois takes the first rank, perhaps, in her united attractions, being large, strong, safe, fast, & particularly elegant. She is built after the fashion of the eastern boats, such as go between N.Y. & Providence or Boston, but much more elegant than any of these. The Illinois, indeed, may be called a floating palace, the most costly decorations being lavish everywhere on her, as may be judged from the fact of her costing 130,000 dollars from the builders' hands. The Great Western is another splendid boat, still larger than the Illinois, & almost as richly ornamented, but built on the plan of the Mississippi boats, with a double deck of cabins, so as to accommodate about 500 passengers, with high-pressure engines, but combining also speed, safety, & comfort, in an unusual degree. The Buffalo, the Cleveland, & the Erie are all fine boats, in the same line, and all have their equipments in officers, servants, & table, on the most liberal scale."

- J. S. Buckingham, The Eastern & Western States of America, Vol. III (1841), p. 268
Later he writes of the Erie (on which he went from Chicago to Mackinac), burning a cord and a half of wood an hour. The Erie was 500 tons. Fuel cost $500 for 1000 miles.

The Michigan

"The Michigan, built in 1833, ran to & from Buffalo to Lake Erie ports, making three trips a year to the Upper Lakes" (p. 328).

"Once more on board of the Michigan, one of the best vessels on Lake Erie, as usual full of emigrants, chiefly Irish. It is impossible not to feel compassion for these poor people, wearied as they are with confinement & sufferings, & yet they do compose occasionally about as laughable a group as can be well conceived. In the first place they bring with them from Ireland articles which no other people would consider worth the carriage. I saw one Irish woman who had 5 old tin teapots; there was but one spout among the whole, & I believe not one bottom sound & good. And then their costumes, more particularly the fitting out of the children, who are not troubled with any extra supply of clothes at any time! I witnessed the seat of an old pair of corduroy trousers transformed into a sort of bonnet for a laughing fair-haired girl. But what amused me more was the very reverse of this arrangement: a boy's father had just put a patch upon the hinder end of his son's trousers, and, cloth not being at hand, he had, as an expedient for stopping the gap, inserted a piece of an old straw bonnet; in doing so he had not taken the precaution to put the smooth side of the plate inward, and in consequence young Teddy when he first sat down felt rather uncomfortable. "What's the matter wid ye, Teddy - what makes ye wriggle about in that way? Sit aisy, man; ____ enough, haven't ye a straw-bottomed chair to sit down upon the rest of your journey, which is more than your father ever had before you?" And then their turning in for the night! A single bed will contain one adult & 4 little ones at one end, & another adult & two half-grown ones at the other. But they are packed away so snug & close, & not one venturing to move, there appears to be room for all."
"They stopped half an hour at Mackinac to take in wood, & then started for Green Bay."

- Capt. Fredrick Marryat, Diary in America (trip 1837-38), p. 208-09

1 Isabella Lucy Bird, The Englishwoman in America. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1966. ("First published in 1856 by John Murray, London, England.")

2 Lady Emmeline Stuart-Wortley, Travels in the United States, etc., During 1849 and 1850. Paris: A. & W. Galignani: Baudry's European Library, 1851 (Paris: E. Brière).

3 Max Berger, The British Traveller in America. Gloucester, MA: P. Smith, 1964 (originally published in 1943).

Labor and Economic Effects - General

Irish in the labor pool (Boston)

From every part of the U.S. construction bosses in embankments & water projects, tunnels, canals, & RRs called on Boston for the cheap manpower they knew was always available there. Thus the city's role as labor reservoir assumed national proportions; often the Boston newspaper in single issues, printed advertisements for more than 2,000 men wanted in widely-scattered places.

Sooner or later the immigrant in search of employment discovered the labor contractor in search of men. In the columns of their weekly newspaper they saw, or heard read to them, the incredible, tempting advertisements detailing the blandishments of good wages, fine food, & excellent lodgings. This meant leaving friends & wife & children but these partings had been part of Irish life as the spalpeens [see Ireland - Annual Migration for Work in England] made their annual migration. Within a year the laborers were back, usually no better off than before.

Unscrupulous exploitation was the theme of the construction camp, with unremitting toil. Wages ranged from $1.00 to $1.25 a day. The more prudent contracted for board as part of their pay, but most were victimized by rapacious sub-contractors who monopolized supplies at isolated camps & took back in exorbitant prices what they paid out in wages. The RRs themselves frequently resorted to dishonest practice. The Irish, after traveling several hundred miles, had no recourse of the company decided to pay less than advertised. Because of the exploitation the Boston Pilot advised "all laborers who can get employment elsewhere, avoid the RRs."

- Oscar Handlin, Boston's Immigrants, p. 71

The Irish were the hewers of wood, the carriers of water. They arrived at a time when foreign labor was an article of nearly essential necessity to the progress of the country, because of the vast upsurge of canal, RR, & industrial construction. Even Marryat conceded that, though the most troublesome of immigrants, the Irish were also "the most valuable to the U.S.." For, as Dickens remarked, "who else would dig & delve, & drudge, & do domestic work, and make canals & roads, & execute great lines of internal improvements?" Thus they secured for themselves "the privilege of monopolizing all the rough & menial employment of every kind, which was otherwise set apart as only fitted for the colored population, & which but few Americans could be found to undertake" (Francis Wyse, America, {1846}, a guidebook for prospective emigrants).

Hence in N.Y. they were the porters, draymen, bootblacks, newsboys, & general laborers of the city; in N. England, the millhands; in the west they worked as steamboat firemen, teamsters, & cooks; everywhere they could be found as laborers & navies. Later they became domestics... Domestic service was attractive to them since wages & keep were higher than the 40¢ per hour paid laborers on canal construction. Robertson stated (James Robertson, A Few Months in America, 1855) that in 1856 porters were receiving $18-20 per month, waiters $12-15, boys
$8-12, & females $7-12 plus maintenance. These salaries, while not as high as those earned by native[-born] Americans, were more than they had received in Ireland.

- Max Berger, The British Traveler in America, p. 169-71

Emerson wrote Thoreau of his astonishment on discovering Irish laborers in Massachusetts who regularly worked 15 hours a day for 50¢.

Theodore Parker observed in Boston in 1846 that he rarely saw "a grey-haired Irishman," inferring that they all died young.

A newspaper commented: "America demands for her development an inexhaustible fund of physical energy, and Ireland supplies the most of it. There are several sorts of power working in the fabric of this Republic - water power, steam power, and Irish power. The last works hardest of all."

- Wm. V. Shannon, The American Irish, p. 29

Irish in the labor force

No immigrant group was so poverty-stricken or so lacking in previous training as the Irish, the great majority of whom therefore became urban proletariat.

Because of their dependence upon unskilled labor, the Irish introduced a novel element of concentration into the American urban pattern. A N.Y. state census in 1855 revealed that 1/4 of N.Y. City's Irish working population consisted of laborers, carters, porters, & waiters; another 1/4 was made up of domestic servants, & another 10% were either tailors or dressmakers. In Boston, where poor transportation facilities immobilized the laborer & the absence of industrial enterprises still further narrowed his opportunities, almost 2/3 of the gainfully-employed Irish were either unskilled laborers or domestic servants. This condition had no parallel in other immigrant groups.

While Irish virtually monopolized unskilled jobs in American cities, they were equally prominent in the construction industry. Finding urban employment sporadic when obtainable, Irishmen responded to the bait of high wages held out by employment agencies & contractors with canal, RR, & other construction projects in the west & south. In the construction camps working & living conditions were extremely harsh, and exploitation by unscrupulous contractors frequent; yet despite the warnings of the Irish-American press, Irishmen continued to be drawn to canal- & RR-building, leaving their families for months at a time in the cities where they first settled. Toward the end of the period (1860) increasing numbers found employment in industry. During the 1840s Irish immigrants began to replace native farmers' daughters in the New England textile mills; others obtained work in shoe factories, & those who had gaining experience in mining during a sojourn in England scattered throughout the Pennsylvania coalfields. Yet even in 1860 the bulk of the Irish were still at the bottom of the occupational ladder.

- Maldwyn A. Jones, Am. Imm., p. 130-31

Effect of Irish immigrants on labor market

The alien laborers simply took over menial tasks & elevated the American workers to a higher level. They did not lower the wage-scale markedly. Wages showed no downward trend from 1848-1855, & industries using immigrant labor maintained as high or higher levels than those using only native labor.

American economics in the 1850s was in an unsettled & inflationary period, partly caused by the discovery of gold in California & partly by the rapid development of new industries - RRs , reapers, sewing machines. California dumped $50,000,000 on the nation's money markets in one year & as usual in periods of expansion, prices rose more rapidly than wages. Workers did not understand these complex economic forces. They only knew that since the coming of foreigners their living standard had been lowered.

[- no citation given for this entry]

Landlords' Involvement in Emigration

1846 - Unusually heavy, but only an extention of ordinary procedures; mostly Limerick &
Dublin. Over 1000 immigrants to Quebec were assisted.

1847 - Followed pattern of former years, except 1.) sent out in large groups instead of
individual families, & 2.) their mortality at sea lower than ordinary emigrants. The
great majority had received only their fares. A few provisions as well. On the whole
they were more miserable & helpless than in former years. 5,400 assisted emigrants
reached Quebec. No figures for American ports. Again, Limerick & Dublin.

1848 - Some slacking off. Again, Dublin & Munster. Became popular because of success
from proprietors' point of view. Established itself as a "humane" way of getting rid of

1850 - After this, lessened.

The landlords claimed it was "voluntary," but the alternatives made it less than voluntary. There was no legal obligation on the part of the landlord - the tenant had no feudal rights. Russell voiced the general opinion of landed men about their rights when he said, "You might as well propose that a landlord compensate the rabbits for the burrows they have made."

One example, Major Mahon (Roscommon) - in 1848 2,400 people were on his 2,1000[?] & they produced only 1/3 of the food they needed. The total cost of sending them to America was considerably less than maintaining them 1 year as paupers. It was decided to offer them a choice of emigration or eviction. Offer - free passage & provisions, & the right to sell or carry away stock & effects. Mahon considered himself a generous landlord. He spent €14,000 from his private capital to achieve the clearance. It turned out 25% of his emigrants died at sea & the medical officer at Quebec reported that the survivors were the most diseased & wretched he had ever seen. Within a few months Mahon was murdered - victim of "agrarian outrage."
The landlords admittedly sent out the poorest & most destitute of their cotters & immigration authorities at the other end complained bitterly. Many were a public burden from the moment they landed. The Common Council at St. John condemned such "inhuman callousness," & Harding the quarantine doctor exclaimed that 99% of the emigrants would remain a public charge.

The Great Famine
According to U.S. statistics, 17% of the total 1847 emigration died. This must have included deaths after disbarkation.

Landlords sometime sent tenants at their own expense. In many such cases the motive was self-interest, for in a few months the tenants might become paupers & thus a perpetual charge on the estate. Some landlords organized a migration en masse, chartering a ship & buying supplies for the journey.

- Marcus Hansen, The Atlantic Mig., p. 244-251

Letters Home

When a vessel left the quay no shout rang out more loudly than "Write soon!" Letters could not be expected in less than 6 mo.; then the correspondent wrote with greatest care, for he knew that every expression would be weight about the home fireside & the future of scores of lives might depend upon the tone of his letter. He wrote thoughtfully, moreover, because the high cost of postage discouraged frequent letters.

The transportation of letters across the sea was a private commercial affair, engaged in by as many concerns as there happened to be ships. A correspondent in the U.S. sent his letters by U.S. mail to some shipping house on the coast, enclosing a sum to cover the ocean expense & the inland postage abroad. The captain was the agent. The price of this informal service, as advertised, varied from 25¢ to 50¢ a letter. If the sending of letters cost the equivalent of a day's wages, it is not surprising that letters were written only when necessary & that they spoke with authority.

A persistent belief existed that letters were tampered with, that no communication derogatory to the country was allowed to leave. To guard against interference, ingenious devices were adopted. Before departure it would be agreed that the emigrant's letters should be written on a certain kind of stationary, or bear a device pricked by pins in the corner. Occasionally a code would be adopted in words which did not mean exactly what they said. Thus a departing Irishman arranged that, if he advised his brother not to follow him without their dear grandmother, then, in view of the fact that the venerable dame had been dead 30 years, the advice should be interpreted as an adverse report.

The arrival of a letter was a community affair. Neighbors assembled, the schoolmaster was pressed into service, and the letter was read. Often copies were made & sent to other communities. The missives were overwhelmingly encouraging, partly because the emigrants usually postponed writing until they had surmounted the initial difficulties.
Letters contained not only information & advice, but also tangible evidence of the more abundant life, a bank note, an order on a commercial house, a prepaid passage.

- Marcus Hansen, The Atlantic Mig., p. 152-54 (Wab.)

Life in America

Most of the new arrivals were from rural districts in Ireland, but their knowledge of farming was usually limited to the tending of impoverished potato patches... Land had so long been associated with oppression in Ireland that the Irish were seldom found felling the forest or turning up the virgin prairie on their own account. The mass of Irish laborers were rootless, unmarried men or husbands who returned in off-seasons to their families & acquaintances in N.Y. & other large cities (after working on canals & RRs). Many remitted their savings to Ireland & later returned to N.Y. to meet wives & children sailing on prepaid passage tickets to happy reunions in America.

The poverty-stricken Irish came to the U.S. as individuals rather than as family groups or bands of colonizers under a leader. The flight from famine did not permit of lengthy advance preparations, & the wretched condition of many who found themselves stranded in N.Y. left them friendless, planless, almost hopeless.

The Irish adherence to the Roman Catholic faith set the children of Erin apart from the Protestant communities in which they lived & placed them on the defensive. Common memories of the Green Isle provided another bond of fellowship. Thriving upon Irish love of people & whiskey, Irish saloons & political clubs maintained local loyalties, as did the fire & police forces, with their large Irish membership. "The Irish are a social people," explained the Irish American, "& require great self-denial to induce them to take up their abode in less-settled locations, even though sure of becoming prosperous by so doing."

- Robt. Ernst, Imm. Life in N.Y. City, p. 63

The immigrant communities provided jobs, not likely occur elsewhere.

Once an Irishman had settled, the _______ routine for his family & friends in the old country began & the remittances went overseas. The cluster, or "bundle" as the Irish called it, was in the making. An old Irishman described the process: "Emigrants from the same village or district usually settled down in the same city or town in the States where their relatives for friends or neighbors had preceded them, thus forming little colonies."

In the larger settlements, boardinghouses catered to emigrants according to their county origins... Outside of the solace of mingling with people from the same county, the emigrant had practical reasons for his choice of boardinghouse. Resident lodgers held themselves under obligation by honored tradition to help the newcomer from their own county to find work & to acquaint him with the ways of the new land. News of friends was likely to be had, & messages left. There he found that Dennis had gone to the Erie Canal and if he followed, he inquired at another county boardinghouse along the waterway of the whereabouts of Dennis. In time, as the emigrants distributed themselves, an Irishman could travel from one end of the country to the other and in each city or town locate an Irish boardinghouse or an Irish family happy to give him shelter.

- Geo. Patton, To the Golden Door, p. 174

The organization of social conscience lay far in the future at the time of the Irish migration, no settlement-houses existed to direct them, no experienced social workers to help them... Only a few overburdened or intermittent emigration societies & head-tax-supported state commissions stood at the head of the piers.

Emigrants in America depended on their own system of social benevolence nurtured in Ireland - the poor helping the poor. They turned to their own mutual benefit societies, vastly expanded by the famine numbers. In N.Y., Tammany Hall gave a helping hand.

- Ibid., p. 511

They instinctively created within the larger city, neighborhood communities where they could practice & sustain their own values. Wherever possible they followed old routes of settlement to neighborhoods where other Irish who had come a few years earlier were already established. Each family tried to live near friends & relatives from the same village. Those already arrived held Saturday-night "kitchen-rackets" to welcome the "greenhorns." These parties were the equivalent of the "American wakes" which the neighbors who had stayed at home gave for the immigrants before their departure from Ireland. The men helped newcomers find work on the same construction project or on the same horsecar-line on which they themselves were employed. For decades these new communities formed a world within a world.

The home, the church, & the saloon were the centers of life in the community. Home might be a shanty or two rooms in a tenement, but the family made it do. The home was a hive of activity. The children were born at home, played & grew up there; meals were eaten together around the table in the kitchen; the mother did the washing & cooking, the neighbors visited, & the father drank his pint of beer & took his ease after a day's labor within these cramped & crowded quarters. There was no privacy or room of one's own. No emotions & no secrets could be kept hidden from the rest of the family within those walls. It was a triumph if they could even be kept secret from the neighbors. It was a warm, gregarious, communal style of life that bred strong family & neighborhood loyalties & permitted the avowal of strong passions.

The Catholic Church played a significant role in the affections of the Irish, for the church buildings in American cities (or on B.I.) were not inheritances from the past. If there was to be a church, & later a parish school, the parishioners had to pay for their construction by contributing small sums each week for many years.

- Wm. V. Shannon, The Am. Irish, p. 34-35

Obliged to find housing accommodations that were both cheap & within walking distance of their employment, the majority of urban immigrants crowded into old warehouses or dilapidated mansions which had been hastily converted into tenements. Many others lived in flimsy one-room shanties erected out of whatever materials were available, or sought shelter in attics or cellars. Darkness, damp, & lack of ventilation were almost universal in such dwellings, in which there was only primitive sanitation. The squalid & noisome surroundings proved excellent breeding-grounds for diseases like tuberculosis, smallpox, typhus, & cholera, from all of which immigrants suffered more heavily than the native population. That the immigrant death-rate was also higher than that of the native population was due not only to unfavorable living conditions in American but also to the fact that many emigrants were physically debilitated on arrival, owing to long-continued malnutrition & the hardships of crossing.

- Maldwyn A. Jones, Am. Imm., p. 133

In the 1840s & '50s came a series of new inventions that transformed the productive system of America. The older industries had distained the immigrants, but the new ones were glad to use this fluid labor supply that could be laid off at will.

Whatever branch of the economy entered upon a period of expansion did so with the aid of immigrant labor (canals, RRs, etc...).

In mid-century the immigrants went to dig in the mines that pock-marked the coal & iron fields of Pennsylvania, first experienced Welsh & Cornishmen, later raw Irish & Germans. It cost the immigrants to make this adjustment, the dark, stony pits supplanted the warm, living earth as a source of their daily bread. Year after year they paid the price in innumerable hardships of body & mind.

Not until the 1880s was the 10-hour day an object seriously to be struggled for, & for many years that span was an ideal to be sought rather than a reality. The week was full, seven days were not unusual, & along with Sunday vanished the whole long calendar of religious holidays that had marked the peasant year.

- Oscar Handlin, The Uprooted, chap. III

In the summer of 1817 the English colonizer Morris Birkbeck stopped at a farmhouse outside of St. Clairsville, Ohio, across the river from Wheeling, & talked to an Irish settler. "He came to this place 14 years ago, before an ax had been lifted except to blaze a road... A free & independent American, he owns 118 acres of excellent land & has 20 descendents."

- Walter Havighurst, Wilderness for Sale, p. 207

The move to America was from a monolithic Irish Catholic society, persecuted by and united against a few Protestants who held all the power, to a pluralistic society, diverse & many-faceted, where they were a minority in numbers & where power was fluid and only held & manipulated by combination & compromise. (B.I. a return)

The primacy of the Irish in time & numbers in the 19th century endows their experience with special interest. As the precursors of the other great waves of immigrants, their reaction to the urban world set precedents & institutional patterns.

The assertion that there was little difference between American slums & Irish villages as to living conditions overlooks the opportunities in urban America. The situation was disastrous for those who lived at the extreme lower end of the social scale in Ireland, as did most of the immigrants. Life was hard in the American city but there was more security, freedom, & opportunity to raise the standard of living. [Those who came to B.I. combined the advantages of American opportunity & rural living. -HC]

The development [by] the Irish of their own minority culture in the city (schools, Church, saloons, fire companies, etc...) projected an Irish Catholic way of life that subtly estranged the Irish from many of the city's institutions & advantages. Separate schools, organizations, & traditions perpetuated cultural pluralism. [On B.I. it was not a subculture - only when they went to the mainland did they come in contact with the mainstream of American life. They escaped the pressures entailed in being surrounded by an alien culture. -HC]

A key feature of the urban adjustment of the Irish was the formation, under pressure, of the first large-scale ethnic ghettos in American cities. These sociocultural enclaves would become one of the most persistent American urban institutions. The ghettos had both positive & negative aspects. If they concentrated misery & hostility, they also provided way-stations between arrival & full immersion in the mainstream of American life. If they segregated immigrants from some of the benefits of the mainstream, they also provided a protective solidarity, without which the individual would have been more vulnerable to exploitation by a society that had scant regard for his welfare. The Irish political bosses attended to the needs of the poor for food, clothing, & shelter at a time when other levels of municipal leadership were blind to an evident need.

For the Irish, an ancient people thrust into the 19th century, their emigration introduced them, almost by accident, into 2 related trends, industrialization & urbanization, which ushered them from a folk society into modern life. Prepared for cultural adaptation by their experience in surviving foreign conquest & oppression, [they] were equipped especially well to cope with the contradictions & turmoil of urban life. Steeped in a tradition of ethnic & religious loyalty, they used religious & ethnic ties to promote their own organization & advancement under city conditions.

- adapted from Dennis Clarke, The Irish in Philadelphia, p. 177-83

Edward M. Levine, The Irish & Irish Politicians (W. Coll. Lib.)[1]
This book brings out the fact that because of the religious prejudice against them, the Irish were pressed between middle-class America & the incoming laborers (also Catholic, but with whom they had little sympathy) from Europe. Their differences kept them from entering Protestant middle-class America, & those of their number who did were disliked & distrusted by their fellow Irish & called "Lace-Curtain Irish." This term & "Shanty Irish" are purely American in origin.
It is notable that on the Island this did not take place because of the isolation from middle-class Protestant America. The few Protestants were the outcasts.

"We love this country," wrote Thomas Thorley from C__kland, Ohio (in a letter published in 1849). "I have lost the fear of ever wanting! Or my children! We have been here at this house 7 weeks, during that time one quarter of veal, three quarters of sheep, two pigs, the one weighing 18 score, 9 lbs. (369 lbs.), the other small, about 40 lbs.; so much for starvation! And then there is liberty. I can take my rifle down & fetch me a brace of squirrels to make a first-rate pie, or a wild duck; these I fetch in 10 minutes."

- Guillet, The Grt. Mig., p. 229

In most parts of America during the great period of immigration the distinctions of wealth & poverty were not apparent (true on [Beaver] Island -HC). While some were well-to-do, there were none living either on parish relief or in ostentatious wealth. Bitterness was frequently present in the minds of those who believed that the distress which led to their enforced emigration had been due to the class system.

- Ibid., p. 227

"The old race is passing away to other lands, & in the vast working world of America, with all the new influences of light & progress, the young generation, though still loving the land of their fathers, will scarcely find leisure to dream over the fairy-haunted hills & lakes & raths of ancient Ireland."

- Lady Wilde, in her introduction to Ancient Legends of Ireland (1888)

Government policy & regulation (Boston, 1851)

Government action reflected the community's attitude toward immigrants. They were still welcome. Since the care of aliens was charged to the Commonwealth, the problem of poor relief aroused less hostility within Boston than outside it. Yet nowhere was pauperism transmuted into a pretext for discrimination against the Irish. Legislation aimed only at barring the dependent, the insane, & the unfit, & shifted to newcomers part of the cost of those who could not support themselves. The function of the Municipal Supt. of Alien Passengers under the Act of 1837 was merely to prevent the landing of persons incompetent to maintain themselves, unless a bond was given that no such individual become a charge within 10 years, & to collect the sum of $12.00 each from other alien passengers as a commutation for such a bond. All subsequent changes in the law only modified it to conform with a decision of the Supreme Court. Attempts to extend these restrictive provisions failed, partly because of the pressure of shipping firms which profited by the immigrant traffic, but primarily because successive administrations recognized that "the evils of foreign pauperism we cannot avoid," & it is "wise to avail ourselves of the advantages of direct emigration which increases the business of the state."

- Oscar Handlin, Boston's Immigrants, p. 183

Fourth of July

(when 1866 party got to B.I.)
Capt. Marryat in N.Y., July 4th, 1837:
"Pop-pop-bang. Mercy on us! how fortunate it is that anniversaries come but once a year. Well, the Americans may have reason to be proud of this day, & the deeds of their forefathers, but why do they get so confoundedly drunk? Why on this day of independence, should they become so dependent upon posts & rails for support?"

After describing the day - booths of food on Broadway, the military parade of militia, flags everywhere, on the river steamers & sailing vessels going in every direction covered with flags, he ends:

"There is something grand in the idea of intoxication. In this world, vices on a grand scale dilate into virtues; he who murders one man is strung up in ignominy; but he who murders 20,000 has a statue to his memory... A staggering individual is a laughable & sometimes a disgusting spectacle; but the whole of a vast continent reeling, offering a holocaust of its brains for mercies vouchsafed, is an appropriate tribute of gratitude for the rights of equality."

Diary, p. 87

Sending money back

Thousands of individuals earning only 50¢ a day or, in the case of domestic servants, $1.00 a week, were methodically saving pennies & quarters to send to dependents in the old country. The Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank of New York, chartered by the Irish Emigrant Society in 1851, opened with 2,300 depositors, whose average savings was $238.56. In the next 30 years this bank alone sent $30,000,000 in remittances to Ireland.
- Wm. V. Shannon, The Am. Irish, p. 39

Man craves companionship & associates with people of similar interests.

Love of liquor, fostered by the hardships of life in the Green Isle, led Irishmen to the myriads of barrooms of N.Y., or to the more respectable Green Tavern of Malachi Fallon, Daniel Sweeney's House of Refreshment, or to John O'Keefe's Restaurant.

- Robt. Ernst, Immigrant Life in N.Y., chap. XI


(1830s) -
Housing - the homes of the poor were small, generally of one story, & built of wood, with inflammable shingle roofs. They possessed few conveniences, but usually held not more than one or two families. Multiple dwellings were slow to develop because of the cheapness of land in the less-desirable areas. The great tenement house, therefore, was unusual in Boston of this period. There were of course no sanitary provisions for the very poor, but because of the avoidance of overcrowding, living was not unhealthy. Boston at this time was one of the healthiest of 19th-century municipalities.
The prospective settlers who could be at all selective would pass Boston in favor of its younger & more flourishing sisters. In this community there was no room for strangers, space was lacking. Boston offered few attractions in either agriculture or industry. The far greater opportunities elsewhere combined to sweep the currents of migration in other directions.

McCanns - James went to N.Y...

(1849) -
(From Terence A. Pulsky - here with Kossuth in 1852)
25,000 paupers in Mass. - 91% foreigners
1,500 vagabond children in Boston between 6 & 16, unfit to be in public schools -
90% foreigners
25,000 applied for employment to Boston Society for the Prevention of Pauperism in
last 5 years:
15,000 females - 90% foreigners
8,000 males - 58% foreigners
In Boston Dispensary - 88% of cases foreigners
In Boston Almshouse - 97% of cases foreigners

3/4 of all arrests in Boston & almost 3/4 of commitments were foreigners.
- Oscar Handlin, This Was America

Coal Mining

The boom in anthracite came in the 1820s, with the usual boomtown results. First, shallow mining by amateurs.
1827 - arrival of the 1st 16 English miners. A large number of English & Welsh miners came, encouraged by high wages.
The Irish soon found their way. Mining had many unskilled jobs to be done. Each miner had one or more laborers assigned to him, & there were other underground workers (mule drivers, RR operators), & a host of unskilled jobs aboveground. The total of these far exceeded the skilled jobs.

If the Irish had harbored any hopes that ethnic tensions had been left back on the shores of Ireland they were quickly disabused. The English & Welsh held most of the skilled jobs. The Irish were relegated to low-status positions. All past hatreds & slights came welling up again, & the mine patches were quickly divided, physically & socially, along ethnic lines. Soon the Irish turned to protective societies.

The heavy influx of Irish into the anthracite region from famine-ridden Ireland compounded tensions. What had been a minority became a majority. This brought changes to attitudes toward the Irish & "Native Americanism" became the here as in the rest of the country.

By 1857 the St. Patrick's Day paraders in Pottsville[2] were startled to see an effigy of the saint hung on a telegraph pole with a string of potatoes around its neck. This same year the Miners' Journal in Pottsville accused the perpetrators of election frauds in 1856 of being "Molly Maguires."

The first allegations linking the M. Mag. with terrorism came with the Civil War. The draft ordered by Lincoln in 1862 brought anti-war sentiment to a head.

Alexander McClure, in charge of Penn. draft: "In several mining districts there were positive indications of revolutionary disloyalty, & it was especially manifest in Schuylkill Co., where the Molly Maguires were in the zenith of their power." The Molly Maguires gathered a mob in Cass Township to resist the draft. Finally, in order not to have armed conflict with the militia, the authorities said that twp.'s quota had been met by volunteers.

In 1863 the draft became a federal affair & was enforced by armed troops in Cass Twp..

- Wayne G. Broehl, Jr., The Molly Mag., chap. 4

The reign of terror instituted by the "Molly Maguires" in the anthracite coal regions of Penn. is usually described as one of the worst examples of mob rule & blackmail in the history of labor relations, for which the Irish coal miners are held responsible. Viewed from the longer perspective, the incident is but another illustration of the battle for better working conditions in the coal-producing areas, although the movement fell under the control of criminals & ended in a number of executions. The anthracite coal regions of Penn. had a mushroom growth in the 1830s, with immigrant labor, poor housing facilities, & all the evils of company towns & company stores... The region suffered from the evils of overdevelopment & frequent business slumps, which weighed especially heavily upon the Irish coal miners. Working conditions in the mines were terrible, with no safety requirements, inspection, or proper ventilation. From 1848-49 wages were $1 or $1.25 a day for miners, & .82 for ordinary laborers. In 1869 a peak of $18.20 was reached, but by 1877 the wage had declined to $9.80. "Breaker boys," age 7 to 16, worked like slaves in the mines under bosses whose character left much to be desired. The Boston Pilot (May 24, 1862) exposed conditions in the coal mines - the inadequate pay, the "murderous neglect" of ventilation, the "rancid provisions" available at high prices at company stores, the explosions in the firedamp caverns in which Irish & Welsh miners were blown to pieces, and the "scandalous ungenerosity" subsequently shown by the operators toward their mutilated workmen - and concluded by denouncing some of the owners as men with "the conscience neither of the Christian nor the Pagan."

Irish benevolent societies were formed to deal with some of these problems. The Ancient Order of Hibernians, a semi-secret organization, became the backbone of the miners' unions. In a very long story of real class war, the responsibility for violence in the Penn. coalmines seems to be pretty well divided. By 1860 the Molly Maguires terrorized the whole anthracite region, elected sheriffs & constables, and resorted to arson, blackmail, & murder. The organization was not finally broken up until 1875, when 19 were hanged after trials held in an atmosphere of great excitement & prejudice. The incident for a long time blackened the record of the Irish-Americans, & many refused to see the industrial conditions which had provoked such criminal action. Furthermore it must be added that the better elements among the Irish population denounced the Molly Maguires, particularly the Church, which threatened the leaders of this organization with excommunication.

- Carl Wittke, We Who Built America, p. 139-40

This is a description of the coalfields in 1873 - probably much the same [as] when Cornelius was there:
"It was a rough, very often brutal environment. Cheap (& often bad) liquor was consumed in large quantities, & there was incessant betting - on cock-fights, on dog-fights, on footraces, even on the frequent barroom fights...
In almost total absence of moral sanctions, violence lurked near the surface. Most of the men he met, commented McParlan, were armed, with a revolver if they could afford it; if not, with "billies" or steel-knuckles... Quarrels & fights - even shootings - were seldom settled by processes of law. Direct retaliation in kind either on a personal basis or through the secret societies was preferred."

- Wayne G. Broehl, Jr., The Molly Maguires, p. 166


Life in the slums was a continual struggle with illness & death. The high incidence of disease in N.Y. City was directly related to the sanitary conditions of the tenement-dwellers. In the crowded immigration quarters, quarantine was impossible & communicable diseases suddenly erupted into epidemic proportions. The sixth ward was a center of contagion, typhoid in 1837, typhus in 1842, & cholera & 1849. Tuberculosis, pneumonia, & bronchitis were common.
Among the immigrants the Irish were the chief victims of disease, & Irish-born patients of the city institutions were nearly always in the majority. Natives of Ireland comprised 53.9% of N.Y.'s foreign-born population in 1855, but at Bellevue Hospital from 1849-1859, 85% of the foreign-born admitted were Irish.

As in the case of other diseases, insanity was higher among the immigrants. Over 3/4 of the admissions to the city's lunatic asylum on Blackwell's Island were foreign-born, & of these 2/3 were Irish.

Insanity was common among newly-arrived immigrants. It was attributed to "privations on shipboard," "the changes incident to arrival in a strange land," & to "want of sufficient nourishment."

Illness could also be traced to impure food, bought because it was cheap, from hucksters or basement storekeepers.

- Robt. Ernst, Immigrant Life in N.Y. City, Chap. V


Cholera struck the U.S. & British N. America in 1832-34, 1848-54 (1849 was the worst year of this sequence), 1866-67, & last in 1873. Respectable people noted that it struck the poor & dissolute hardest, particularly the immigrants. The anti-immigrant feelings, & especially the anti-Irish sentiment which was very strong at the time, derived in part from the fact that they were believed to be carriers of, or sources of, cholera - as in their poverty & unsanitary living conditions they certainly were.

Note in Isabella L. Bird, The Englishwoman in America, p. 471

As late as 1859, more than 2/3 of the city [N.Y.] was without sewers. Asiatic cholera epidemics [in] 1832, 1834, 1849, & 1855.

- Max Berger, The British Traveller in Am., p. 22


Suspicious natives might argue that the Irish press perpetuated old hostilities, promoted dual allegiances, & retarded Americanization, but they constituted the very life-blood of the immigrant community. The newspaper, whether conservative or reformist, was conscious of its task in the field of adult education; & it aided the foreigners' adjustment by fostering community activities, urging naturalization, luring its readers into the arena of domestic politics, & relentlessly waging war upon the Know-Nothings.

Irish papers did not flourish in N.Y. until the middle of the century. The poverty & illiteracy of vast masses of Irish made Irish-American journalism a desperate gamble until the more educated sons of immigrants & the mid-century influx of professionals enlarged the Irish reading public. The one exception was the Truth-Teller, founded in 1825, & the leading Irish newspaper until the 1850s, when it was absorbed by the Irish American in 1855. For its forthright advocacy of Irish political causes, its defense of the Catholic faith, & its encouragement to the immigrant, it gained wide support, claiming in 1833 a circulation of 3,000. It had no serious competitors other than the Catholic papers.

[- no citation given for this entry]

Next to the Church as a cultural influence was the Catholic Irish newspaper.
The newspaper stood to the Irishman as school & college in one, his library guide & companion. The impress of the Catholic Irish weekly upon the emigrant cannot be overemphasized. The U.S. introduced the newspaper to the Irishman as a habit, & it had a tremendous effect on his growth & change. Critics have said that the Irish press kept alive Irish sentiments, that it flattered the Irishman instead of telling him the truth, that its results were exclusivist inside the American community. Let the truth of these accusations be granted, & yet the benefit of the Irish press in the pre-Civil War years outweighed its faults. It hammered into the Irishman's head the need & advisability of naturalization without delay. It never ceased preaching to him that while he owed love to his native land, his unshakable allegiance belonged to the country of his adoption. It dwelt, perhaps with Irish excess, upon American patriotism. It fought valiantly the Irish weakness for drink. It crusaded to get the Catholic Irish out of their city warrens & into the country. It encouraged self-improvement and acted as a lyceum to lecture the emigrants on American middle-class standards, which it offered them for emulation. The literature of the Irish emigrant was the newspaper.

Of the numerous Catholic Irish journals in the U.S., many of which had only a brief & fitful life, the best & most important was the Boston Pilot.

- G. Patton, To the Golden Door, p. 598-99

During the height of the public school controversy, the Freeman's Journal was founded in 1840 to "assert the rights of Catholics against the common school system." It was the only Catholic newspaper appealing to immigrants. It claimed 4,500 readers in 1846 & nine years later the N.Y. state census credited it with a circulation of 16,000. Until after the Civil War it was either strongly influenced by, or completely dominated by, Archbishop Hughes. Its conservatism lay deeply-imbedded in the traditional Irish Catholic clergy's reverence for duly-constituted authority, & fear of "despotism of the state over property, industry, & family ties." It battled against all movements of social reform (such as the popular Fowlerism).

- Robt. Ernst, Imm. Life in N.Y. City, chap. XIII

New York

Tenements -
The old buildings near the wharves were the 1st to be converted into tenements. 1st the original owners moved out. Then the following white color [collar?] workers moved out when real estate values in lower Manhattan rose & rents became too high. To meet the demand for rooms & apartments, the owners converted old homes into apartments by erecting partitions for the accommodation of 3 or more families. Unscrupulous owners made room by dividing their space into "the smallest proportions capable of containing human life within 4 walls." Beginning in the '30s the immigrants began pouring into these buildings, the principal occupants were Irish. This was the 1st stage in the development of the modern N.Y. slum.

When owners saw the substantial profit yielded by converted old houses, they began constructing new housing designed for tenements. Normally such a building contained a narrow hall opening from street or court; on each floor two suites of rooms opened into the hall, including the cellar. Front & rear rooms had windows, but the bedrooms in the middle were dark. In most cases there was another tenement in the back yard, frequently accessible only through the alley. Alongside these buildings & in the yards were many little, irregular frame structures serving as sheds & homes for the overflow immigrant population. Such haphazard buildings, front & rear, on the same lot made an intricate array of rear courts & alleys, notoriously dark, foul-smelling, encumbered with accumulations of filth.

In the seven wards below Canal Street the gross density of population per acre climbed from 94.5 persons in 1820 to 163.5 in 1850. In the 7th & 10th wards, largely Irish, [it] rose from 54.5 persons per acre in 1820 to 170.9 in 1840.
The chief figure in rent-gouging was the agent. He leased a house or group of houses from the owner & then charged all the rent he could get. He sometimes made enough to buy the building in a short time. The fear of eviction put rent before fuel & clothing. With eviction went confiscation of belongings to pay back rent.

To the European city-dwelling immigrant the change was not so great, but to those from rural Ireland the adjustment to tenement living was great. Daylight rarely entered many rooms of the poor, & cross-ventilation was impossible.
The deficiency of water was responsible for the filth. Nearly all the old buildings & many of the new had no toilet facilities. Back yard wooden privies were common, & they were too few to accommodate those they were intended to serve. Through overuse & improper care, they were a constant menace to health. As late as 1857 only 137 miles of sewer had been constructed in 500 miles of streets, leaving unsewered "nearly 3/4 of the city, including the most populated areas."

- Robt. Ernst, Immigrant Life in N.Y. City, Chap. V


In 1850, 7,000 households were in rear buildings, & 1,500 cellars served as homes. (N.Y.)
Where once had been [seventeenth-century] Mayor [Thomas] Delavall's orchard, Cherry St. ran its few blocks to the East River. At #36, in 1853, stood Gotham Court, one of the better barracks buildings. Five stories in height, it stretched back 150 feet from the street between 2 alleys (one 9', the other 7' wide). Onto the wider alley opened 12 doors, through each of which passed the 10 families that lived within, 2 to each floor in identical 2-room apartments (one room 9x14', one bedroom 9-6'). Here, without interior plumbing or heat, were the homes of 500 people. Ten years later there were some improvements: for the service of the community, a row of privies in the basement, flushed occasionally by Croton Water. But by then there were more than 800 dwellers in the structure (6 per room, 12 per apartment).

That these conditions were usual was shown in the model workman's home put up by philanthropic New Yorkers at Elizabeth & North Streets. Each suite in this 6-story building had 3 rooms, but the rooms were smaller (4x11', 8x7', & 8x7'). There were gas lights in the halls; but the water closets were in sheds in the alleys & well over 1/2 the rooms had no windows at all.

Eventually came the "dumbbell apartments." Attached to its neighbors on either side, it left a vacant strip perhaps 10' deep in the rear. The building was narrowed in the middle by an indentation 2 1/2' wide, varying in length from 5' to 50'. Three rooms had their windows on this 5-foot-wide shaft. These structures were 6 stories high, sometimes 8. Anywhere from 150 to 200 human beings could be housed in this small space. It was not a long block that had 10 such structures on either side of the street, not an unusual block that was a home for 4,000 people.

In these tiny rooms many traditional activities died. Not here could friends be welcomed, festivals commemorated, children taught. Home often crowded even more with strange lodgers became just a feeding & sleeping place, all else moved to the street.

The street became the artery of life, here the children played, dodging traffic; adults sat on the steps.
- Oscar Handlin, The Uprooted, chap. VI

[Population of] New York City:
1825 - 166,000
1845 - 371,000
1855 - 630,000
1860 - 805,000
- well over a million in greater metropolitan area


1835 - great fire destroyed 13A[cres] of old buildings around Hanover Square, William,
Pearl, Water, & Front Streets.
1845 - fire broke out in the vicinity of Wall St. & laid waste the entire district between
Broadway & the eastern side of Broad.
Volunteer firemen unable to cope with the problem [of fires generally];
not until 1865 were professional firemen introduced.
- Robt. Ernst, Imm. Life in N.Y. City, p. 20


Before Municipal Police Act of 1854 -
1. 2 constables elected annually in each ward
2. a small body of men appointed by the mayor - the Mayor's Marshalls
3. a "watch composed of citizens who patrolled the streets at night"
1844 Act -
Abolished the "watch" & established day & night police.
Lawlessness continued, climaxed by the Astor Place Riot of 1849.
1857 -
The State created a Metropolitan Police for the N.Y. area. Mayor Fernando Wood
defied the State, a pitched battle ensued, & the Metropolitan Police won.
- Ibid., p. 22

Irish Quarter

The Irish remained concentrated in the large cities, especially in the East. By 1850 N.Y. had 133,000 Irish, mostly poor & many unemployed, crowded into a distinct foreign quarter. This area stretched between Broadway & the Bowery. It was N.Y.'s first slum. Entire families lived in one room in the dreary tenements that ______ had denounced as dens of inequity back in 1836. The streets were piled high with filth, dirt hills on Center Street rising 4' in height. Yet no garbage carts visited the area for weeks at a time. Little wonder then that the traveler (P. W. Mitchell, lived in Richmond 1848-58) observed that there was "very little Irish fun left in them."

- Max Berger, The British Traveller in Am., p. 167

Poverty & Crime

City almshouse figures before 1849 were unreliable but during the next decade 3/4 of all persons admitted to the almshouse were born outside the U.S.. In N.Y. in 1852 half the persons relieved by the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor were Irish. Then depression struck. In 1854 & '55, & again in 1857, the number of indigent poor reached unheard-of numbers as unemployment rose. In the year of Lincoln's election 86% of the paupers in N.Y. City were of foreign birth.

In 1859, 23% of the persons arrested in N.Y. City were native[-born] Americans, & 55% Irish. Of the total number committed to city prison between 1850 & 1858, 7/8 were "intemperate."
Over half the population of N.Y. City in 1855 was foreign-born; 54% of these were Irish, 29% German.

- Robt. Ernst, Imm. Life in N.Y. City

In 1820 there were approximately 25,000 Catholics, mostly Irish, in N.Y. City; their numbers doubled a decade or so later; & in 1844 a speaker at an Irish rally called it "the most Irish city in the Union." Cobbett estimated in 1824 they comprised 1/6 of the population, but more faith can be placed in his judgement that the Irish did 4/5 of the hard labor in the city.
Being poor & often without work, the Irish immigrants lived where their small means permitted, jammed into rundown residences, cheaply-built tenements which began to appear in the early '30s, or improvised shanties in alleys & courts, piled into cellars & garrets, with primitive sanitary facilities, without water except from a common pump, the first to suffer from an epidemic, & the most widely-ravaged by fatalities because of congestion[?]. One-third of the entire number of cholera cases in the city in 1832 was in the 6th ward. Increasing immigration tended to fix their hard bonds; the living conditions of the Irish had degenerated in the 1850s from the 1830s. Slums had by then become an institution.
- Patton, To the Golden Door, p. 180-81

The most striking examples of ethnic concentration were provided by N.Y. City. As early as 1830 the 6th Ward, especially the unsalubrious quarter known as the "Five Points," had taken on a marked Irish coloring. From here during the next generation the area of Irish settlement was successively extended until it covered the whole of the Lower East Side as far north as the 14th Ward & as far east as the 7th. ...An equally revealing reflection of group consciousness was the banding together in autonomous social organizations. This development which isolated the newcomer far more exclusively than mere geographical segregation was in most cases due to the exclusive attitudes of the natives, who tended to bar immigrants from existing societies. Most of the numerous Irish military companies came into existence only after Irishmen had been refused admission to native companies.

- Maldwyn A. Jones, Am. Imm., p. 134

N.Y. City theatre

The Irish exerted a great influence on the drama, for their very presence in N.Y. in such numbers made Irish plays popular. Irish & Irish-American actors were in constant demand.

The unfortunate aspect of Irish comedy was the ridiculous light in which the poor & uneducated Irish were cast, as comedians won laughs from American audiences for their portrayal of the ignorant, pugnacious, & drunken Irish buffoon. The illiterate immigrant cared little for what the N.Y. aristocracy thought, but the Irish press showed a just resentment. Many Irish actors depended upon the "grossest caricature & most exaggerated misrepresentation," complained the Irish American. "Even the great Tyrone Power himself could not squeeze out the guffaw 'til he had transcended the boundary of nature & gone over into the province of the ridiculous & the absurd."

- Robt. Ernst, Imm. Life in N.Y. City, chap. XII

Draft Riots

July 13, 1863, the 1st day of conscription, was the signal for revolt & for 5 days the city was besieged by armed mobs. Conscription offices were destroyed, the mayor's residence attacked. Venting their fury not only on Unionists but on the negro, the mob pillaged, burned, raped, & killed. Not until the troops had raked the streets with canon was order restored. The number of rioters killed in the bloody week was variously estimated to be from 400 to 2,000; the exact number could never be known, for the rioters retrieved their dead at night & buried them secretly in the backyards of slum rookeries.

- Wayne G. Broehl, The Molly Mag., p. 91

In the summer of 1863 there were draft riots in many cities, from Maine to Illinois. None, however, reached the proportions of those in N.Y. City. For these outbreaks (N.Y.) the Irish were severely attacked throughout the country, and all rioters were promptly & unfairly classed as Irish. At least 2 of the Irish wards in N.Y. City remained perfectly quiet, & their colored residents were not disturbed. In the 1st ward Irish porters & laborers formed a guard to fight off the rioters.

The fact remains, however, that the Irish were the worst offenders in the riots that held N.Y. in the grip of a terrors so widespread that Federal troops had to be summoned into the city to restore order. The reputation of the entire Irish group was damaged throughout the nation. More than opposition to the draft was involved. There was a feeling held in some quarters, and not without justification, that draft officials had drawn especially heavily upon the Democratic wards in N.Y.. Above all the riot took the form of a huge anti-negro demonstration, and politicians seized the opportunity to stir up their followers against going to war for "niggers," while the rich remained at home. Why, according to the Daily News, should a worker leave his family destitute while he goes out to war to free a negro who [would] then compete with him for a job?

Apparently the governor of N.Y. appealed to Archbishop Hughes... A bulletin was prominently displayed throughout the city summoning "the men of N.Y. who are now called in many of the papers Rioters" to the Bishop's residence to hear an address... The crowd came & heard the Archbishop, who appeared in purple robes and with the insignia of office. According to one reporter, the crowd "was of one nationality." The Archbishop made no mention of the negroes who had been the special victims of the disorder. In the main his address was a plea to the faithful to return to their homes. Peace was restored.

We Who Built Am., p. 170-71

1 Edward M. Levine, The Irish and Irish Politicians; A Study of Cultural and Social Alienation. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1966.

2 Probably Pottsville, Pennsylvania, a leading center of anthracite mining. Since 1811 it has been part of Schuylkill County.


[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. 168[1]

[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 Martineau [2] 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.