The Irish in America


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Irish Savannah in Pictures

Irish Savannah (1)

Just in time for the Savannah Irish Festival this weekend, Arcadia Publishing released it’s newest pictorial history, Irish Savannah, by Sheila Counihan Winders earlier this week. Irish Savannah is for sale online at arcadiapublishing.com and folks in Savannah can pick it up at local retailers.

Take a look at what the publisher has to say about this exciting new book and its author…

CLICK HERE to open the pdf of the press release.

Irish Savannah joins more than twenty volumes in Arcadia’s series highlighting the contribution and impact of the Irish on communities throughout the United States. And you know what’s really great about these books? The pictures! If you are like me and you can’t get enough of old photographs and the history of Irish America, then you have hit the jackpot with Arcadia’s Irish series. Click here to get started building your collection. (Psst…it looks like you can get 20% off when you sign up for their newsletter.)

Congratulations to Sheila Counihan Winders and the lovely city of Savannah!


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Listowel Emigrant Tales: Elmer Walsh

As promised, here is the first of Vincent Carmody’s series, Listowel Emigrant Tales. Vincent tells us about “The Man Who Defeated Richard J. Daley”. With respect to Chicago politics, this was no mean feat! Elmer Walsh, the son of Irish immigrants from near Listowel, defeated Richard Daley, descendant of Famine-era immigrants from near Dungarvan, County Waterford, in the 1946 race for Cook County, Illinois sheriff.

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Meet Maureen (Part II)

Commodore Hotel

Commodore Hotel

After a week at sea, Maureen and Joan Teahan arrived in New York City on November 26, 1947. Uncle Dan O’Meara met the girls and helped ease their transition to American life. Uncle Dan, once an immigrant himself, knew it was important that his nieces look like Americans. Their first stop was Fifth Avenue for some new outfits – click here to read Part I of Meet Maureen. Uncle Dan also wanted them to be safe, and knowing they never would have even thought of it he instructed: “Be sure to lock your hotel room door.” That room was a the Commodore Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, right next to Grand Central Station.

I asked Maureen if the decision to emigrate was a difficult one. She had this to say:

Yes, at the beginning it was for me but I recall my sister, Joan, was excited about immigrating. She was bragging to her friends and one of them told her that she would be immigrating to London, England in time for the wedding of Princess Elizabeth II to Prince Phillip of Greece and Denmark – which she thought was the “next best thing”. Since we were still grieving the loss of my mother (February 1947) I didn’t think I could pull myself together to take such a big step but I didn’t want Joan to go alone, so I quickly changed my mind.

Remember Joan from Maureen’s story, The Infant’s Class Uprising? I can understand Maureen wanting to keep an eye on her younger sister in America! I imagine Joan not being too impressed by her friend’s emigration to England – royal wedding or not. Joan was ready for something bigger in America. Click here to read The Infant’s Class Uprising.

I wondered if Maureen expected to stay in the United States, or if she considered the move a temporary arrangement. Maureen said:

I realized immediately I’d be leaving for good. Being so young I was living in the day. Once I arrived I adjusted right away and found it very exciting living here. Uncle Dan and Jack were very good to us and we made good friends (still to this day) which was immensely helpful.

Maureen stayed in New York for a couple of days before making her way to Lawrence, Massachusetts – the home of her Uncles Jack and Dan and where Maureen would begin her new life in America.


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Up Close and Personal with Philadelphia’s Irish Memorial

Philadelphia is full of things which photographs (and words) do not do justice – the Liberty Bell, the seventeenth-century residential street Elfreth’s Alley, and the steps scaled by the iconic film character Rocky Balboa are just a few of the sights one really needs to experience in person to fully appreciate.

But, until you all can get to Philly, I will share some of the photos from our trip last week. Let’s begin with a few of Regan’s snaps at the Irish Memorial.

The story of the Irish Memorial.

photo credit: Regan McCormack

photo credit: Regan McCormack

Memorial with Benjamin Franklin Bridge in background.

photo credit: Regan McCormack

photo credit: Regan McCormack

Another view.

photo credit: Regan McCormack

photo credit: Regan McCormack

I love this poem by Peter Quinn, located at the memorial.

photo credit: Regan McCormack

photo credit: Regan McCormack

The Irish Memorial is a beautiful tribute to our Irish ancestors and a poignant reminder of their struggles, tragedies, and triumphs.

Click here for more details on the memorial.

Next time I will share some more about the wonderful city of Philadelphia – a city it only took me a few days to fall in love with!


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Philadelphia Irish Memorial

 

Regan and I are heading to Philadelphia for a few days later this month. I have never been to the City of Brotherly Love, and I can’t wait!

 

So much to see and do …the Liberty Bell, the Barnes Collection, Betsy Ross House, and Rocky’s steps are some of the attractions I think of initially, but there is much more to Philadelphia. Over the next week, on the blog and on our Facebook page, I will feature some of what Philly has to offer for those of us interested in the Irish in America.

I already told you about McGillin’s Olde Ale House, the longest continuously operating tavern in the city, established by the Irish immigrant McGillin family. And last week I shared MacDougall’s Irish Victory Cakes – delicious cakes created using a family recipe straight from early twentieth century Belfast.

We’ve covered food and drink, so it seems somehow fitting (or maybe it’s ironic?) to highlight the Irish Memorial at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia. The Irish Memorial is a National Monument, opened to the public on October 25, 2003. The thirty-foot bronze sculpture commemorates the Great Famine of Ireland of the 1840s and was created by artist Glenna Goodacre.

The memorial tells both sides of the story as it remembers both those who suffered and died in Ireland as a result of the Famine, as well as those who escaped the starvation and came to America. The Irish Memorial website says:

The Irish Memorial is dedicated to the memory of more than one million innocent men, women and children who perished during the years 1845 to 1850 and to the millions of Irish immigrants who found here in the United States of America the freedom, liberty and prosperity denied to their ancestors in Ireland.

I look forward to seeing the Irish Memorial at Penn’s Landing. Stay tuned to our Twitter and Facebook for photos and posts when we visit Philly next week! Please leave comments with your suggestions for things not to be missed in Philadelphia…would love to hear from you!

For more information on the Philadelphia Irish Memorial visit http://www.irishmemorial.org


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Day Five of Irish Favorites: Harry Connick, Jr.

HCJRHarry Connick, Jr. is an amazing jazz musician, singer, and bandleader, as well as a talented actor. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Harry has a wonderful sense of humor (just check out his tweets!) He just seems like a great guy who doesn’t take himself too seriously. Harry also happens to be Irish American, so he is a natural for my list of favorites.

Henry Louis Gates discovers Harry’s Irish roots in a recent episode of Finding Your Roots on PBS. It is a great episode – click here to watch. It is interesting to see Harry’s reaction to revelations about his great-great-grandfather, James Connick, who came to Mobile, Alabama from Ireland during the Famine.

Harry felt better when he learned of a fifth-great-grandfather David McCulloch, an Irish immigrant who settled in Pennsylvania in the 18th century. During the Revolutionary War he was an American privateer, capturing British ships and cargo. The British government had a sizeable bounty on McCulloch’s head, but they never did captured him.

It is good to hear the stories of Harry’s Irish immigrant ancestors, because we are reminded of the diversity of the Irish immigrant experience.

HCJR_xmasI loved Harry in the 1990 film, Memphis Belle. Click here to check out his version of Danny Boy from the movie. My favorite Christmas album ever is Harry’s 2008 effort, What a Night! And, he has a new album coming out on June 11th titled, Every Man Should Know. Can’t wait to hear it.

Keep up the good work, Harry. You make Irish America proud!


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Immigrants and Airplanes

After reading my post, From Sheepshead to Casper, a reader told me a story about her brush with a soon-to-be Casper, Wyoming sheep rancher.

In 1949, Katie Tierney was one of a new breed of Irish immigrant. Unlike the millions of Irish who came to the United States before her, Katie traveled by air, not water. An airplane trip back in 1949 was exciting enough, but factor in that this was a 3,000-mile journey from home to a new life in a foreign country, and you can imagine how Katie felt.

From AmericasHeartland.com.

From AmericasHeartland.com.

Katie was anxious as she stepped on the plane, but was soon distracted by a handsome man seated next to her. Richard Thornton was on his way to Casper, Wyoming to work on his uncle’s sheep ranch. Katie and Richard got to talking and hit it off, sharing their life stories and dreams for the future. When the plane landed, Katie and Richard exchanged addresses and went their separate ways.

Quickly, Katie settled into her new American life, and after about a month she received a letter from Richard. It wasn’t just any letter, it was a proposal. Richard laid it all out for Katie, telling her they would live on the ranch, but she wouldn’t be too isolated since they would go to town once a month. Richard assured Katie that he could not be drafted since he was engaged in the vital service of food production.

Although Katie was flattered, she turned Richard down. She didn’t see herself as a rancher’s wife. Richard was disappointed, but he soon recovered, married, and had a family. Katie went to work in Boston, met and married an Irish American man, raised three children, and had a happy life. Katie never forgot Richard Thornton, and from time to time thought about how different her life would have turned out had she accepted his proposal. Katie had something else in mind for her American life, and she worked to achieve her dreams.

Katie may have arrived in 1949 America in an airplane, but she was part of the tradition of single Irish women who left home in search of a future, since Ireland had so little to offer them, economically or socially. I admire these women so much.

Diner_bookIf you are interested in learning more about the lives of Irish women immigrants, you must read Hasia Diner’s Erin’s Daughters in America. It focuses on the nineteenth century female immigrant experience, but is important to understanding the larger theme of Irish immigration. Excellent book.