35 Fantastic Things To Know About Irish Americans

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Irish Americans have lived in the United States for more than 150 years. With the first immigrant group arriving in the 18th century, the majority came from the year 1846. Despite facing a hostile reception from the established immigrant groups, they were able to integrate and influence in different fields. Usually, it is hard to talk about the Americans of Irish descent without highlighting the tremendous steps that earned them political seats, labor movements, architecture, education, film and theater, manufacturing and religion.

1. The First Irish Immigration Was “Forced Migration.”

By 1600, the British had taken control of Ireland. During this period, more than two-thirds of the original Irish population died to wars and slavery in the Caribbean plantations. In the mid-1600s, more than 300,000 Irish were sold as slaves to America, in New England and Virginia. Unlike other areas, the Irish slave trade lasted for less than 20 years, when the British eradicated slave trade in her colonies.

2. At Least 8 Out Of The 56 Signatories To The Declaration of Independence Were Irish Americans

Old fashionet American Constitution - We the people with USA Flag.
Image Source: Raleigh Homes

Having left their home country for better fortunes in America, the Irish immigrants gave it all for their new found home. Those that arrived before independence resented the harsh rule that had made them flee their country. During the years of the American Revolution, the Irish immigrants joined the Union Army and helped America gain independence. After they won against the British, 9 of the 56 signatories that signed the declaration traced Irish Decency. (Irish Central

3. The First Voluntary Irish Migration Was For Economic Reasons

While the Irish Americans are considered Catholics, the truth of the matter is that more than 60% are Protestants with about 33% Catholics. (Religion News) Other than being the majority, the Protestant immigrants were the first group in America. Despite the native Irish Protestants facing lesser prejudice from the British colonial government, they were not satisfied with the small commercial space left for them. Most of them arrived in the 18th century in search of better fortunes.

On the other hand, the Catholics sailed to America to escape the religious, economic and political oppression by the British rulers. Also, Irish immigrant populations grew during the great famine as people feared the menace that claimed more than one million lives.

4. The First European to Step On The American Soil Was An Irish Member of the Columbus Crew

Christopher Columbus was an Italian-born explorer that began his expeditions as a teenager. Globally, he is highly recognized as the European that “discovered” the “New World,” the modern day America. Having sailed to Portugal, his three-ship planned voyage was first rejected by the Portuguese monarchy, and then the Genoa Kingdom. He later moved to the Spanish monarchy where his plans were first stalled.

Having participated in several voyages while in Spain, he gave exaggerated reports on the discovered islands that convinced the King of the last one that would bring gold and riches to Spain. Among his crew of 89 sailors, little is known of the Irish-born-Patrick Maguire, who was the first to step on American soil in 1492, although some dispute this claim. 

5. The Irish Americans’ Overwhelming Support For The Democratic Party in the 1860 Elections

Over the years, American politicians have been keen to fetch the decisive Irish-American Vote to clinch power. Considered a highly socially organized group in America, Irish Americans began by forming influential political blocs to secure a place in national politics. With most suffering absolute poverty after arrival, they looked for a political front that would empower them economically. With the Republicans showing dedicated concern for the welfare of the southern slaves than for the Immigrant poor, it was easy for them to remain loyal to the Democratic Party, to date.

6. The Irish Cuisine: We Love Our Potatoes

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Image Source: Fine Art America

Traditionally, a good number of the Irish people in Ireland were farmers. With a majority of the farmers growing potatoes, the food became the staple food and hence was hard to miss in the main dishes. With more than 2 million Irish migrating to America in the period between 18th and 19th centuries, they established a robust Irish community that preserved most, if not all their cultural practices.

For the Irish, foods and beverages form a crucial part of their identity, which is the reason several pubs in the US are considered Irish. Despite living in America for more than a century, some consider burgers, hotdogs, and Pizza “American” and find it hard to exclude potatoes in their main courses whether at home or in restaurants.

Related Content: Is The Latest Irish American Generation Losing Touch With Their Heritage?

7. The Population: Irish Americans Make Up About 11% Of The Entire US Population

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Image Source: The Liberal

When people talk about the Irish Americans as an immigrant community, it is hard to believe that the ethnic group falls third from the German Americans and African Americans as at 2011 population census. A large number migrated to America during the 19th century when Ireland suffered more than a million fatalities from the great potato famine. While the Irish Americans form about 11.2% of the total population, New York State boasts of 13% Irish American population. (Info Please)

8. Andrew Jackson: The American President Considered Most “Irish.”

Since independence, The US has had 44 presidents. With fierce competition between the two major parties, Republicans and Democrats, Irish immigrants have almost always supported the Democratic Party owing to the policies that resonated with their condition. While more than 40% of the entire USA presidents claim Irish ancestry, the level of association with Ireland differed from one to the other. While John F Kennedy might be the most vocal of the Irish American presidents, Andrew Jackson holds a distinction when it comes to Irish decency. Both his mother and Father were born in Ireland; Country Antrim and later moved to the United States two years prior Jackson’s Birth.

9. The Unspoken Drinking Rules In Irish Pubs

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Image Source: Irish Yapping

When it comes to the field of food and beverages, the Irish continue to dominate the prime shelves of retail stores, thanks to their world leading alcohol brands. If you have lived or visited Boston, you probably know what it takes to become Irish in an Irish club. Their clubs are more than the current drinking centers that operate in unspoken rules. If you are lucky, you may have seen a board containing 10 Irish rules that look funny to foreigners, and exciting to the Irish Americans. The rules may not be clear but are live among the Irish Americans.

10. 22 of the 44 American Presidents Boasts Of Irish Ancestry, With Only 15 Having Confirmed Links

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Image Source: Biography

Despite contributing to about 11% of the Total American Population, the Irish Americans have achieved tremendous progress in American politics. Initially, it was difficult for them to secure formal employment opportunities and legislative seats. With strong organizational capacity, they were able to form strong voting blocs that steered the struggle for political dominance. Among all the immigrant groups, Irish immigrants boast of half of the American presidents with only 15 among the 22 confirming their links. The list includes the 7th US president Andrew Jackson, and the last 6 US Presidents from current President Barack Obama to Jimmy Carter. (Wiki

11. Irish Americans Received More War Honors Than Any Other Immigrant Community

The recipients must have shown remarkable performance to a point of risking their lives for the nation. The first Medal of Honor went to Jacob Parrot for his endurance in the great locomotive role. Mary Edward Walker was the first female recipient of the Medal.

With over 3471 medals of honors presented to different members of the Navy, Army, and the Marines, the Irish Americans have scooped about 2018 medals, which is more than twice the number awarded to any other Ethnic group. Of these medals. 257 recipients were Irish- born Americans, which translates to half of the foreign-born recipients.

Related Content: A Look At Irish Americans And Their Contributions To The US Armed Forces

12. The First American General To Die In The Revolutionary War Was Irish

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Image Source: Historic Hudson Valley

Having served in the British army during the Indian and the French wars, Richard Montgomery joined the American military during the American Revolution. Born and raised in Ireland, the Brigadier General of the US Continental Army is highly decorated for his outstanding service to the military. Under his command, he led to the capture of Montreal, Fort St, Johns and Quebec City where he was killed in 1775. He was the first of his rank to die during the war for independence. In his memory, several ships have been named USS Montgomery, Several schools bears his name with the Philadelphia statute standing tall to commemorate the War general.

Related Content: Irish American Participation In The Revolutionary War

13. Boston Is the Most Irish Metro Area In America

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Image Source: Knowledge that Travels

During the 19th century, the castle garden of New York was the main entry for all immigrants arriving from different European Countries. The entry through Philadelphia was through a quarantined port Called Lazaretto. A significant number came to the northern parts and entered through Boston where they settled in the nearby towns. The immigrants were not ready to relinquish the urban life despite facing massive prejudice from the established ethnic groups. One thing was clear for the Irish: Farming was not reliable. Today, Boston is considered the Most “Irish” Metro Area with over 20% of its population claiming Irish ancestry.

14. Only 7 Out Of the 15 Irish American Presidents Have Visited Ireland

While the Irish-American have dominated the American Presidency, less than half of those with direct links to Irish ancestry have visited the Republic of Ireland. Like other Irish Americans, The presidents have been keen to keep their lineage is known to Americans and the Irish Living in Ireland. Ulysses S. Grant was the first American-Irish President to visit Ireland, though after the lapse of his presidential term. Others that have visited Ireland include John F Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barrack Obama.

15. The First Woman To Explore Space Was Irish-American

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Image Source: Living on the real world

Defying the odds of a male dominated field, Kathryn Dwyer Sullivan made headlines when she became the first female to explore the space. Before her appointment to the STS-41G as a specialist, she had participated in several remote sensing expeditions in Alaska. Her three successful flights in space amounted to 533 hours in space. As a result, she has received the Juliet and the Woman of Distinction Awards in 2003 and 2004 respectively.

16. Irish Americans Have Arguably Invented More Than Any Other Immigrant Group In America

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Henry Ford-Image Source: Crew

In the world of technology and manufacturing, America is highly regarded for the pioneer inventions that revolutionized the global economy. While the world knows the particular individuals responsible for every design, little is spoken about their ancestry, and so their heritage. Despite ranking third among the largest ethnic groups in America, the Irish Americans have made groundbreaking discoveries that improved the lives of Americans and world as a whole.

Some of the inventions that spread across the world include the Model T Engine by Henry Ford, submarines by John Phillip Holland, the Tractor by Harry Ferguson, and the Monorail by Louis Brennan. 

Charles Townes was an American Irish Physicist and inventor who won the Nobel prize for his fundamental work in quantum electronics leading to the development of the maser and laser. Cyrus Hall McCormick heavily influenced the way labor worked in the agricultural industry, adding machinery to the workforce which greatly increased yields, helping to feed the incredible growth in population in the US, much of which was coming from new immigrants from Ireland. 

Check out the Irish American Museum of Washington DC for more information.

The Irish American Museum of Washington, D.C.

17. Laurette Taylor: The Greatest Actress Of the 20th Century

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Image Source: Silent Hollywood

The gallant stage performer is well known for her impressive acting career that spanned more than three decades. Her first formal performance in the play “The great John Ganton” accorded her impeccable reputation that saw her feature in other stage productions such as the Ringmaster, Seven sisters, the Bird of Paradise and Peg o’ My Heart among others. Her outsized personal attributes and Mercurial moods led to her legendary performances in New York and other Major cities across America.

18. Halloween Celebrations Originated From An Irish Festival

Today, Halloween is widely celebrated across the globe, with America and Europe taking the lead in these festivities. If you have celebrated the festival, you might be aware that the celebration came from a pagan tradition. As for the Christians, the day was named “all saints day” and was highly spread to America by the Irish immigrants. Despite the asserted influence from the Christians, the holiday preserves stubborn pagan practices.

19. “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” Margaret Brown Survived The Titanic Tragedy

Mrs. James J. "Molly" Brown, a survivor of the Titanic, in a portrait taken between 1890 and 1920. The Titanic was considered unsinkable but foundered in frigid Atlantic waters off Newfoundland after striking an iceberg. About 700 passengers survived in lifeboats, but some 1,500 perished in the sinking. REUTERS/George Grantham Bain Collection/Library of Congress/Handout (DISASTER MARITIME ANNIVERSARY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTR30KI4
Image Source: IB Times

Born of Irish Catholic parents, the American Socialist and activist rose to fame in 1912 when she aided several survivors of the wreck disaster to board on the live boats. When she got her lifeboat, she urged her colleagues to go back and save more people from the sinking ship, which was met with fierce opposition.

Her assistance to the group of survivors continued even in Carpathia and by the time they docked at the New York Harbor, she and others formed a survivor’s committee that she led. From a daughter to humble Irish Parents, she used her fame and status to promote the rights of women. She later joined  politics and was the first women to contest for a position in the US Congress.

Related Content: Famous Irish-Americans And Their Descendants Who Changed The United States of America

20. Is the American Navy Irish too? Irish Americans Reorganized the American Navy

Before the 18th century, the British Army asserted its military power through several Conquests in Northern America. According to Alfred Thayer Mahan, the British military strength emanated from the strong naval organization, inspiring the need to establish a formidable Navy. The President of the naval war college of America published the book “the Influence of Sea power upon History that triggered discussions in higher ranks. Commodore John Barry is highly regarded as “The Father of the American Navy” for the successful onslaughts on the British Ships during the Revolutionary War.

21. Bobby Jones: The Great American Amateur Golfer

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Image Source: As Times goes by

Born in 1902, Jones began the professional golfing career at the age of 21, despite having played since the age of 14. The fact that he never attended any golfing class did not prevent him from dominating eight seasons 1923 to 1930. During his time, he scooped, at least, thirteen championships, five US Amateurs, one British Amateur, three British Opens and four US Opens. He was the first to claim four main titles in one season, widely referred as the “grand slam.”

22. Audie Murphy: The Most Adorned Soldier Of World War II

When it comes to the Military, you cannot avoid mentioning the Irish American names that made it what it is today. After the war for independence, the American military engaged in several battles that worked to build its capacity in the military front. During these battles, several Irish American soldiers portrayed outstanding devotion in fighting for the country. During the World War II, Audie Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor for holding off a German troop, and steering a counter attack in a wounded condition, and a limited supply of weapons. His successful military career led to 33 Medals of Honor and more than 28 citations for bravery.

23. An Irish Clergyman Founded The Presbyterian Church In U.S

Born and raised in the Northern Ireland, Francis Makemie enrolled for his studies at Glasgow University and later ordained to become a clergyman in 1682. In 1683, he was sent as a missionary priest to Maryland, America, where he founded the Pioneer Presbyterian community. He built the Rehoboth Presbyterian Church in Maryland that stands as the oldest of all Presbyterian churches in America. Also, he participated in the establishment of the churches in Princess Anne, Pocomoke City, Virginia, Berlin, and Salisbury.

24. Mack Sennett: The Comedic Prodigy Duped “The King Of Comedy”, Was An Irish American

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Image Source: Vimeo

Born of Irish Catholic parents in Quebec, Canada in 1880. His parents moved to Richmond,

Virginia where his father was hired as an innkeeper. After securing financial help from Adam Kessel and Charles Bauman, he established the Keystone studios where several actors began their film production. He left the Keystone studios for his own Corporation where he continued producing short films whose demand rose in1920’s. He was nominated for several awards and with his film “Wrestling Swordfish” winning the in Novelty section.

25. The Immigrant That First Entered Ellis Island Was Irish

The Ellis Island opened its operations in 1892 as the immigration station for then federal authority. Before 1890, all immigrants from the European countries,27 Canada, Asia and Scandinavian states entered through New York Port and the Castle Garden. In a span of 60 years, more than twelve million immigrants had passed through the Ellis Island. At the age of 15, Annie Moore, an Irish immigrant was the first to go through the newly Commissioned port of entry. Today, it is estimated that about 40% of the total US population traces one of its ancestors to Ellis Island.

Related Content: Learning About The US – Ellis Island America’s Front Door

26. Mary Harris Jones: the Mother Of American And Global Labor Movements

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Image Source: Fine Art America

As the Irish in Ireland continued to languish in absolute poverty in the 19th and early 20th century, America experienced immense economic growth. The industrial revolution increased demand for technical and manual laborers prompting a new wave of Irish immigrants to fill up the job vacancies. It explains why most of the Irish settlements were in the urban areas where they could easily secure employment.

However, their arrival did not go well with the established ethnic groups as they were ready to work for low wages making them preferable for the employers. As if not enough, they were subjected deplorable working conditions that claimed hundreds of workers life, while the meager earnings did little to support the expensive urban life. In an attempt to fight for better pay and conducive working environment, Marry Harris Jones steered the formation of the pioneer labor movements, which later grew to become global outfits.

Related Content: 9 Signs of Discrimination Irish Americans Were Subjected To

27. James Hoban: The Irish Man Who Designed The White House

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Image Source: Coin and Stamp Gallery

Located in Washington, White House is the official domicile of any sitting American president. The monumental structure was designed in 1792 when the George Washington invited a team of architects to create the premise. James Hoban, an Irish-born, and Educated Architect won the competition and built the first that was destroyed in 1814. His dedication was manifested when he offered to redesign the fallen structure. Other than the design phase, most of the construction work was handled by the Irish immigrant workers. (White House History)

28. Matthew Brady, An Irish Historian And Photojournalist, Documented the American Civil War

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Image Source: Wikipedia

Have you ever imagined how it would be if no one recorded the historical moments? Perhaps the heritage would appear imaginary. The early recording equipment may not have given the state of the art videos and images, but it provided the leverage for the future historians. While the American Civil War falls second after the Revolutionary battle, the photojournalist behind the nostalgic images was an Irish American- Mathew Brady.

29. The Peak of Irish Immigration Occurred Between 1845 and 1851

With about five waves of Irish immigration to the “New World”, the period between 1845 and 1851 was the most iconic regarding numbers. Before then, most of the voyages recorded up to 5150 passengers in a single trip. Unlike the first groups that left for social, economic reasons, the famine left them with little chance of survival and had to move at the slightest opportunity. After 1845, the list of passengers in the Londonderry shipping lines rose to 27,495 per voyage.

30. John McGraw, An Irish American Legendary Baseball Manager

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Image Source: Baseball Hall

Widely known as the “little Napoleon,” the legendary coach began his sporting career as a player. He stands alone as the best, perhaps a dirty player that turned the best manager of his time. With the New York Giants, he managed to a total of 2763 wins that put him second after Connie Mack overall. Born of Irish immigrant’s parents, the manager won ten pennants and broke the record of the most ejections.

31. The Irish Americans Lead In Home Ownership

In the United States, millions of citizens are stuck in rental apartments, that costs them up to half of their monthly earnings and sometimes higher. Owning a home remains a landmark investment for the middle-income population. Home ownership has for many decades been a significant step towards “American Dream”  At the moment, home ownership in the US stands at approximately 67.4% with the rates varying among different demographics. While Hispanic and African Americans have recorded below average rates of ownership, Irish immigrants maintain a high rate that stands at about 70%. (Census

32. The Consumption Of Corned Beef And Association With Ireland

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Image Source: History

In early 18th century, Ireland was a leading producer of corned beef in Europe. Despite the massive amounts of meat, a huge chunk was used for trade, mostly exported for other commodities. Corned beef was an expensive luxury that the majority of the peasants could not afford. They relied on dairy products, Pork, and Bacon even during the celebrations of the St. Patrick.

After moving to America, they found pork and Bacon relatively expensive and hence opted for the low costing corned beef. Since then, corned beef has been associated with Ireland, and forms a crucial component for the St. Patrick’s Day Recipes.

Related Content:8 Traditional Irish Dishes That Will Remind Every Irish American of Home

33. St Patrick’s Day Is Only Really A Massive Party In the US

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Image Source: NY Daily News

During the St Patrick’s Day, everyone becomes Irish, at least for a day. Back in Ireland, the day remains a cultural and religious festivity that is accorded the solemnity required. The Irish Americans in The US are responsible for making the day a partying festivity. On this day, you are likely to see groups of people in the main cities, small urban centers and bars. The New York parade remains the largest and oldest in the world known for coloring the Chicago River green.

34. John L. Sullivan, an Irish-American, First World’s Heavyweight Boxing Champion

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Image Source: Boxing 360

The Roxbury resident was born to Irish Immigrant parents. Many consider his solid physique genetic, inherited from his mother who equaled his size at maturity. The versatile sportsman played baseball in Boston but turned down a contract offered by the Cincinnati Red Stockings. He manifested his fighting prowess at an early age when he participated in the Boston Barrooms. He won the Title on February 7, 1882, and retained it for ten years.

35. Irish Americans Love Irish Brands

The Irish Americans are known for maintaining strong ties with their country of origin. If you are an Irish American, you are always “Irish” in America and “American” in Ireland, only if you have been to both. Nevertheless, any brand from Ireland looks to find a ready Market in America thanks to the growing Irish-American population. In a survey conducted by a Dublin-based Amárach Research, more than 60% of the Irish Americans wish to gain better access to the Irish food products, with over 40% of the interviewed favoring Jameson Irish Whisky.


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