> My Ancestors > Irish
> Timeline: 1850-1949
Barney McGinniskin of Galway is the first Irishman
appointed to the police force, but is removed within
a year due to Nativist intolerance.
Boston Irish strongly support Democrats and resist
both the Republican Party and the Abolitionist movement.
The American or Know Nothing Party emerges to prevent
further immigration, and to protect Anglo-Saxon institutions
and primacy in the face of foreign immigrants.
14,779 Irish emigrate to Boston.
Approximately 50,000 Irish live in Boston - 14,000
in the North
Sullivan, the father of American architecture,
is born in Boston, the son of an Irish immigrant.
He is credited with creating the modern skyscraper.
The top ten counties in Ireland with the highest rates
of emigration to the U.S.: 1. Kerry 2. Cork 3. Clare
4. Longford 5. Leitrim 6. Galway 7. Limerick 8. Mayo
9. Tipperary 10. Cavan
Irish make up a large percentage of the work force
that fill in the Back
Boston Irish are torn between anti-Republican, anti-Abolition,
pro-South, pro-Constitution views. Most decide to
stand with the Union.
Harvard confers an honorary Doctorate of Divinity
on Bishop Fitzpatrick.
Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore, an Irish immigrant from
Galway, composes the Civil War anthem, "When Johnny
Comes Marching Home."
Irish vote en masse for General George McClelland
against Abraham Lincoln for President.
The Civil War gives Irish a chance to demonstrate
their loyalty and to temper Nativist sentiment. 10,007
Irishmen from Massachusetts fought in the Civil War.
Two Massachusetts regiments ( the 28th and the 29th)
are part of Brigadier General Thomas Meagher's famous
Irish Brigade, in the First Division of Second Corps
in the Army of the Potomac. Other Massachusetts Irish
regiments include the 1st-3rd Irish Regiments, the
55th (Irish) Regiment, and the "Fighting Ninth" 9th
Before the Civil War there was only one Boston Irish
police officer. By this date, that number has grown
Christopher Augustus Connor is elected the first Irish
Irish help build the transportation routes and new
houses of the suburbs to which they are soon moving
themselves. During the annexation period of 1860-1880,
the additions of Roxbury,
Roxbury to Boston coupled with rapidly expanding
Irish birth rates, dramatically increases Irish political
power in the city.
The City of Boston employs 45 Irish police officers.
John Boyle O'Reilly and Archbishop Williams buy The
Pilot. O'Reilly comes to Boston after a dramatic
escape from a British penal colony in Australia where
he was sent for Fenian activities.
Society is formed in Boston to preserve and promote
the Irish language.
Boston replaces Fort Hill as the area of the majority
of Irish settlement.
Mayor Frederick Prince names Thomas Gargan to the
Board of Police, the highest municipal office yet
held by an Irish-Catholic.
Approximately 70,000 Irish live in Boston.
Patrick Collins becomes the first Irish-born Congressman
from Boston (3 terms). The Harvard Law School graduate
would become the city's second Irish Mayor in 1902.
Local hero, John L. Sullivan "Boston Strongboy"
(1858-1918) reigns as heavyweight bare knuckle boxing
champion. He was born in the South End. During this
time period, many Irish see sports as a way out of
the ghetto. Baseball also featured many big stars
of Irish heritage including Jimmy Collins, Hugh Duffy,
and Mike "King" Kelly.
James J. Flynn becomes the first Irish Catholic president
of Boston Common Council
Hugh O'Brien, a businessman, is elected first
Irish Catholic Mayor of Boston. He keeps taxes low,
widens streets, improves parks, and constructs a new
Boston Public Library, the cornerstone of which is
laid in 1888.
The Irish Echo newspaper is formed in Boston,
"devoted to the language, literature, history, and
autonomy of Ireland."
British-American Society is founded to combat Irish-Catholic
Of the 16 United States cities with populations of
200,000 or more, Boston is the only one where the
Irish represent more than half of the foreign born
population. Most are factory workers, domestics, and
John F. 'Honey Fitz' Fitzgerald is elected to State
Senate and in 1894 is elected to the United States
Charles Francis Adams Jr. moves from his ancestral
home in Quincy to rural Lincoln in order to escape
the political domination of the Irish.
James Brendan Connolly of South Boston is the first
winner of an Olympic gold medal in Athens for his
winning triple jump. Before making the winning jump
he shouted, "This is for County Galway." Also in this
year, Harvard University becomes the first American
college to accept Celtic Studies as a college course.
A Department is formally established in 1940.
The Irish American Historical Society is founded in
Irish win a majority on the City Council for the
Maud Gonne, "Ireland's Joan of Arc," visits Boston
to rally the Irish community against Britain and the
Patrick Collins becomes Boston's second Irish born
mayor. His fiscal and stylistic conservatism angers
Collins is the first mayoral candidate to sweep
every ward in an election in Boston political history.
This victory begins to legitimize Irish community
in Brahmin eyes.
John Fitzgerald becomes the first Boston-born
Irish American mayor and the first without a beard
Archbishop William O'Connell takes over control of
The Pilot in the name of the archdiocese.
David Ignatius Walsh (1872-1947) is elected the first
Irish Catholic governor of Massachusetts. James Michael
Curley wins his first election as mayor of Boston.
Joseph P. Kennedy marries Rose Fitzgerald, starting
a political dynasty that lasts throughout the century.
Eamon deValera, president of Ireland's aspiring Republic,
tours the United States for 18 months and is enthusiastically
welcomed in Boston. He returns again in 1927, speaking
to a packed audience at Symphony Hall, while several
thousand people wait outside in the snow.
Irish make up 31.90% of the Boston population.
Irish-Italian ethnic conflicts include fights after
football games. Irish still control the political
aspects of the West
End and North
End though they have lost a majority in both places,
which are now strongholds for Jews and Italians.
Boston Irish writer Louise Imogen Guiney dies.
The Archdiocese of Boston runs 76 elementary schools
and 22 high schools for 48,172 pupils in Irish Parishes
Of 110 elected city councilmen between these years
there were only 12 Jews, 9 Yankees, 4 Italians, and
1 Black. The rest were Irish.
James Curley's mayoral victory begins a succession
of Irish-American mayors that stretched to 1993, when
Thomas Menino becomes Boston's first Italian-American
Francis Cardinal Spellman is named auxiliary Bishop
Joseph Patrick Kennedy is named Chairman of the Securities
and Exchange Commission by President Franklin Delano
The Archdiocese of Boston runs 158 elementary schools
and 67 high schools for 90,576 pupils in Irish parishes.
Richard J. Cushing becomes Archbishop of Boston.
John F. Kennedy is elected to Congress.
John B. Hynes defeats James Curley by over 77,000
votes and becomes Mayor for 10 years.
1750-1849 | See