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Home > My Ancestors > Irish > Timeline: 1850-1949

  • 1851: Barney McGinniskin of Galway is the first Irishman appointed to the police force, but is removed within a year due to Nativist intolerance.
  • 1850-1860: Boston Irish strongly support Democrats and resist both the Republican Party and the Abolitionist movement.
  • 1852-5: 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.
  • 1854: 14,779 Irish emigrate to Boston.
  • 1855: Approximately 50,000 Irish live in Boston - 14,000 in the North End.
  • 1856: Louis Sullivan, the father of American architecture, is born in Boston, the son of an Irish immigrant. He is credited with creating the modern skyscraper.
  • 1856-1910: 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
  • 1860-1870: Irish make up a large percentage of the work force that fill in the Back Bay.
  • 1861-1865: Boston Irish are torn between anti-Republican, anti-Abolition, pro-South, pro-Constitution views. Most decide to stand with the Union.
  • 1861: Harvard confers an honorary Doctorate of Divinity on Bishop Fitzpatrick.
  • 1863: Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore, an Irish immigrant from Galway, composes the Civil War anthem, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home."
  • 1864: Irish vote en masse for General George McClelland against Abraham Lincoln for President.
  • 1865: 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 regiment.
  • 1869: Before the Civil War there was only one Boston Irish police officer. By this date, that number has grown to 40.
  • 1870: Christopher Augustus Connor is elected the first Irish Alderman.
  • 1870s: 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, Dorchester, Brighton, Charlestown, and West Roxbury to Boston coupled with rapidly expanding Irish birth rates, dramatically increases Irish political power in the city.
  • 1871: The City of Boston employs 45 Irish police officers.
  • 1872: 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.
  • 1873: The Philo-Celtic Society is formed in Boston to preserve and promote the Irish language.
  • 1875: South Boston replaces Fort Hill as the area of the majority of Irish settlement.
  • 1876: Mayor Frederick Prince names Thomas Gargan to the Board of Police, the highest municipal office yet held by an Irish-Catholic.
  • 1880: Approximately 70,000 Irish live in Boston.
  • 1882: 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.
  • 1882-1892: 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.
  • 1883: James J. Flynn becomes the first Irish Catholic president of Boston Common Council
  • 1884: 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.
  • 1886: The Irish Echo newspaper is formed in Boston, "devoted to the language, literature, history, and autonomy of Ireland."
  • 1887: British-American Society is founded to combat Irish-Catholic political power.
  • 1890: 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 laborers.
  • 1892: John F. 'Honey Fitz' Fitzgerald is elected to State Senate and in 1894 is elected to the United States Congress.
  • 1893: Charles Francis Adams Jr. moves from his ancestral home in Quincy to rural Lincoln in order to escape the political domination of the Irish.
  • 1896: 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.
  • 1897: The Irish American Historical Society is founded in Boston.
  • 1899: Irish win a majority on the City Council for the first time.

  • 1900: Maud Gonne, "Ireland's Joan of Arc," visits Boston to rally the Irish community against Britain and the Boer War.
  • 1902: Patrick Collins becomes Boston's second Irish born mayor. His fiscal and stylistic conservatism angers some Irish-Catholics.
  • 1903: 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.
  • 1906: John Fitzgerald becomes the first Boston-born Irish American mayor and the first without a beard or mustache.
  • 1908: Archbishop William O'Connell takes over control of The Pilot in the name of the archdiocese.
  • 1914: 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.
  • 1919: 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.
  • 1920: Irish make up 31.90% of the Boston population.
  • 1920-1930: 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.
  • 1920: Boston Irish writer Louise Imogen Guiney dies.
  • 1922: The Archdiocese of Boston runs 76 elementary schools and 22 high schools for 48,172 pupils in Irish Parishes
  • 1924-1949: Of 110 elected city councilmen between these years there were only 12 Jews, 9 Yankees, 4 Italians, and 1 Black. The rest were Irish.
  • 1929-1993: 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 mayor.
  • 1932: Francis Cardinal Spellman is named auxiliary Bishop of Boston.
  • 1934: Joseph Patrick Kennedy is named Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
  • 1940: The Archdiocese of Boston runs 158 elementary schools and 67 high schools for 90,576 pupils in Irish parishes.
  • 1944: Richard J. Cushing becomes Archbishop of Boston.
  • 1946: John F. Kennedy is elected to Congress.
  • 1949: John B. Hynes defeats James Curley by over 77,000 votes and becomes Mayor for 10 years.

See 1750-1849 | See 1950-present




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