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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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An English Magazine Portrays Irish Americans as "Wild Beasts"

This cartoon from the British humor magazine Judy presents the Irish American as a dangerous, caged animal. American illustrated periodicals presented similar animal-like images of Irish immigrants, although this cartoon also implies that migration [...]

A Cartoonist Depicts "The Usual Irish Way of Doing Things"

A bestial Irishman, his anger inflamed by pro-Irish political broadsides and "demon rum," represents a veritable powder keg of potential violence in this 1871 Thomas Nast cartoon. The ape-like features are typical of the depictions of the Irish used [...]

The Day We Celebrate

This cartoon by Thomas Nast depicts a riot that took place on March 17, 1867 in New York City between Irish immigrants and the Metropoliton Police. Just two years after the New York City draft riots, violence related to politics remained a feature [...]

The Irish Remain "The One Element That Won't Mix"

This political cartoon from 1880 depicts the Irish as "the one element that won't mix" in America's melting pot of immigrants. Clutching a green flag and dagger, the Irishman is characterized as a violent proponent of Irish nationalism. His sash [...]

A Puck Cartoon Ridicules the Irish Domestic Servant

An 1888 Puck cartoon pokes fun at an Irish domestic servant, a frequent target of cartoonists and other humorists in the late 19th century. Such depictions, which ranged from relatively harmless "numbskull" humor to more mean-spirited and [...]

Cartoons Offer Two Perspectives on the Neighborhood Saloon

Death and dissolution are the predicted outcome in this 1874 Harper's Weekly cartoon as a grinning death's head dispenses "the demon rum" while patrons brawl in the back room and horrified innocents look on. While alcoholism posed a serious health [...]

An Irish Emigrant to New York Writes Home

This letter home from 23-year-old Irish emigrant Margaret McCarthy captures both the opportunity and adversity awaiting arrivals to a new land. McCarthy sailed from Liverpool on the Columbus on September 7, 1849, and arrived in New York on October [...]

A Letter from Ireland Tells of the Suffering Caused by the Potato Famine

This 1847 letter from Hannah Curtis to her brother John, who had emigrated from Queen's County, Ireland to Philadelphia some years earlier, gives a sense of the deprivation of those who remained behind during the time of the Irish potato famine. The [...]

A Destitute Famine Victim Sends a Desperate Letter from Ireland

Like many victims of the Great Famine, Mary Rush and her husband Michael had only one place to turn for assistance: parents or other relatives who had already emigrated. On September 6, 1846, the illiterate Mary dictated this desperate letter, [...]

A Nativist New Yorker Disparages Irish Arrivals

The following are excerpts from the diaries of George Templeton Strong (1820-1875), a prominent New York lawyer. Written between 1838 and 1857, the entries reveal Strong's undisguised contempt for the Irish immigrants who were then flooding the [...]