Notable Irish American of the 1800s

Social Education, January 2001 | Go to article overview

Notable Irish American of the 1800s


The Great Irish Famine altered more than Irish history; the Irish who emigrated to the United States, Canada, Australia, and England became citizens of those nations. In the U.S. federal census of 1900, 44 million Americans reported their ethnicity as Irish.

Despite the hardships of life in the new country, Irish immigrants and their children became part of American life and history. They helped build the railroads, canals, and cities. They struggled to organize unions and to establish workers' fights. They pioneered the West. They fought as Union Soldiers in the Civil War, but also protested Lincoln's forced inscription during that war. A few notable Irish Americans from the 1800s are mentioned below. The list shows the great variety of experience that was America in the nineteenth century.

Matthew Brady (1823-1896)

Brady photographed as many famous people of the day as he could, including current and former presidents. When the Civil War s 'tatted, he decided to document that conflict. His photos of Lincoln and the war are famous, but the effort left him bankrupt.

Charles Carroll III (1737-1832)

The only Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence, Carroll was born in Maryland, whose laws at the time prohibited Catholics from voting, holding office, worshipping openly, or educating their children as Catholics. Despite such prejudice, Carroll took an active part in the Revolution, using his business acumen to help the colonies arm themselves against Britain. He served as a U.S. Senator in the first Congress, and died as reputedly the richest man in America.

Buffalo Bill Cody (1846-1917)

A Western scout and Indian fighter, Cody once slaughtered 4,280 buffalo in eight months, in part to feed railroad workers. Later in life, his Wild West Show established "cowboy mystique" firmly in American culture.

Davy Crockett (1786-1836)

Crockett was born to a pioneer family in Tennessee. He was a soldier under Andrew Jackson's command at Pensacola. His political career advanced quickly; he spent several terms as a Democratic congressman from Tennessee, but eventually broke with Jackson. After only one term as a Whig, he gave up on politics and settled in east Texas in 1835. He died in battle when the Alamo fell a year later.

Henry Ford (1863-1947)

Pioneering automobile manufacturer who perfected assembly-line production. His "Model T" began America's love affair with the automobile. He was the son of an Irish Famine immigrant.

W. R. Grace (1832-1904)

Business leader, steamship line operator, and first Roman Catholic mayor of New York.

Andrew Jackson (1767-1845)

Born in the Carolina hills to an immigrant fanning family from Ireland, Jackson fought in the Revolution at the ripe-old age of eleven. All but one member of his immediate family died in that conflict. He studied law and headed west. By the age of 30, he had been elected to Congress, won a seat on the Supreme Court of Tennessee, and set up a modest estate that grew into a major cotton plantation. …

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