Irish Americans

ethnic group; Americans of Irish birth or descent

Irish Americans (Irish: Gaedheal-Mheiriceánaigh) are an North American ethnic group. They are American citizens whose ancestors were Irish.

Notable Irish Americans:
John F. Kennedy, Mother Jones, George M. Cohan
James Braddock, Michael J. McGivney, J.M. Curley
Victor Herbert, Eugene O'Neill, Ed Sullivan.

Who they are


People are called Irish Americans if:



Most Irish people came to the United States between the 17th to mid-19th centuries.[1]

The largest number of Irish people came to the United States between 1820 and 1860. During this time, one out of every three people who immigrated to the United States was Irish.[1] Between 1820 and 1860, 1,956,557 Irish people arrived in the United States.[1] 75% of these immigrants - about 1.5 million Irish people - came after the Great Famine of 1845-1852 (also called The Great Hunger.[1] Many Irish people died while trying to travel to America on coffin ships.[2] Between 1820 and 1930, about 4.5 million Irish people moved to the United States.[1]

Where they lived


Most Irish people who came to the United States during the 1800s lived in big cities where there were many other Irish people. They did this so they could help and protect each other.[3] Many stayed near the ports where they arrived, like Boston, New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Many Irish people also lived in Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore.[4]



Most of the Irish immigrants who came to America in the 1800s were Catholic. At that time, most of the United States was controlled by Protestants who were ethnically English, Anglo-Saxon, and Germanic.[4]

Many Irish immigrants were treated badly. For example:

Some politicians spoke out against Irish people. For example, in 1836, Benjamin Disraeli wrote:

[The Irish] hate our order, our civilization, our enterprising industry, our pure religion. [They are a] wild, reckless, indolent [lazy], uncertain and superstitious race.[10]

In the mid-1950s, a political group called the Know-Nothing Movement tried to get Catholic politicians fired from their jobs.[11]

Stereotypes about Irish Americans did not go away. For example, President Richard Nixon once said:

"the Irish can't drink. What you always have to remember with the Irish is they get mean. Virtually every Irish I've known gets mean when he drinks. Particularly the real Irish."[12]

Irish Americans today


In 2013, about 33.3 million Americans - about one in every 10 - reported having some Irish ancestry.[13] This is about seven times the number of people who actually live in Ireland.[14]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Immigration: Irish-Catholic Immigration". Library of Congress. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  2. Ruckenstein and O'Malley (2003), p. 195.
  3. Diner, Hasia R. Erin's Daughters. pp. 40–41.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Irish Potato Famine: Gone to America". The History Place. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  5. Fried, Rebecca A. (2015) "No Irish Need Deny: Evidence for the Historicity of NINA Restrictions in Advertisements and Signs" Journal of Social History 48. Accessed 17 July 2015. doi: 10.1093/jsh/shv066.
  6. "The New York Herald". Vol. XXVIII, no. 186. 7 July 1863. p. 11.
  7. W. H. A. Williams (1996). 'Twas Only an Irishman's Dream: The Image of Ireland and the Irish in American Popular Song Lyrics, 1800-1920. University of Illinois Press. pp. 148–49. ISBN 9780252065514.
  8. Wohl, Anthony S. (1990) "Racism and Anti-Irish Prejudice in Victorian England". The Victorian Web
  9. L.P. Curtis, Apes and Angels: The Irishman in Victorian Caricature (1971)
  10. Robert Blake (1960). Disraeli. Faber & Faber. pp. 152–53. ISBN 9780571287550.
  11. Hoeber, Francis W. (2001) "Drama in the Courtroom, Theater in the Streets: Philadelphia's Irish Riot of 1831" Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 125(3): 191–232. ISSN 0031-4587
  12. Nagourney, Adam (2010-12-10) In Tapes, Nixon Rails About Jews and Blacks, The New York Times
  13. "Selected Social Characteristics in the United States (DP02): 2013 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved December 11, 2014.
  14. "Historial Population Trends – 1841 – 2011, NISRA" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 October 2013. Retrieved 20 October 2013.