‘A duty to their own flesh & blood’

Americans of Irish descent owed a “special duty to their own flesh and blood,” Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore emphasized in a spring 1921 fundraising appeal. The Irish had “given generously to all other suffering peoples,” he said, “they will not forget their own.” 

Cardinal Gibbons

Gibbons was an honorary leader of the American Committee for Relief in Ireland as the war with Britain entered its third year. The New York-based organization described itself as a “non-political and non-sectarian body, solely humanitarian in aim,”[1]“American Committee For Relief In Ireland, Part 1, Suggested Plan for National Organization”, Undated. From Series X: Manuscripts & Printed Material, page 1. From “Maloney collection of … Continue reading but had strong Irish nationalist and Catholic connections. Just over 1 million Irish immigrants lived in America at the time. Their U.S.-born children and grandchildren swelled that number many times over. 

The American Committee sought as many contributors as possible, especially the rich. Organizers emphasized that “securing a large number of contributions early in the campaign” would encourage others to “enlarge their gifts because of the example set by wealthy fellow citizens.”[2]“Suggested Plan”, p 3. Promotional material suggested $10 contributions would “provide food, clothing and shelter for some homeless Irish waif for one month.”[3]Flier in the John B. Collins Papers, University of Pittsburgh, ULS Archives & Special Collections, Series I, Folders 12/13, “American Committee for Relief in Ireland.” Digital copies … Continue reading

The campaign set a $10.2 million nationwide goal. For perspective, that was just less 10 cents–a dime–from each of America’s 107 million residents, or $10 from every Irish native. Final donations from the 48 states and the District of Columbia totaled $4,555,313, just over 4 cents per capita for all Americans and about $4.55 for Irish immigrants.[4]Excludes $100,000 from the American Red Cross and $13,881 from Alaska, not a state at the time, Canada, the Canal Zone, Mexico, and other foreign contributions, none of which were included in the … Continue reading

New York and Massachusetts, with the first and second largest Irish immigrant populations, finished first and second in collections, respectively. Pennsylvania, with the third largest Irish population, finished seventh in U.S. fundraising.

Here are the collection totals, number of Irish immigrants, and the Irish per capita rates for those seven states:

  • New York: $1,192,603 * 284,747 * $4.18
  • Massachusetts: $734,058 * 183,171 * $4.01
  • Connecticut: $358,508 * 45,404 * $7.89
  • Illinois: $330,533 * 74,274 * $4.45
  • California: $330,448 * 45,308 * $7.29
  • New Jersey: $226,476 * 65,971 * $3.43
  • Pennsylvania: $210,795 * 121,601 * $1.73

The American Committee’s 1922 final report and audited statement praised Connecticut for its $358,000 collection on a $100,000 quota, the highest return by percentage over any assigned state goal. Thomas Lawrence Reilly, the New Haven sheriff and son of Irish immigrants, chaired the state campaign.[5]1920; Census Place: New Haven Ward 10, New Haven, Connecticut; Roll: T625_193; Page: 23A; Enumeration District: 375. In March 1921, local volunteers canvassed with buttons, pledge cards, and receipt books.

“Every person giving a subscription will receive a button and a receipt for the amount they contribute,” a Meriden paper reported on St. Patrick’s Day. “The buttons have a red, white and blue background with the letters A.C.R.I across them in green letters.”[6]”Irish Relief Appointment”, The Journal (Meriden, Conn.), March 17, 1921.

The formula for determining state quotas is not described in the American Committee’s 1922 final report, its six-page “Suggested Plan for National Organization”, or a 12-page memorandum of national committee meetings from December 1920 through October 1921.[7]American Committee for Relief In Ireland, Schedule A, pp. 43-44; “Suggested Plan” in Maloney collection; and “Committee for Relief in Ireland’, providing accounts of several meetings of … Continue reading Without such context or background, it is difficult to evaluate the success or failure of individual states. I welcome reader input on these details.  

Some additional perspective on the nationwide collections:

  • 21 of 48 states returned less than half of their assigned quota;
  • 18 states surpassed their quota;
  • 11 states returned more than $100,000; and
  • 9 states contributed less than $10,000; with $547 from Arkansas the smallest return.

Gibbons died shortly after issuing the statement quoted at the top and shown below in a Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper advertisement. American relief was distributed in Ireland through summer 1922.

Also see: The Pittsburgh fight over relief to Ireland

References

References
1 “American Committee For Relief In Ireland, Part 1, Suggested Plan for National Organization”, Undated. From Series X: Manuscripts & Printed Material, page 1. From “Maloney collection of Irish historical papers, 1857-1965”, New York Public Library.
2 “Suggested Plan”, p 3.
3 Flier in the John B. Collins Papers, University of Pittsburgh, ULS Archives & Special Collections, Series I, Folders 12/13, “American Committee for Relief in Ireland.” Digital copies provided by Jon Klosinski, May 26, 2021. I have previously reviewed these files in-person.
4 Excludes $100,000 from the American Red Cross and $13,881 from Alaska, not a state at the time, Canada, the Canal Zone, Mexico, and other foreign contributions, none of which were included in the campaign’s stated goal.
5 1920; Census Place: New Haven Ward 10, New Haven, Connecticut; Roll: T625_193; Page: 23A; Enumeration District: 375.
6 ”Irish Relief Appointment”, The Journal (Meriden, Conn.), March 17, 1921.
7 American Committee for Relief In Ireland, Schedule A, pp. 43-44; “Suggested Plan” in Maloney collection; and “Committee for Relief in Ireland’, providing accounts of several meetings of the Commission in New York, Dec. 16, 1920-Oct. 26, 1921, in Patrick McCartan Papers, 1912-1938, Library of Ireland.

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