Category Archives: History

A Pittsburgh boy remembers ‘Bloody Sunday’, 1972

Above the fold: Pittsburgh’s morning daily after Bloody Sunday …

As a 12-year-old boy in Pittsburgh, I was beguiled by the brogues of my Kerry immigrant relations as they talked at the kitchen table. Ireland seemed a misty, green isle of shamrocks and St. Patrick, 3,400 miles away across the Atlantic. The bloodshed and deaths in Derry on Jan. 30, 1972, changed that childish view as I read the newspaper coverage seen on this page.

Read my piece on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday for History News Network at George Washington University.

… and the city’s evening paper later the same day.

Ireland’s forgotten records fire of 1922

Just as truth is the first casualty of war, government records are the first victim of changes in administration. Some documents disappear with ousted officials, others are intentionally destroyed; many are legally shielded from public view for long periods.

Records were torched in the Jan. 16, 1922, handover of Dublin Castle, seat of the British administration in Ireland for more than 700 years, to the provisional government of the Irish Free State. As workman dismantled wire screens and other barricades that protected the castle from attack during the Irish revolution, “ashes of burning documents were sprinkled over the spectators outside,” the Associated Press reported to American readers.[1]Edited versions of the Jan. 16, 1922, dispatch from Dublin appeared in numerous U.S. and Canadian papers.

New York World[2]Clip from Baltimore Sun, Jan. 16, 1922, p. 2. correspondent P. J. Kelly was more direct in his reporting:

The Bantry, County Cork-born Kelly, then about 32, was editor of the Evening Telegraph in Dublin. He had covered the 1916 Easter Rising and during the War of Independence began stringing for the World, which distributed his work to U.S. papers including the Baltimore Sun, Philadelphia Inquirer, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Kelly was wounded in an April 16, 1921, bomb attack on Crown forces at the O’Connell Bridge in Dublin. A blast fragment tore his cheek.[3]”PJ Kelly, 1880-1958″, The Cork Examiner, Nov. 26, 1958, and other obituaries. Editorship detail provided by Dublin historian Felix M. Larkin. See separate note on modification of this … Continue reading

Digital resurrection

Note Kelly’s concern that “records of historical value will be made unavailable to Irish historians.” He reported the removal of documents to England. It is possible, perhaps likely, that copies of the burned records, whether originals or facsimiles, also were sent to London or other locations and still exist today.

Such document duplication and secondary storage, plus advances in digital archiving, are allowing the Beyond 2022 project  to virtual reconstruct the Public Record Office of Ireland, destroyed June 30, 1922, in a fire at the Four Courts. Irish historians have long bemoaned the documentary losses at the start of the Irish Civil War. The digital records resurrection goes public on the centenary date.

There’s no doubt that Michael Collins and his network of spies and sympathizers had already seen some of the Castle records burned during the handover. Some “records of members of the new government” that Kelly reported could be the Colonial Office 904, or “Dublin Castle Records“, held by the National Archives in London.[4]See “Keeping an eye on the usual suspects: Dublin Castle’s ‘Personalities Files’, 1899–1921” by Fearghal McGarry, in History Ireland, November/December 2006.

But what files were lost forever? Some of the Castle’s forgeries of Dáil Éireann proclamations, created on captured stationary? Secret propaganda files of Basil Clarke and the Public Information Branch? It seems impossible to know.

A few days after the Dublin Castle handover, the Irish Examiner suggested “most Irishmen with any historical sense would like to go through its many chambers, and not a few would like to examine its records. Why not convert the Castle into an Irish historic museum and record office, where students could congregate to write Ireland’s history.”[5]”Future of Dublin Castle”, Irish Examiner, Jan. 18, 1922.

That’s largely what happened. The Castle today is a tourist destination, now featuring centenary events about the handover. A new book by John Gibney and Kate O’Malley also details the handover. I’m curious whether it addresses the “bonfires of officials papers” reported by Kelly. I’ve reached out to the Castle archives department and will update the post as appropriate.

***

NOTE: This post was modified Jan. 17 to add more details about Kelly, which were moved higher in the story. My Jan. 16 Twitter post, which referred to him as “an American reporter,” was corrected. Kelly’s citizenship was not mentioned in the original blog post. … See more of my American Reporting of Irish Independence centenary series. MH

Dublin Castle, the seat of the British administration in Ireland into 1922. This photo from late 19th or early 20th century. National Library of Ireland image.

References

References
1 Edited versions of the Jan. 16, 1922, dispatch from Dublin appeared in numerous U.S. and Canadian papers.
2 Clip from Baltimore Sun, Jan. 16, 1922, p. 2.
3 ”PJ Kelly, 1880-1958″, The Cork Examiner, Nov. 26, 1958, and other obituaries. Editorship detail provided by Dublin historian Felix M. Larkin. See separate note on modification of this post. Wounded: “12 Houses Burned For Irish Murder … Correspondent Wounded” The New York Times, April 17, 1921.
4 See “Keeping an eye on the usual suspects: Dublin Castle’s ‘Personalities Files’, 1899–1921” by Fearghal McGarry, in History Ireland, November/December 2006.
5 ”Future of Dublin Castle”, Irish Examiner, Jan. 18, 1922.

‘The Republic of Ireland is dead; long live … ‘

John Steele’s Jan. 8, 1922, Chicago Tribune story. Front page banner below.

“The Republic of Ireland is dead; long live the Irish Free State,” declared Chicago Tribune correspondent John Steele in the opening sentence of his story about Dáil Éireann‘s narrow and bitter vote to ratify the Anglo-Irish Treaty.[1]”Ireland Votes Peace, De Valera Loses, 64 To 57, In Long Battle” Chicago Tribune, Jan. 8, 1922, and syndicated to other U.S. papers. The Irish-American journalist also promoted his role in reaching the Jan. 7, 1922, vote and later claimed that pro-treaty leader Arthur Griffith described the outcome as “better to be an equal partner in a big concern than to keep a little sweet shop in a back street.”[2]”Tribune Writer Go-Between In 1920 Pact Talks”, Chicago Tribune, April 17, 1949.

Steele’s news lead echoed the treaty debate speech of Dáil member Patrick McCartan three weeks earlier. He uttered the “is dead” formulation seven times within a few minutes:

The Republic of which President (Éamon) de Valera was president is dead. … I submit it is dead, and that the men who signed the (treaty) document opposite Englishmen wrote its epitaph in London. It is dead naturally because it depended on the unity of the Irish people … the Cabinet … (and) this Dáil. … Internationally the Republic is dead. We were looking for recognition of the republic in foreign countries. Michael Collins said we were not recognized in the United States. That is true. … You cannot go to the secretary of state of any foreign government and ask him to recognize the Republic of Ireland, because I submit it is dead …  as a political factor the Republic is dead. … We were an inspiration to the patriots of India and the patriots of Egypt. Today we give heart to the compromisers in India and Egypt as well as the compromisers in Ireland. I say, therefore, the Republic of Ireland is dead.[3]Dáil Éireann debate, Dec. 20, 1921, Vol. T No. 7.

As a separatist promoting the Irish cause in America, McCartan edited The Irish Press in Philadelphia from its first issue in March 1918 through September 1920. The pro-de Valera weekly battled John Devoy’s New York City-based Gaelic American over control of American grassroots financial support for the Dáil and the U.S. government’s Ireland policies. Four days after McCartan’s debate speech in Dublin, and without naming its former editor, the Irish Press editorialized that the Irish Republic “is neither dead nor dying.” The paper continued:

The spirit that created it, like itself, is immortal. The temporary subversion of its name, or of its ideals, resembles a swiftly moving cloud that for an instant dims the penetrating waves of the sun or the light of the moon. Let no one say the Republic of Ireland is dead. It lives and will live on, in glory and splendor, when its enemies are dead and forgotten. … The Republic of Ireland is in God’s keeping.[4]Words That Saved Ireland After 1916“, The Irish Press (Philadelphia), Dec. 24, 1921.

Whether plagiarism or paraphrase of the popular proclamation, Steele’s January 1922 ratification story did not identify McCartan’s words or his vote for the treaty. The reporter had quoted McCartan in late December 1921 coverage of the debates. Steele described the sessions as “a battle between the living and the dead.” He continued:

The dead were represented by old men and widows and the living by young men who have fought in the battle for Ireland’s independence and survived. The living are all in favor of ratification and the dead against it. So far I have seen nothing to induce me to change my opinion that the living will win.[5]”Dead Arrayed Against Living On Irish Treaty”, Chicago Tribune, Dec. 21, 1921.

The epanalepsis, “The king is dead, long live the king,” is said to have originated from the French, Le roi est mort, vive le roi!, upon the accession of Charles VII after the death of his father Charles VI in 1422.[6]From Wikipedia entry last updated Nov. 17, 2021. A king was never proposed for the Irish republic; the Irish Free State was a constitutional monarchy.

“Long live the Irish Free State, and three cheers for a speedy establishment of an independent Irish Republic,” a New York City union organ declared shortly after the Dec. 6, 1921, treaty announcement.[7]”The Irish Free State”, The Headgear Worker, Dec. 9, 1921, Vol. 6, No. 23. The Baltimore Sun repeated “Long live the Irish Republic” in an editorial that applauded the Dáil vote. The daily also noted that the Irish faced the challenge of disproving enemies and detractors who charged, prophetically: “The minute they stop fighting outsiders they will begin fighting among themselves.”[8]”A Right Decision”, The Baltimore Sun, Jan. 8, 1922.

Promoting Steele

John Steele in Dec. 7, 1921, Chicago Tribune photo.

For the Chicago Tribune and other papers that subscribed to its foreign news service, the treaty ratification was another opportunity to promote Steele’s role in brokering 1920 secret talks between Sinn Féin leaders and British government officials. The Tribune boasted: “Mr. Steele in his dispatches always insisted that actual peace was coming. … his accomplishments in aiding the contracting parties to common ground ranks high in the newspaper’s achievement.[9]”Tribune Man Aided in Finding Way To Anglo-Irish Peace”, Chicago Tribune, Jan. 8, 1922. This work was done through Patrick Moylett, a Galway businessman and associate of Griffith, according to accounts by Steele and Moyett.[10]”Humble Galway Grocer Brings Peace To Irish, Steele of Tribune Took Him to British Officials”, Chicago Tribune, Dec. 9, 1921, and Steele’s unfinished memoir, published in … Continue reading

In a chapter of an unfinished memoir published in 1949, Steele quoted Griffith, who died in August 1922, as saying:

You always replied to my demands for a separate republic that we would never get it but that we could and would get dominion status within the British empire. Every other correspondent from abroad whom I talked to pretended to sympathize with me and assure me we would win full freedom and separation. I knew that contact had to be made with the British thru a neutral, and that the most available neutral would be a newspaper correspondent of international standing who was on good terms with both sides. You were obviously the man I wanted.

The Belfast-born Steele emigrated to America in 1887, age 17. According to information Steele provided for biographical publication, he was “educated privately and in newspaper offices.” He joined the New York Herald staff in 1890, followed by turns as a reporter and editor at three other papers in the city. He became managing editor of a London-based syndicate during World War I, then took charge of the Chicago Tribune‘s London bureau in 1919, where he remained until 1935.[11]”John S. Steele, Retired Tribune Writer, Is Dead”, Chicago Tribune, Jan. 8, 1947, and 1900 U.S. Census, Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 15; Enumeration District: 0543; FH … Continue reading

Steele wasn’t the only American correspondent in Ireland to mix public journalism and private diplomacy. Carl Ackerman of the Philadelphia Public Ledger also shuttled messages and documents between the two sides. Other journalists stepped beyond their newspaper roles. Ruth Russell of the Chicago Daily News and Kilkenny native Francis Hackett of the New York World gave pro-Ireland testimony to the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland. Author Samuel Duff McCoy parlayed his work with the American Committee for Relief in Ireland into a 1922 newspaper series.

Newspaper journalism was highly competitive in the 1920s, with exaggerations and claims of “scoops” a regular part of the business, just like on today’s faster-moving digital platforms. Historians have suggested that Steele and Moylett amplified their roles; that Michael Collins and other Irish republicans described the backchannel arrangement as a “fiasco” and viewed Steele as being out for a story and a tool of Lloyd George; and that Griffith was concerned about the appearance of settling for less than a republic, while the January 1922 post-ratification quote Steele attributed to him (second sentence of this post) cannot be independently verified.[12]See: “Unsettled Island: Irish Nationalism, Unionism, and British Imperialism in the Shaping of Irish Independence, 1909-1922”. Thesis by Michael Christopher Ras, Concordia University … Continue reading

In the memoir chapter published two years after his death, Steele recalled:

To every reporter at some time of his career there comes the high spot. … My high spot was … the opportunity and great good fortune to play a part in the settlement of the age old quarrel between Ireland and England which led to the establishment of the Irish Free State. … I never lost affection for the land of my birth. Moreover, wherever the English language is spoken, Ireland is news and Ireland’s struggle for freedom was big news.

This Aug. 3, 1922, advertisement in the Washington Herald promoted Steele’s work in Ireland. Steele’s Ireland work also appeared in the (Memphis, Tenn.) Commercial Appeal, Sioux City (Iowa) Journal, Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada) Sun, and other papers. (Apologies for the poor quality of the photos in digital scan.)

After ratification

Three years after the treaty ratification, in June 1925, de Valera addressed the Wolfe Tone commemoration at the Irish patriot’s grave in Bodenstown, County Kildare, a regular rally for Irish republicans. De Valera said:

By your presence you proclaim your undiminished attachment to the ideals of Tone, and your unaltered devotion to the cause for which he gave his life. It is your answer to those who would have it believed that the Republic of Ireland is dead and its cause abandoned.[13]Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern quoting de Valera at Oct. 16, 2005, Tone commemoration, via CAIN Web Service, Ulster University.

Less than a year later De Valera established the Fianna Fáil party, which abandoned Sinn Féin abstentionism and in 1932 won elected power in the Dáil. Republican aspirations were finally realized on April 18, 1949, with the full establishment of the 26-county representative state. That day, the Chicago Tribune published the “never been told full story” of Steel’s memoir, including the quotes attributed to Griffith, by then 27 years dead.

In his 1952 Bureau of Military History statement, Moylett said that he had promised Steele exclusive U.S. rights to his own experience in revolutionary Ireland. “But, as I have been disillusioned over the way things have been conducted in this country during and since 1922, I have no wish to publish it.”

Nevertheless, the Irish Free State was dead. Long live the Republic of Ireland.

References

References
1 ”Ireland Votes Peace, De Valera Loses, 64 To 57, In Long Battle” Chicago Tribune, Jan. 8, 1922, and syndicated to other U.S. papers.
2 ”Tribune Writer Go-Between In 1920 Pact Talks”, Chicago Tribune, April 17, 1949.
3 Dáil Éireann debate, Dec. 20, 1921, Vol. T No. 7.
4 Words That Saved Ireland After 1916“, The Irish Press (Philadelphia), Dec. 24, 1921.
5 ”Dead Arrayed Against Living On Irish Treaty”, Chicago Tribune, Dec. 21, 1921.
6 From Wikipedia entry last updated Nov. 17, 2021.
7 ”The Irish Free State”, The Headgear Worker, Dec. 9, 1921, Vol. 6, No. 23.
8 ”A Right Decision”, The Baltimore Sun, Jan. 8, 1922.
9 ”Tribune Man Aided in Finding Way To Anglo-Irish Peace”, Chicago Tribune, Jan. 8, 1922.
10 ”Humble Galway Grocer Brings Peace To Irish, Steele of Tribune Took Him to British Officials”, Chicago Tribune, Dec. 9, 1921, and Steele’s unfinished memoir, published in “Go-Between”, Chicago Tribune, April 17, 1949. Patrick Moylett, Bureau of Military History Witness Statement 767, Dec. 16, 1952. Page 50.
11 ”John S. Steele, Retired Tribune Writer, Is Dead”, Chicago Tribune, Jan. 8, 1947, and 1900 U.S. Census, Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 15; Enumeration District: 0543; FH microfilm: 1241105.
12 See: “Unsettled Island: Irish Nationalism, Unionism, and British Imperialism in the Shaping of Irish Independence, 1909-1922”. Thesis by Michael Christopher Ras, Concordia University Montreal, Quebec, Canada, January 2017, Collins quote: NLI, Art Ó Briain Papers, Ms. 8426/7, Michael Collins to Art Ó Briain, 15 December 1920; NLI, Art Ó Briain, Ms. 8430/12, Michael Collins to Art Ó Briain, Jan. 4, 1921. Also: We Bled Together: Michael Collins, The Squad and The Dublin Brigade, Dominic Price, Collins Press, 2017.
13 Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern quoting de Valera at Oct. 16, 2005, Tone commemoration, via CAIN Web Service, Ulster University.

January 1922: U.S. press on Irish newspaper news

American newspapers at the outset of 1922 contrasted the debut of an Irish republican weekly opposed to the Anglo-Irish Treaty with the Dublin dailies that supported the agreement. The first issue of Poblacht na h-Éireann (The Republic of Ireland) newspaper appeared days before Dáil Éireann voted on the proposal, announced Dec. 6, 1921.

“The question of outstanding interest in the Irish situation discussed by the Dublin newspapers this morning is the effect the expression of public sentiment in favor of ratification … will have on their opponents,” the Associated Press (AP) reported in a Jan. 2 story widely circulated in U.S. papers. It cited opinions from the Freeman’s Journal, the Irish Independent, and the Irish Times. AP quoted the Freeman’s view that, “No sophistry, however fine spun, can disguise the fact to thwart this will would betray a sacred trust.”[1]”Ireland Absorbed in Treaty’s Fate”, Evening Star, Washington, D.C., Jan. 2, 1922, and other U.S. papers, from “The New Year”, Freeman’s Journal, Dublin, Jan. 2, … Continue reading

Poblacht na h-Éireann debuted the following day from the presses at Cahill & Co. on Ormand Quay, Dublin.[2]Page 1 announcement, Freeman’s Journal, Dec. 30, 1921. Dáil TD Liam Mellows edited the paper with the assistance of established journalist Frank Gallagher.[3]The Dictionary of Irish Biography entries for Mellows and Gallagher do not mention this publishing venture. Mellows was executed by the Free State government in December 1922. Gallagher’s … Continue reading Contributors included Cathal Brugha, Countess Georgina Markievicz, and Erskine Childress. “Virtually all of the protagonists of the Republican party except Mr. (Éamon) de Valera himself are represented on its staff or board of directors,” AP told American readers.[4]”Republic The Demand of Dail Extremists, They Establish a Newspaper to Carry on Fight”, Associated Press, The New York (N.Y.) Herald, Jan. 3, 1922.

Small, partisan papers were a familiar feature of Ireland’s revolutionary period. Many were suppressed by British authorities at Dublin Castle. Sinn Féin launched The Irish Bulletin in November 1919 to publicize the Dáil and report the war activities of the Irish Volunteers. Gallagher was active on the staff. The Royal Irish Constabulary began to publish The Weekly Summary in August 1920 to counter republican propaganda as the island’s police force weathered attacks from the separatists. Both papers disappeared by January 1922, though some contemporaries described Poblacht na hÉireann as a successor to the Bulletin.

Since the July 1921 truce, Arthur Griffith’s Young Ireland had existed as the only republican Sinn Fein paper, AP reported. It “had taken no strong line on either side” of the treaty “in accord with the entire attitude of Mr. Griffith and Michael Collins who … have been careful to avoid any controversial public utterances.” Griffith and Collins helped negotiate the deal in London while de Valera remained in Dublin.

The first editorial in Poblacht na h-Éireann declared:

The Republic of Ireland stands for neither party nor person. … The supreme principal on which we take out stand is the declared independence of the Irish people, and we shall use all our influence and effort without rancor or facetiousness to prevent the surrender of that independence. … We oppose the treaty, not because we want war but because we want peace and the treaty makes peace impossible.

American journalist Hayden Talbot described a second editorial in the new paper, headlined “The Daily Press and the Treaty,” as a “scathing denunciation,” with “every Irish daily suffering equally for supporting ratification–the obvious intent being to make it appear that the entire Irish press has been bought by English money.”[5]”New Republican Organ”, Universal Service Special Cable Dispatch, The Anaconda (Montana) Standard, Jan. 4, 1922 Talbot would  interview Collins in March, then produce an early book about the Irish Free State leader after his assassination in August 1922. More on Talbot and Collins later this year.

The Dáil narrowly approved the treaty on Jan. 7, 1922. Poblacht na h-Éireann appeared in several iterations over the following year: the original 4-page weekly published through June 1922; a “War News” bulletin or broadside printed on “one side of a large sheet of paper, yellow or pink or white,” which “bitterly arraigns all enemies of the Irish Republic, British or Free State, and encourages the (anti-treaty) Irregulars” through at least January 1923;[6]”The Irish Republic Speaks”, The Nation, Aug. 2, 1922, p. 132-134. The magazine published facsimiles of two issues, dated June 30 and July 1, 1922. and an 8-page “Scottish edition” printed in Glasgow from about September 1922 through January 1923. The republican paper disappeared as the Irish civil war concluded later in 1923.

Additional resources:

  • Villanova University’s Falvey Digital Library holds a limited collection of 37 issues of Poblacht na h-Éireann “War News.” University College Dublin Digital Library offers 18 issues of the paper’s larger Scottish edition. 
  • My American Reporting of Irish Independence centenary series contains dozens of journalism-focused stories, including: ” ‘Likely to cause disaffection to His Majesty’, the Seizure of Irish newspapers, September 1919″ about small press suppression.

References

References
1 ”Ireland Absorbed in Treaty’s Fate”, Evening Star, Washington, D.C., Jan. 2, 1922, and other U.S. papers, from “The New Year”, Freeman’s Journal, Dublin, Jan. 2, 1922.
2 Page 1 announcement, Freeman’s Journal, Dec. 30, 1921.
3 The Dictionary of Irish Biography entries for Mellows and Gallagher do not mention this publishing venture. Mellows was executed by the Free State government in December 1922. Gallagher’s writing and political career continued until his death in 1963.
4 ”Republic The Demand of Dail Extremists, They Establish a Newspaper to Carry on Fight”, Associated Press, The New York (N.Y.) Herald, Jan. 3, 1922.
5 ”New Republican Organ”, Universal Service Special Cable Dispatch, The Anaconda (Montana) Standard, Jan. 4, 1922
6 ”The Irish Republic Speaks”, The Nation, Aug. 2, 1922, p. 132-134. The magazine published facsimiles of two issues, dated June 30 and July 1, 1922.

Best of the Blog, 2021

Welcome to my ninth annual Best of the Blog, a roundup of the year’s work. As always, I am grateful to readers, especially email subscribers and those who share the work on social media.

I also want to thank the librarians and archivists who helped my research. The pandemic kept me from returning to Ireland for the second consecutive year, but I was able to visit the Dioceses of Pittsburgh (Pa.) Archives, and the Catholic University of America Archives and Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

These institutions provided requested digitized material: University of Pittsburgh (Pa.) Archive Service Center; Special Collections Research Center at Syracuse (N.Y.) University Libraries; Archdioceses of Baltimore (Md.) Archives; New York City (N.Y.) Public Library; Memphis (Tenn.) Public Library; Johnstown (Pa.) Area Heritage Association, Cambria County (Pa.) Library, and Dioceses of Altoona (Pa.); Princeton (N.J.) University Special Collections Library; National Library of Ireland, Dublin; and Trinity College Dublin. Apologies if I’ve missed any organizations.

Thanks again for visiting the site, and best wishes for the holiday and 2022. MH

Centenary series:

I added 30 posts to my American Reporting of Irish Independence centenary series, which explores journalism and the Irish revolutionary period, mostly from this side of the Atlantic. This year’s highlights of 1921 included:

  • Posts about the American Committee for Relief in Ireland, including two U.S. delegation visits to Ireland, and the U.S. tour of an Irish White Cross leader.
  • U.S. mainstream and Irish-American press coverage of the truce, treaty, and partition of Northern Ireland.
  • A 10-part “revisited” series on the book, A Journey in Ireland, 1921.

Freelance work & presentations:

I published five pieces on five websites beyond this blog:

Cardinal Gibbons

  • A sixth piece is accepted by a U.S. state history magazine for publication in 2022.

I made two virtual presentations:

  • June 2: American Conference for Irish Studies, “Irish Diaspora Witness Statements at the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland.” See my Nov. 15, 2020, story for the Irish Diaspora Histories Network.
  • March 20: Irish Railroad Workers Museum (Baltimore), “Cardinal Gibbons and Ireland.” See my story for the Catholic Review (Baltimore), linked above the photo of Gibbons.

Five other favorites:

Guest posts:

Contributions are welcome. Use the contact form on the Guest Posts landing page, or message me on Twitter at @markaholan.

The archives:

Annual “Best of the Blog” posts since 2013, plus my (almost) monthly roundup of contemporary Irish news, “Catching up with modern Ireland,” are available in the Roundups section.

Irish-American press reactions to Anglo-Irish Treaty

Mainstream U.S. newspaper support for the Anglo-Irish Treaty remained generally consistent from the accord’s Dec. 6, 1921, announcement through its Jan. 7, 1922, ratification by Dáil Éireann in Dublin. Irish-American press reactions were more volatile over the same month, especially the flip-flops of the Gaelic American and the Irish Press.

Against, then for the treaty.

The Dec. 10 issue of the New York City-based Gaelic American contained only early wire service accounts about the agreement and no editorial statements. A week later, the paper published the full text of the treaty and offered a sampling of opinions for and against the deal. The weekly displayed its opinion in the headline “Irish-American Views on the Surrender” and description of “the misnamed Irish Free State.”[1]Irish-American Views on the Surrender“, The Gaelic American, Dec. 17, 1921.

John Devoy

Editor John Devoy based his paper’s editorial stance on the assumption that Irish leader Éamon de Valera supported the treaty. Their relationship had ruptured near the end of de Valera’s 1919-1920 American tour over the best way to leverage U.S. political muscle and grassroots fundraising to support Ireland. Davis notes, “… when it was clear de Valera in fact opposed the treaty … (the Devoy-affiliated Friends of Irish Freedom) began to change its tune. The Gaelic American began to support the Free State and the Dáil majority that voted in favor of the treaty.” Devoy wrote to Michael Collins that he was in favor of giving the new arrangement ‘a chance to do what it can for Ireland.'”[2]Davis, Troy D. “Irish Americans and the Treaty: The View from the Irish Free State.” New Hibernia Review / Iris Éireannach Nua, vol. 18, no. 2, University of St. Thomas (Center for Irish … Continue reading

Joseph McGarrity

In Philadelphia, the Irish Press criticized “fair weather friends” and “eleventh hour admirers” who had failed to support Ireland earlier in the war. The weekly ignored the divisions within republican ranks, which Publisher Joseph McGarrity helped widened through his paper’s support for de Valera. In the opinion roundup mentioned above, the Gaelic American said McGarrity “of course comes out in favor of the compromise. It was to make compromise certain that he helped to make the split.”

The first post-treaty editorial in the Irish Press said: “Regardless of the exact form that Irish Independence may finally assume, it can be accepted as an unquestioned fact that the battle is won, and that Irish energy can soon be diverted to other channels than those of war.”[3]The Ireland To Come“, The Irish Press, Dec. 10, 1921. A week later, the editorial page said, “The fact that President de Valera has refused his approval of the treaty … must be taken as sufficient evidence that the minimum demands of Ireland have not been secured. … (If he and others) feel that Ireland’s nationhood is in the slightest danger of being sacrificed they have a perfect right to give expression to their feelings before the final word is said.”[4]Peace Or A Sword–Which?“, The Irish Press, Dec. 17, 1921.

For, then against the treaty.

The Irish World of New York “rejected the treaty from the first; the paper bitterly denounced it, calling it the treaty of surrender,” Carroll has noted.[5]Carroll, Francis M., America and the Making of an Independent Ireland, New York University Press, New York, 2021, p. 147. Even after the Dáil‘s January ratification, the paper remained the organ “for the republican position in the United States and started a slanderous campaign against the supporters of the treaty and the Irish Free State.”[6]The Irish World archive is not available online.

Seven hundred miles southwest of these East Coast hotspots of Irish activism, the Kentucky Irish American reflected a simpler, perhaps naïve, rank-and-file view of the treaty. It’s first editorial reflected general relief:

Throughout the world there is rejoicing that a treaty has been signed by the Sinn Fein and the British cabinet which grants freedom to Ireland and raises her to the status of a Free State. … For over seven hundred years the Irish nation has struggled and waited for this day, which will bring peace and happiness to Ireland and England. For both this will bring a happy Christmas, and in their prayers of thanksgiving to the God of peace none will be more earnest or fervent than the sons and daughters and friends of Ireland in Louisville and Kentucky. For all it means a new and better era.[7]Freedom For Ireland“, Kentucky (Louisville) Irish American, Dec. 10, 1921.

William M. Higgins

William M. Higgins, the paper’s publisher and a member of the delegation that welcomed de Valera to Louisville in October 1919, was among the state and local officials who signed a cable of support to Collins, Arthur Griffith, and other members of the Dáil. Other supporters included Kentucky Gov. Edwin P. Morrow and Louisville Mayor Huston Quin, both Republicans.[8]”Ireland”, Kentucky (Louisville) Irish American, Dec. 17, 1921.

In a following editorial, the Irish American editorial page said:

…however much [the treaty] may fall short of what we would wish, we must still concede that the victory won has been a great victory, particularly when we consider the tremendous odds against which the Irish have had to contend. … It is those who have borne the heat and burden of the day of strife–those who risked all and dared all for their country–who only have the right to say what terms of peace will be acceptable. … We on this side of the Atlantic, who have experienced none of the savage warfare which England waged on Ireland, have no right to disprove of those terms, however much we may dislike them.[9]Victory For Ireland“, Kentucky (Louisville) Irish American, Dec. 17, 1921.

“The sons and daughters and friends of Ireland in Louisville and Kentucky” generally supported the treaty.

Other Irish papers in circulation at the time but not available for immediate review include the Irish News and Chicago Citizen, Illinois; National Hibernian (monthly), Indianapolis, Ind.; and the Sinn Feiner in New York. Irish papers that ceased publishing since the 1919 start of the war included: the Leader (Irish Catholic), San Francisco, Calif.; Irish Voice, Chicago, Ill.; Irish Standard, Minneapolis, Minn.; Irish Vindicator, Cleveland, Ohio; and Irish Pennsylvanian, Pittsburgh, Pa.[10]Based on 1919 and 1922 editions of the N. W. Ayer & Son’s American Newspaper Annual & Directory, “A Catalogue of American Newspapers”, Philadelphia, Pa.

Published its last issue June 19, 1920.

References

References
1 Irish-American Views on the Surrender“, The Gaelic American, Dec. 17, 1921.
2 Davis, Troy D. “Irish Americans and the Treaty: The View from the Irish Free State.” New Hibernia Review / Iris Éireannach Nua, vol. 18, no. 2, University of St. Thomas (Center for Irish Studies), 2014, pp. 84–96.
3 The Ireland To Come“, The Irish Press, Dec. 10, 1921.
4 Peace Or A Sword–Which?“, The Irish Press, Dec. 17, 1921.
5 Carroll, Francis M., America and the Making of an Independent Ireland, New York University Press, New York, 2021, p. 147.
6 The Irish World archive is not available online.
7 Freedom For Ireland“, Kentucky (Louisville) Irish American, Dec. 10, 1921.
8 ”Ireland”, Kentucky (Louisville) Irish American, Dec. 17, 1921.
9 Victory For Ireland“, Kentucky (Louisville) Irish American, Dec. 17, 1921.
10 Based on 1919 and 1922 editions of the N. W. Ayer & Son’s American Newspaper Annual & Directory, “A Catalogue of American Newspapers”, Philadelphia, Pa.

Dec. 6, 1921: When U.S. newspapers headlined Irish peace

More than 1 million Irish immigrants were living in America on Dec. 6, 1921, when Sinn Féin separatists and the British government signed an accord that ended their three-year war and provided limited political autonomy to four fifths of Ireland. The day climaxed centuries of struggle, but hardly ended strife on the island, which was partitioned six months earlier.

Most Irish immigrants and the U.S. press welcomed the Anglo-Irish Treaty. During Dublin debates about the deal, Sinn Féin‘s Harry Boland observed “the great public opinion of America is on the side of this treaty … [and] just as it seems the press of Ireland has adopted a unanimous attitude in favor of this treaty, so too did the American press adopt that attitude.”[1]Dáil Éireann debates, Jan. 7, 1922. Houses of the Oireachtas.

As was often the case during earlier events in the revolutionary period, some Irish republicans on both sides of the Atlantic alleged bias in mainstream newspaper coverage. Mary MacSwiney, also addressing the treaty debates, complained of “the pro-English American press.” She specifically targeted “the Hearst papers as being utterly unfair.”[2]Dáil Éireann debates, Dec. 21, 1921. Houses of the Oireachtas. Hearst owned nearly two dozen U.S. dailies at the time.

The Irish Press of Philadelphia, with direct ties to the separatist government in Dublin, charged: “The deliberate attempt of the American press to mislead the people as to the meaning of the articles of the treaty is to say the least despicable. Their efforts … [are] proof that they do not will a free Ireland.”[3]Irish Republic Triumphs“, The Irish Press, Dec. 10, 1921.

The Dec. 6, 1921, frontpage headlines of the Irish accord were the “breaking news” of an age just before widespread radio access. Some of the papers mixed other international, national, or local news in their top banners. The dozen examples below include three New York City dailies and papers in nine other U.S. cities and towns. Notes are offered below the headlines. I’ll explore Irish-American press reaction to the treaty in my following post. MH

Horace Greeley’s daily.

Favored the views of the British establishment over Irish separatists.

Seen at the White House and Congress.

Warren G. Harding was the U.S. president referenced in the top headline. He also owned the Star of Marion, Ohio, from 1884 until his 1923 death in office. Harding’s administration generally kept “the Irish question” at arm’s length.

Philadelphia had the second largest Irish population behind New York City, about 65,000 to 204,000, respectively.

Boston had the third largest Irish immigrant population, about 57,000.

Chicago’s Irish population was only slightly smaller than Boston.

Largest Irish-born population on the West Coast, about 14,000.

More than quarter of the 60,000 to nearly 100,000 residents of Butte, Montana, were Irish immigrants. They began arriving in the 1880s and worked in the Anaconda copper mine. Eamon de Valera visited the town in 1919, raising a large amount of money for the Irish cause.

Mississippi had the least number of Irish immigrants of the 48 states, fewer than 500.

My own Kerry-born maternal grandparents and other relations in Pittsburgh read this headline.

I like the dual headline treatment above and below the World’s nameplate.

References

References
1 Dáil Éireann debates, Jan. 7, 1922. Houses of the Oireachtas.
2 Dáil Éireann debates, Dec. 21, 1921. Houses of the Oireachtas.
3 Irish Republic Triumphs“, The Irish Press, Dec. 10, 1921.

Ten books for year-end gift giving, or your ‘shelf’

Most of the 10 books described below the photo focus on 19th and early 20th century Irish history. A few were published before this year. One is a first-ever English translation of a German work from 1913; another is an on-demand reissue of a 1922 title. Two books on Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania history are only tangentially about the Irish. Four of the authors are personal acquaintances, marked by *. I hope my readers will support their work. Titles are listed alphabetically and linked to where the books can be ordered online. That convenience notwithstanding, please support small history presses and independent booksellers whenever possible. Enjoy. MH

There’s a mistake in the order of this stack to make you look closer at the list below.

A Journey in Ireland, 1921, Wilfrid Ewart. The author, journalist, and retired British military officer traveled around Ireland for several weeks in spring 1921, shortly before the truce. Unfortunately, his book of experiences wasn’t published until spring 1922, after the treaty and the country’s lurch into civil war. That doesn’t matter as much today. This is a good travel read about Ireland at war, with plenty of passages beyond Dublin and Belfast. I wrote a 10-part blog serial revisiting the people and events Ewart encountered 100 years earlier.

America and The Making of an Independent Ireland, Francis M. Carroll. The book consolidates Carroll’s long career of scholarship on this topic. It “argues that the existence of the state of Ireland is owed to considerable effort and intervention by Irish Americans and the American public at large.” Beginning with the 1916 Rising, the final chapter pushes the story into the early phases of U.S.-Irish relations after partition and the civil war. It compliments Bernadette Whelan’s United States Foreign Policy and Ireland: From Empire to Independence, 1913-29, and Michael Doorley’s Irish-American Diaspora Nationalism: The Friends of Irish Freedom, 1916-1935.

Ireland [1913], Richard Arnold Bermann. Translated from German and edited by Leesa Wheatley and Florian Krobb. The book is a snapshot of Ireland at the start of its revolutionary period and a year before the Great War. In their Introduction, Wheatley and Krobb also note Bermann’s “umbrage … at traces of mass tourism prone to erode the serenity of the autochthonous culture where it might still survive, and the blatant exploitation of visitors by entrepreneurial yet intrusive individuals who offer their services as guides or coach drivers.” See my post, Welcoming American tourists to Ireland, 1913-2021.

Living With History: Occasional Writings, Felix M. Larkin*. A former Irish civil servant, Larkin is one of the 2008 founders of the Newspaper and Periodical History Forum of Ireland. He has devoted special attention to the late Freeman’s Journal and is a regular contributor to the book review pages of The Irish Catholic and letters to the editor section of The Irish Times, plus more than two dozen academic works. His collection of nearly 100 pieces, ranging from 500 to 5,000 words; sectioned under nine themes, including one on American people and events; are all written for general audiences, Larkin says; and can be read sequentially, or dipped into, set aside, and returned to later with ease. I am honored that Larkin included my 2018 Q & A interview with him.

On the Edge: Ireland’s Offshore Islands, Diarmaid Ferriter. My wife and I have hiked and biked two of the three Aran Islands and look forward to a future visit to Inis Meáin. Until then, Ferriter’s “comprehensive study of Ireland’s offshore islands purposely eschews” the “reverent, patronizing and romantic tone” of earlier “cultural archivists and spiritual dreamers … seeking to understand – or even momentarily become part of – a mystical ancient Celtic society,” The Irish Independent wrote in its 2018 review. “Ferriter avoids single definitions, broad brushstrokes and hyperbole. Primarily because he is a historian who always favors fact, sources and evidence, over subjective opinion; and the great array of archival material he brings to the surface here is a good testament to his dedicated approach to research.”

Politics, Culture, and The Irish American Press 1784-1963, Edited by Debra Reddin van Tuyll, Mark O’Brien, and Marcel Broersma. This collection of 15 pieces “tell a number of important stories and provides invaluable insights about journalism, about Ireland, about America, and about the ethnicity of the Irish in America,” Irish Ambassador to the United States Dan Mulhall writes in the Forward. It is divided into three sections: the 1700s, the 1800s, and the 1900s. The book covers subjects you’d expect to find: Gillian O’Brien on Margaret Sullivan and Michael Doorley on the Gaelic American; and more obscure stories, such as Colum Kenny on Michael Davitt’s work for William Randolph Hearst, and Mark O’Brien on American influences at the Irish Press–Dev’s Dublin daily, 1931-1955, not his supporters’ earlier Philadelphia weekly, 1918-1922. A welcome addition to any journalism collection.

The Catholic Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania: Its Origins, Establishment, Decline, and Resurrection, John C. Bates*. Cork-born Michael O’Connor in 1843 became the first bishop of the new see at Pittsburgh. He built churches, schools, hospitals, and other institutions (He founded the Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper.) as waves of Irish Famine immigrants and poor Catholics from Eastern Europe populated the workforce of America’s most industrialized city. The Catholic Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania was created 100 years later to share the church’s history in the region and preserve its records and artifacts. Bates’ detailed reference book documents both efforts, a “history within a history.” I’ve found this book useful in my own research, including this post: Don’t drink: Father Mathew’s temperance tour in Pittsburgh.

The Fall of the Fitzmaurices, Kay Caball*. A professional genealogist and author of the definitive Finding Your Ancestors in Kerry. (She has helped me find relations and other Kerry characters.), Fall tells of the demise of the Fitzmaurice family, who had been powerful Lords of Kerry since 1235. “What could have happened to this Kerry dynasty after almost 500 years of acquisition and expansion, which was then so reduced in such a short space of time?” Caball asked in a late 2020 guest post that previews her book. “We would have to say improvidence, extravagance, careless management, and improvidence.”

The Irish Assassins, Julie Kavanaugh. This new treatment of the 1882 Phoenix Park murders and their aftermath is the most commercially popular title on this list. The Irish Times said, “Kavanagh’s is a sweeping and compelling narrative of a story that more than bears retelling. What she has sought to do, which has not been done before, is to try to connect in time the political and social lives of what is an extended and diverse cast of characters in Britain and Ireland.” Author John Banville’s New York Times review described the book as “an adroit unpicking of the intricacies of the history, and her book is at once admirable for its scholarship and immensely enjoyable in its raciness.”

The Mount Washington Transit Tunnel Disaster, Mary Jane Kuffner Hirt*. On Christmas Eve, 1917, my Kerry-born grandfather was working as a motorman for a Pittsburgh streetcar company. That day, a car in the fleet lost power as it entered the decline of a tunnel. The crash at the other end resulted in a dozen deaths and scores of injuries, still the city’s worst transit disaster. My grandfather was not involved in the episode, but he would have felt the aftershocks of the streetcar company’s bankruptcy in this dark period of the city’s history, eight months after the United States entered World War I and weeks before the outbreak of the 1918 influenza pandemic. Kuffner Hirt’s research is meticulous. My full review in Western Pennsylvania History Magazine.

America’s 1921 relief to Ireland, revisited

Most of my work this year for the American Reporting of Irish Independence section of this blog has focused on the American Committee for Relief in Ireland. The 1921 fund drive provided $5 million to Ireland through summer 1922. Three of the 10 stories below were published outside the blog. Three key relief committee documents are also linked below the photo.

American investigators visit Ireland, February 1921

St. Patrick’s Day, 1921: ‘A Summons to Service’

Cardinal Gibbons, who died 100 years ago, was committed to Ireland, Catholic Review (Baltimore)

American visitors describe ‘Distress in Ireland,’ April 1921

The Pittsburgh fight over 1921 relief to Ireland 

War relief to Listowel and North Kerry, 1921Listowel Connection

‘A duty to their own flesh & blood’

Forgotten Charity Between Ireland and America, 1889 & 1921, The Irish Story

The lawyer, the banker & money to Ireland, fall 1921

Irish visitor thanks America for 1921 financial relief

The American Committee for Relief in Ireland inspecting factory ruins at Balbriggan. Hogan, W. D. (1921).

KEY DOCUMENTS

Ruth Russell in revolutionary Ireland, revisited

Ruth Russell, 1919.

American journalist Ruth Russell reported from Ireland during the early months of the Irish War of Independence. Upon her return to America, she joined a women’s protest against Britain, testified before a special committee exploring conditions in Ireland, and published a book based on her dispatches for the Chicago Daily News.

The five-part monograph below, published in 2019, also explorers earlier and later periods of Russell’s life. I presented my research about her at the American Journalism Historians Association annual conference in Dallas, October 2019; the Newspaper and Periodical History Forum of Ireland annual conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland, November 2019; and at the Irish Railroad Workers Museum in Baltimore, March 2020. Here’s the series:

This sixth post details my effort to add Ruth’s name to the grave in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where she was buried with her sister.

Finally, this ‘Toward America‘ video from the Mná100 website, released in 2021 as part of the Irish government’s Decade of Centenaries program, also included my work on Russell.

Delivering my research at the Newspaper and Periodical History Forum of Ireland conference at Queens University Belfast in November 2019.