Tag Archives: American Committee for Relief in Ireland

Letters reveal Samuel D. McCoy’s Irish literary connections

This post continues my review of the Samuel Duff McCoy papers at Princeton University. It is part of my American Reporting of Irish Independence series, which I am expanding into a book. MH

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UPDATE, July 20, 2022:

The 12-page, typed James Stephens (under James Esse) manuscript titled “If You Have Not Been To Connacht” that is referenced in the original post below appears to have been part of a 32-page, handwritten manuscript titled “Saluting Maeve, Queen of Connacht, Queen of Hearts, Queen of the Fairies.” It once belonged in the collection of bibliophile and philanthropist James A Healy, a New York stockbroker. Birgit Bramsbäck cited this collection in her monograph, James Stephens: A Literary and Bibliographical Study, first published in 1959.[1]Birgit Bramsbäck, James Stephens: A Literary and Bibliographical Study, Norwood Editions, 1975. Reprint of 1959 ed. published by Lundequist, Upsula. Issued as no. 4, Upsula Irish Studies. Thanks to … Continue reading Healy died in 1975.

The first seven lines of the longer “Maeve” piece are in ink, the remainder in pencil and “profusely revised,” according to one description.[2]Richard Cary, “James Stephens at Colby College” in Colby Library Quarterly, series 5, no.9, March 1961, p.224-253. “Maeve” description p. 238. The manuscript is inscribed at the end, “James Stephens / Cafe Napolitaine / Boui. des Italiennes / Paris / 14 Sep. 1921.”[3]Ibid, and noted by Bramsbäck. As noted in the original post below, effort was soon made to have a version of this story published in America.

The story is about Connacht, and primarily about Galway at “the first week of the truce” (July 11, 1921), according to the version in the McCoy papers. Bramsbäck quoted Stephens’s description of poor people being harassed by British troops in the west of Ireland. I have bolded one word from the manuscript in the McCoy collection that differs from the text quoted by Bramsbäck :

These stories can be multiplied and multiplied but it is asking (among) the poor one seeks for them, for it is the poor who pay. They are true not only of Ireland but of every country where backs have grown accoustomed to bowing and where the art of advertising his misfortunes has not been taught to the simple man, indeed, to consider misfortune as constant and compliance as a waste of time is the culture of the poor, and lends to him a fortune in distress which would bring a sense of shame to every person of a livelier intelligence or an easier situation.

Stephens’s papers are scattered among many locations, as noted below. Saluting Maeve” is held at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.

ORIGINAL POST, July 14, 2022:

When he wasn’t publicly detailing Ireland’s war-related humanitarian needs in 1921, American journalist Samuel Duff McCoy privately promoted Irish arts and letters. At least the Irish urged him to.

McCoy had a literary background beyond his 20 years of working at Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia newspapers, plus a turn as Red Cross publicity director during the Great War. At Princeton, he was a student editor at the Nassau Literary Magazine. In 1915 he co-founded the journal Contemporary Verse and regularly contributed prose and poetry to national magazines.

During two 1921 trips to Ireland, McCoy had contact with several Irish writers and book dealers, as revealed in letters to him. Full details of the relationships are unclear, but the letters sketch efforts to bring the work of Daniel Corkery and James Stephens to American readers. McCoy’s papers also contain what appears to be an unpublished Stephens short story about Connacht.

Daniel Corkery

McCoy and his American Committee for Relief in Ireland colleagues established their headquarters at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin. Patrick O’Daly (Pádraig Ó Dálaigh) of Talbot Press Limited wrote to McCoy soon after the delegation’s mid-February 1921 arrival.

“I have just had a note from a friend of ours, Daniel Corkery, author of ‘The Hounds of Banba,’ in which he mentions your name,” O’Daly wrote. “Do you not think it would be a good thing if we could have this book published in America? It seems to us, at least, that the present time ought to be kind of favourable when Ireland, and matters relating to Ireland, are so much in the public mind.”[4]Samuel McCoy Papers, 1868-1964, Series 3, Correspondence B-Z, Folder 9. O’Day to McCoy, March 8, 1921.

Corkery (1878-1964) began writing short stories and plays in his 20s while working as a teacher. He also played the cello and dabbled in painting. Following the success of his debut collection, A Munster Twilight, in 1916, Talbot Press published The Hounds of Banba in 1920.[5]Daniel Corkery” in the online Dictionary of Irish Biography, October 2009.

From McCoy Papers, Princeton University.

Banba is a poetic name for the spirit of Ireland in an earlier age; one of a divine trio of eponyms along with Ériu and Fódla.[6]Online Oxford Reference. The hounds are the island’s occupiers, the British police and military. Corkery dedicated the book’s nine stories about nationalist revolutionaries to “The Young Men of Ireland.”

O’Daly asked McCoy to meet “at your convenience.” He also enclosed, at Corkery’s request, he wrote, the 1920-21 catalogue of Talbot Press, 89 Talbot St., Dublin, which listed The Hounds of Banba. The 28-page booklet also included John Butler Yeats’s Essays: Irish and American. “The stories are of the present day, dealing with the adventures of men ‘on the run’ and other works in the Sinn Fein Movement,” read the description. (McCoy’s papers also include the April 1920 catalogue of Maunsel & Co., Ltd., 50 Lower Baggot St., Dublin, and the “No. 1” 1920 catalogue of The Irish Book Shop, Limited, 45 Dawson St., Dublin. These items are not associated with letters.)

Recognize this signature? 

An undated, handwritten letter to McCoy by a correspondent with a mysterious signature says: “I understand from Mr. Corkery that you’ve expressed to him your interest in the publishing of his books.”[7]McCoy Papers, Correspondence Unidentified, Folder 13. Unidentified correspondent to McCoy, undated. The correspondent, who acknowledged a thank you note from McCoy for providing unspecified help to the American Committee, was chiefly interested in his assistance to re-issue Edward Bunting’s (1773-1843) Irish music catalogue.

It’s unclear from McCoy’s papers if he met O’Daly. Corkery’s papers at University College Cork contain several 1921 letters from O’Daly and Talbot Press regarding efforts to find a U.S. publisher for The Hounds of Banba. McCoy is not named in the finding guide descriptions, though possibly referenced in the letters. The New York publisher B. W. Huebsch issued the book in spring 1922.

McCoy used the book title–without reference to Corkery–in the opening segment of his 10-part series, “The Lads Who Freed Ireland,” syndicated from January 1922 in U.S. newspapers. McCoy wrote, “… the world gazes, dumbfounded, at the Hounds of Banba today. The first has become last. Have we, the powerful, what Ireland has shown us?”[8]”White Heat/Chapter 1” of “The Lads Who Freed Ireland”, Minneapolis (Minn.) Morning Tribune, Feb. 6, 1922, via United Features Syndicate.

That summer, Corkery’s story “Egan O’Rahilly” (1670-1726) appeared in The Celtic Outlook, the literary journal that succeeded The Irish Press, Philadelphia, weekly newspaper.[9]See my “On ‘The Irish Press’, ‘Celtic Outlook’, and Villanova digital.” He later devoted a chapter to the Irish language poet in his book The Hidden Ireland.

E. Byrne Hackett

McCoy returned to America in April 1921 to continue his work with the American Committee for Irish relief, including the release of its “Distress in Ireland” report and an unsuccessful request the U.S. State Department distribute the money.[10]See my “American visitors describe ‘Distress in Ireland,’ April 1921. Carroll, F. M. “The American Committee for Relief in Ireland, 1920-22.” Irish Historical Studies, vol. 23, … Continue reading He steamed back to Ireland that summer, mixing his committee duties with traditional journalism, including two pieces for Leslie’s Weekly.[11]”George: A Letter to King George Concerning Colonel George”, June 11, 1921, and “How Belfast Greets Royalty,” Aug. 13, 1921. Kilkenny native and U.S. antiquarian bookstore owner Edmond Byrne Hackett wrote to McCoy at the Standard Hotel in Dublin on Oct. 22, 1921, from his New York office. He acknowledged receipt an article by James Stephens about Connacht.

“It will give me pleasure to attempt to market it, and I am sending it first of all to The Century as I happen to know that the editor is interested in the present status of affairs in Ireland,” reads an unsigned, typewritten copy.[12]McCoy Papers, Correspondence A, Folder 12. Hackett to McCoy, Oct. 22, 1921.

E. Byrne Hackett                (Martin Dostál, Geni.com)

Hackett (1879-1953) was the fifth son of Dr. John Byrne Hackett, the Kilkenny coroner. The son was educated at Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare, and St. Francis College, Sussex, England, then emigrated to the United States in 1899. In America, he worked as a salesman at Doubleday Page & Company in New York from 1901-1907, and as manager of publishing at Baker & Taylor Company from 1907-1909. He served as director of the Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., soon after its founding in 1908, and established the Brick Row Book Shop in that city in 1915.[13]Compiled from E. Byrne Hackett papers, Yale University; “Byrne Hackett and His Bookshops“, The Publisher’s Weekly, Oct. 1, 1921, p.1182; “E. Byrne Hackett Dies In … Continue reading

Byrne Hackett also was the brother of journalist and author Francis Hackett (1883-1962), who emigrated in 1900. Francis began his career as a beat reporter in Chicago but later switched to writing editorials and literary criticism. He became a founding editor of The New Republic magazine in 1914. In summer 1920, he returned to Ireland and detailed the war atrocities he witnessed for the magazine and in a six-part series for the New York World, which syndicated the work to other papers three month’s before McCoy’s “Lads” series. In November 1920, Francis testified before the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland. It seems more likely that McCoy was influenced by, rather than unaware of, Francis Hackett’s 1920 Irish reporting and commission testimony, given his correspondence with Byrne Hackett.[14]See Part 1 and Part 2 of my “Two Irish immigrant journalists return home, 1920” posts.

A second letter to McCoy from Byrne Hackett in the Princeton archive is handwritten and undated. It probably preceded the typed letter, most likely from late summer or early fall 1921.

“I am very sorry again to have missed you and James Stephens. I have only this minute got back from Kilkenny (one unreadable word) with some kinsfolk.”[15]McCoy Papers, Correspondence B-Z, Folder 15. Hackett to McCoy, Undated.

Hackett wrote he was in London buying books for the new Brick Row Book Shop at 68 1/2 Nassau Street in Princeton, N.J., which followed the summer 1920 opening of a second store in New York City. “It promises to do good work down at Princeton as has been done in New Haven for some time,” Hackett wrote of the third store.

This image illustrated the Brick Row Book Shop story in the Yale Banner and Pot Pourri, 1922 Year Book. It was not described as the New Haven, New York, or Princeton stores, or anyplace else.

The Princeton store opened in October 1921 and was soon described in Yale’s alumni weekly:

Commodious quarters consisting of reading and display rooms, as well as the main store, have been provided. The reading room has been fitted with comfortable lounges and chairs, and there prospective buyers are assured of an open fire, quite, and access to any book that the store has. The policy of fostering interest in good reading and of so arranging matters that anyone may browse without the necessity of buying was sure to meet with approval from the first, and the shop has been well filled with students since the day of the opening.[16]”The Brick Row at Princeton”, The Yale Alumni Weekly, Nov. 25, 1921, p. 250.

Hackett, who received an honorary Master of Arts degree from Yale in 1914, also teased McCoy about his college background: “You did not tell me you were a Princeton man,” he wrote.[17]Degree from Note 9, quote from Note 11.

James Stephens

James Stephens

Stephens (1880-1950) should not be be confused with the same-name Fenian leader (1825-1901). The author also wrote under the pseudonym James Esse. In his mid-20s, Stephens began writing for United Irishman, later Sinn Féin, and other papers edited by Arthur Griffith. These nationalist publications were often suppressed by the British government. In the second installment of his “Lads” series, McCoy quoted Stephens talking about Griffith :

” ‘His worst trouble, in those days,’ James Stephens to me, with a twinkle in his eye, ‘was thinking up new names for his paper. He used to lay awake nights, thinking up new names for it, he did so.’ “[18]”The Smiling Swordsman/Chapter 2” of “The Lads Who Freed Ireland”, Minneapolis (Minn.) Morning Tribune, Feb. 7, 1922, via United Features Syndicate.

McCoy also relayed a story–unattributed to Stephens, Griffith or anyone else–of the two men strolling down Grafton Street late one evening early in the revolutionary period.  A pair of “young rowdies” twice knocked Griffith’s hat off of his head. Without a word, he removed his glasses and struck a blow “that started from Griffith’s pacifistic shoulders and ended on the point of one of the young rough’s jaw, with the impact of a ton of brick.” Griffith and Stephens then continued their conversation from the point of interruption, according to McCoy’s telling.

Arthur Griffith

As Stephens was writing for Griffith, Irish writer and artist George Willian Russell, known by the pseudonym AE, introduced him to Dublin literary circles. In 1916, Stephens observed the fighting around St. Stephen’s Green at Easter week. His instant book, The Insurrection in Dublin, “is regarded as the most vivid account by a contemporary observer of the changing moods and scenes of Dublin during the rising,” according to the Dictionary of Irish Biography.

Whatever efforts Byrne Hackett might have made to place Stephens’s Connacht story, the piece did not appear in The Century. The magazine’s November 1921 issue featured an interview with Russell, who complimented Stephens, Austin Clarke, and John Millington Synge as among the best practitioners of modern Irish verse.[19]The Opinions of AE“, The Century Magazine, Vol. 103, No. 1, November 1921, pgs. 3-9. The Dial literary magazine, another American journal, reviewed the U.S. release of Stephens’s Irish Fairy Tales, published the previous year in Ireland.

In October 1922, The Century published Stephens’s “The Outlook for Literature, With Special Reference to Ireland.” The eight-page assessment of the post-war cultural and political landscape included this passage:

… during the last five years the national act of Ireland has been so real that it has achieved what older minds considered to be impossible, and has achieved by methods which the official and logical intellect, if its advice had been sought, could only have considered as infantile. It is the good fact of life that the infant wins always, and I think that Ireland awakens from her profound sleep as the youngest race now active in the world, and the best fitted to accept possible modifications with the curiosity and good humor of a brave young person.[20]The Outlook for Literature“, The Century Magazine, Vol. 104, No. 6, October 1922, pgs. 811-181.

Stephens also wrote Arthur Griffith: journalist and statesman, a tribute to his former editor, after the Sinn Féin founder died Aug. 12, 1922, due to several health complications.

Connacht story 

The McCoy papers at Princeton contain a 12-page typed manuscript with the byline of James Esse.[21]Samuel McCoy Papers, 1868-1964, Ireland, Conflict With Great Britain, 1921, American Committee for Relief in Ireland, Box 6, Folder 1. The piece is titled “If You Have Not Been To Connacht.” The word “Publicity” is handwritten in pencil in the top right corner.

The piece begins:

If you have not been to Connacht it is unlikely that a verbal description will assist you to realise the wonderful country. Many visits are necessary before the unearthly beauty, and, at times, unearthly radiance of that ancient kingdom become apparent to the traveller. A run through leaves one with a somewhat bewildering recollection of rocks, but when Connemara is recalled in the solitudes of ‘afterwards’ you may discover that you think of rocks with an affection you had never before dared to chance on stony ground.

The piece ends with a variation of the first sentence: “But if you have not been to Connemara it is unlikely that a verbal description will help you to realise the wonderful country.” My emphasis of the differences.

It appears this story was never published in America or Ireland. There are collections of Stephens’s papers at the New York Public Library , Kent State University (Ohio), Trinity College Dublin, and Stanford University Libraries, in addition to Colby. The TCD collection contains a 1926 letter to Stephens from McCoy, who expresses concern about the writer’s heath, saying he had “the same illness” five years earlier.[22]Stephen’s papers, MS 10408/26/1464, Trinity College Dublin, as relayed by July 16, 2022, email from Manuscripts & Archives Research Librarian Ellen O’Flaherty.

Connemara, County Galway.                                                                                                                      ©Tourism Ireland

References

References
1 Birgit Bramsbäck, James Stephens: A Literary and Bibliographical Study, Norwood Editions, 1975. Reprint of 1959 ed. published by Lundequist, Upsula. Issued as no. 4, Upsula Irish Studies. Thanks to Colin Smythe at Colin Smythe Limited, who pointed me to this book, which I was finally able to review at the Library of Congress.
2 Richard Cary, “James Stephens at Colby College” in Colby Library Quarterly, series 5, no.9, March 1961, p.224-253. “Maeve” description p. 238.
3 Ibid, and noted by Bramsbäck.
4 Samuel McCoy Papers, 1868-1964, Series 3, Correspondence B-Z, Folder 9. O’Day to McCoy, March 8, 1921.
5 Daniel Corkery” in the online Dictionary of Irish Biography, October 2009.
6 Online Oxford Reference.
7 McCoy Papers, Correspondence Unidentified, Folder 13. Unidentified correspondent to McCoy, undated.
8 ”White Heat/Chapter 1” of “The Lads Who Freed Ireland”, Minneapolis (Minn.) Morning Tribune, Feb. 6, 1922, via United Features Syndicate.
9 See my “On ‘The Irish Press’, ‘Celtic Outlook’, and Villanova digital.”
10 See my “American visitors describe ‘Distress in Ireland,’ April 1921. Carroll, F. M. “The American Committee for Relief in Ireland, 1920-22.” Irish Historical Studies, vol. 23, no. 89, 1982, pp. 30-49. Whelan, Bernadette, United States Foreign Policy and Ireland: From Empire to Independence, 1913-29, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2006, See Ch. 8, “Harding, Irish Relief Aid And Recognition”, pp. 326-327.
11 ”George: A Letter to King George Concerning Colonel George”, June 11, 1921, and “How Belfast Greets Royalty,” Aug. 13, 1921.
12 McCoy Papers, Correspondence A, Folder 12. Hackett to McCoy, Oct. 22, 1921.
13 Compiled from E. Byrne Hackett papers, Yale University; “Byrne Hackett and His Bookshops“, The Publisher’s Weekly, Oct. 1, 1921, p.1182; “E. Byrne Hackett Dies In Hospital”, The Central New Jersey (New Brunswick) Home News, Nov. 11, 1953; and “Well Known Irishman’s Death in U.S.”, Irish Examiner, Nov. 18, 1953.
14 See Part 1 and Part 2 of my “Two Irish immigrant journalists return home, 1920” posts.
15 McCoy Papers, Correspondence B-Z, Folder 15. Hackett to McCoy, Undated.
16 ”The Brick Row at Princeton”, The Yale Alumni Weekly, Nov. 25, 1921, p. 250.
17 Degree from Note 9, quote from Note 11.
18 ”The Smiling Swordsman/Chapter 2” of “The Lads Who Freed Ireland”, Minneapolis (Minn.) Morning Tribune, Feb. 7, 1922, via United Features Syndicate.
19 The Opinions of AE“, The Century Magazine, Vol. 103, No. 1, November 1921, pgs. 3-9.
20 The Outlook for Literature“, The Century Magazine, Vol. 104, No. 6, October 1922, pgs. 811-181.
21 Samuel McCoy Papers, 1868-1964, Ireland, Conflict With Great Britain, 1921, American Committee for Relief in Ireland, Box 6, Folder 1.
22 Stephen’s papers, MS 10408/26/1464, Trinity College Dublin, as relayed by July 16, 2022, email from Manuscripts & Archives Research Librarian Ellen O’Flaherty.

‘Don’t get shot.’ Samuel Duff McCoy’s 1921 Ireland travels

This post is based on my review of the Samuel Duff McCoy papers at Princeton University. It is part of my American Reporting of Irish Independence series, which I am expanding into a book. MH

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Journalist Samuel Duff McCoy began a year of travel in revolutionary Ireland with a three-day side trip to Washington D.C.; arriving Jan. 22, 1921, by train from New York City.[1]Samuel McCoy Papers, 1868-1964, Series 3, Correspondence, 1915-1963, Ireland, Conflict with Great Britain, 1921, Related correspondence, A, Folder 20, McCoy’s expense report, Jan. 27, 1921. His itinerary in the capital included a stop at the Quality Shop, 1307 F Street, N.W., three blocks from the White House. The 39-year-old probably admired the shop’s selection of new phonographs, perhaps he even sampled some music in one of the “soundproof, comfortable demonstrating parlors.” An advertisement promised “the afternoon’s work will be more pleasant and you will work with more zest if you drop in for a half hour or so and hear Art Hickman’s latest jazz hit, Bert Williams’ new ‘blues,’ Nora Bayes’ character song or inimitable Al Jolson.”[2]“Washington’s New Columbia Shop” advertisement, Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), Nov. 21, 1920, p. 21.

McCoy’s 1921 passport photo.

But McCoy visited the shop to pose for a passport photo as he readied to cross the Atlantic. Leaders of the newly-formed American Committee for Relief in Ireland had just appointed him as the secretary of an eight-member delegation that would assess humanitarian needs after two years of war between Irish separatists and British authorities. Dressed in a dark suit and vest, a lightly polka dotted bow tie tucked underneath his white shirt collar, McCoy faced the camera with a serious, determined look.[3]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 17. Undated passport photo with Quality Shop stamp on back and Jan. 22, 1921, letter of introduction from Richard Campbell.

The Iowa-born McCoy began his newspaper career in 1903 after graduating from Princeton University. He started at the Washington Times, moved on to the Brooklyn Eagle and New York Evening Sun, then the Public Ledger and Evening Bulletin in Philadelphia. In 1917, when the United States entered the war in Europe, McCoy became publicity director for the Philadelphia chapter of the American Red Cross. He rejoined the Sun in New York after the armistice. [4]McCoy Papers, Box 10, I. Writings, F. Autobiographical Notes. Who’s Who In America, Vol. 20, 1938-1939, with supplementary notes.

But McCoy was no ordinary newspaper man. From age 16 he contributed prose and poetry to national magazines. He was among only a few non-senior editors of Princeton’s Nassau Literary Magazine, and later co-founded the journal Contemporary Verse. In 1904, Chicago’s Marshall Field hired McCoy as a private tutor for his two grandsons during a two-month trip to Augusta, Ga., aboard the private rail car of Robert Todd Lincoln, president of the Pullman Company and son of the assassinated Civil War president. McCoy also worked as an editor at the Bobbs-Merrill book publishing company in Indianapolis, Ind.

As McCoy completed the paperwork for his 1921 passport, U.S. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer wrote a letter of introduction on his behalf to U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain John W. Davis in London. Palmer and McCoy knew each other from Philadelphia, and they potentially reconnected in Washington that January. Palmer wrote to Davis: “I do not know what he is going to England for, but I can vouch for the character of any work undertakes.” He described the journalist as “a loyal American, a keen observer, and a splendid writer.”[5]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, Unidentified, Folder 1, Jan. 24, 1921, Palmer to Davis.

Within days of Palmer’s letter, attorney Richard Campbell, the New York City-based secretary of the American Committee, sent a hand-written letter to McCoy about the upcoming trip. The County Antrim native mentioned his family and business contacts in Ireland who would either look up McCoy in Dublin or welcome him to other parts of the country. “Have as good a time as you can. Don’t get shot—remain indoors at night,” Campbell advised.[6]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 18. Jan. 27, 1921, Campbell to McCoy.

Cover of McCoy’s 14-page report, released in April 1921.

First trip

By mid-February, McCoy and the seven other Americans sat down in London with British officials to discuss the situation in Ireland. Then, the U.S. delegation crossed the Irish Sea to Dublin. They spent six weeks in Ireland, traveling to nearly 100 cities and villages in 22 of the island’s 32 counties.[7]See “American investigators visit Ireland, February 1921.”

McCoy wrote the delegation’s official report, “Distress in Ireland,” as he returned to America in April.[8]See “American visitors describe ‘Distress in Ireland,’ April 1921.” His narrative, addressed to the American Committee’s executive board and released to the public as a 14-page pamphlet, refers to “your delegation” and “our investigation.” McCoy turned self-referential in the last paragraph of the report:

The need from the burning of homes seems to me to be both great and pressing. We went through dozens of towns where there were homes and shops burnt; in most cases these people have made claims for damages, but in the meantime, these claims have not been paid, in many cases there is little probability of their ever being paid. As an individual I am entirely convinced that many of these people were entirely innocent of any complicity in the acts for which there were punished by having their homes burnt.

Back in Washington, McCoy unsuccessfully lobbied U.S. State Department officials to support the relief effort. The American government balked at providing domestic aid to Great Britain as London officials declared the relief effort succor to the Irish separatists. Despite its stated desire to remain non-partisan, the American Committee would have to work directly with the Irish White Cross, which was sympathetic to the Irish republican cause.

McCoy received correspondence from Clemens J. France, the delegation leader who had remained in Ireland. “I am very anxious to know regarding your reception by the (American) Committee in New York,” France wrote from Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel. “As yet I have received no word from the Committee as to future plans. Every one here, of course, is very anxious about the reconstruction work” being funded by the American relief money.[9]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 4. April 30, 1921, France to McCoy.

The relief effort also faced sectarian headwinds. France sent McCoy a copy of his letter to Campbell, the lawyer and Committee secretary, detailing efforts to collect the signatures of 1,000 prominent Irish Protestants who supported the American relief. “I think you will agree with me that these are times which call for active co-operation by all who are interested in the Christian principals of humanity, and it is in this spirt that I am making this appeal for your personal co-operation,” France wrote in his “Dear Sir (or Madam)” cover letter to potential signers. He told Campbell “about two hundred” had signed.[10]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 4. April 30, 1921, France to Campbell, and undated appeal cover letter on American Committee stationary showing the names of the eight-member … Continue reading

Through May McCoy attended public events to support the American fund raising effort, including Lord Mayor of Dublin Lawrence O’Neil’s stop in Boston. But the reporter soon returned to Ireland, this time accompanied by his wife.

Second trip

“Welcome back to Ireland,” Frank Daly, chairman of the Cork Harbour Commission and Irish White Cross member wrote to McCoy in Dublin in late June. “We are rather in a state of chaos here just at present. … There are a great many cases requiring attention … “[11]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, B-Z, Folder 4. June 30, 1921, Daly to McCoy.

McCoy’s itinerary through October included a mix of relief work, efforts to market his own writing and the manuscripts of Irish authors, and sightseeing. He was in Ireland for the start of the truce, partition of Northern Ireland, and prison release of separatist leaders as British and Irish negotiators in London hammered out the treaty that ended the war. He reunited with France. They rendezvoused with American Committee Treasurer John J. Pulleyn and Campbell, who had warned about gun violence, then making their own visit to Ireland. [12]See “The lawyer, the banker & money to Ireland, fall 1921.”

As Pulleyn and Campbell prepared to sail back to America, the Irish negotiators in London issued a special letter thanking the American Committee “and all those in the United States who have contributed to its funds for the generous assistance sent to Ireland for the relief of the suffering, loss and misery incurred by the Irish people in their struggle for national independence.” The letter also expressed “appreciation of the able and devoted work done in Ireland on behalf of your committee my Messrs. France and McCoy and those associated with them.”[13]Reports, American Committee for Relief In Ireland and Irish White Cross, 1922, Irish Delegation of Plenipotentiaries to Campbell and Pulleyn, Oct. 29, 1921, p. 56.

McCoy, moved by the acknowledgement, penned a note to Irish leader Arthur Griffith on R.M.S. Aquitania stationary. He wrote:

Throughout my association with the relief work in Ireland my one constantly recurring regret was that I could not do something directly for Ireland’s cause; the little that I might do in other directions seemed, and still seems, nothing compared with the devotion of Irish men and Irish women; and so, although the kind thing said in your letter moved me deeply because it came from such men as you, I can accept it only for what I inwardly hoped to be able to do and not for anything I did do.[14]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, B-Z, Folder 14. Nov. 12, 1921, McCoy to Griffith. Underlined words in original letter.

‘The Lads’ series

A different image of McCoy was used in this newspaper advertisement for his 1922 series. Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minn.) Feb. 1, 1922.

Upon completing his fourth Atlantic crossing in mid-November, McCoy began to write a newspaper series about his 1921 experiences in Ireland. He “locked himself in at the Princeton Club (in New York City) and has been writing like mad against time ever since,” United Feature Syndicate manager Norris A. Huse told prospective editors days before Christmas.[15]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, B-Z, Folder 27. Dec. 22, 1921, Huse to Dear Sir. Huse continued:

“McCoy’s stuff is graphic. It will grip the readers and make an indelible impression. His words are alive. They pulsate. They paint a picture that moves. The papers that run this series will have a tremendous opportunity to make a tremendous circulation building feature of it. It’s big stuff–it’s news–it’s hot off the griddle–it’s a real BEAT!”

Huse syndicated McCoy’s 10-part, 20,000-word series in January 1922 under the headline “The Lads Who Freed Ireland.” The New York Morning World, Chicago Daily News, San Francisco Examiner, Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minn.), Fall River (Mass.) Globe, and Grand Island (Neb.) Daily Independent were among the U.S. papers that purchased the series for $20 per article. McCoy’s reporting from Ireland also appeared in Leslie’s Weekly and The Literary Digest magazines.

McCoy had met leading characters and witnessed important events in the final year of the Irish revolution. He didn’t get shot. But the heroic triumph of Irish separatists that he described was soon sullied by the Irish Civil War.

I will explore the series in a future post.

References

References
1 Samuel McCoy Papers, 1868-1964, Series 3, Correspondence, 1915-1963, Ireland, Conflict with Great Britain, 1921, Related correspondence, A, Folder 20, McCoy’s expense report, Jan. 27, 1921.
2 “Washington’s New Columbia Shop” advertisement, Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), Nov. 21, 1920, p. 21.
3 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 17. Undated passport photo with Quality Shop stamp on back and Jan. 22, 1921, letter of introduction from Richard Campbell.
4 McCoy Papers, Box 10, I. Writings, F. Autobiographical Notes. Who’s Who In America, Vol. 20, 1938-1939, with supplementary notes.
5 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, Unidentified, Folder 1, Jan. 24, 1921, Palmer to Davis.
6 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 18. Jan. 27, 1921, Campbell to McCoy.
7 See “American investigators visit Ireland, February 1921.”
8 See “American visitors describe ‘Distress in Ireland,’ April 1921.”
9 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 4. April 30, 1921, France to McCoy.
10 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 4. April 30, 1921, France to Campbell, and undated appeal cover letter on American Committee stationary showing the names of the eight-member visiting delegation.
11 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, B-Z, Folder 4. June 30, 1921, Daly to McCoy.
12 See “The lawyer, the banker & money to Ireland, fall 1921.”
13 Reports, American Committee for Relief In Ireland and Irish White Cross, 1922, Irish Delegation of Plenipotentiaries to Campbell and Pulleyn, Oct. 29, 1921, p. 56.
14 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, B-Z, Folder 14. Nov. 12, 1921, McCoy to Griffith. Underlined words in original letter.
15 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, B-Z, Folder 27. Dec. 22, 1921, Huse to Dear Sir.

St. Patrick’s Day, 1919-1922, in four quotes

War and other strife in Ireland drew special attention in America at St. Patrick’s Day from two months after the first Dáil Éireann in January 1919, to two months after approval of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in January 1922. The four quotes below reflect developments on March 17 over this period. They are taken from my American Reporting of Irish Independence archive .

St. Patrick’s Day in America, 1919: “Irish freedom was demanded, and the league of nations, as proposed at present, was condemned at a mass meeting last night at Liberty Hut under the auspices of the United Irish Societies of the District that was the climax of the National Capital’s celebration of St. Patrick’s day.” — The Washington Post

St. Patrick’s Day in America, 1920: Politics and poetry: “Those of our race who are citizens of this mighty land of America, whose thoughts will help to mould the policy of the leader among Nations–how much the world looks to you this St. Patrick’s Day–hopes in you–trusts in you.” —Sinn Féin leader Éamon de Valera, then touring America, in a message widely quoted in U.S. newspapers. Denis Aloysius McCarthy also released a poem that emphasized the historic connections between Ireland and America.

St. Patrick’s Day, 1921: ‘A Summons to Service’: “Day after day you read with fainting heart the desolation that is gripping Ireland. You know that what you read is but half the story. … This is not an ‘appeal.’ It is rather a summons to Americans to join wholeheartedly in an enterprise of mercy.” — From A Summons to Service from the Women and Children of Ireland, the 16-page booklet used by the American Committee for Relief in Ireland to support its humanitarian fundraising drive.

Dual delegations at St. Patrick’s Day, 1922: “The growing disunity among the nationalist leaders in Ireland was dramatically revealed to the Irish in America in the form of two rival delegations sent to the United States on behalf of their respective factions.” — Historian Francis M. Carroll. Civil war in Ireland began three months later and would not conclude until shortly after St. Patrick’s Day 1923.

Exploring the Samuel Duff McCoy Papers at Princeton

Journalist Samuel Duff McCoy and seven other Americans traveled to revolutionary Ireland in February 1921 to assess its humanitarian needs after two years of war with Britain. Six weeks later, McCoy, then 39, wrote the delegation’s investigative report as he returned home to urge the U.S. State Department to distribute relief funds being collected in America. Unsuccessful in that effort, McCoy sailed back to Ireland that summer to coordinate the relief effort with the Irish White Cross and report on the end of the war for U.S. newspapers and magazines.

Samuel Duff McCoy, probably January 1921 passport photo. It is stamped on the back from a Washington, D.C. studio. Samuel McCoy Papers, 1868-1964, Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

McCoy’s work with the American Committee for Relief in Ireland has been documented by historians of this period’s U.S.-Irish relations, notably Francis M. Carroll and Bernadette Whelan.[1]Carroll, Francis M., America and the Making of an Independent Ireland, A History, New York University Press, New York, 2021, and Whelan, Bernadette, United States Foreign Policy and Ireland: From … Continue reading But McCoy’s reporting from Ireland has not received much attention. And historians appear to have overlooked McCoy’s personal papers, which are held at Princeton University in New Jersey.

I have just completed a review of the Ireland-related material in this archive. It includes nearly 100 letters to and from McCoy, most dated from January 1921 through the first half of 1922. His correspondents include Clemens J. France, an American lawyer, leader of the relief delegation, and an early assistant to the fledgling Irish Free State government. Other writers include top officials of the American Committee based in New York City, Lord Mayor of Dublin Laurence O’Neill, Irish historian Alice Stopford Green, and IRA commander and Dáil Éireann member Seán MacEoin.

The material also includes hand edited typescripts of McCoy’s “The Lads Who Freed Ireland” series, syndicated in early 1922 to U.S. newspapers including the New York Morning World, Chicago Daily New, San Francisco Examiner, and Minneapolis Star Tribune. United Feature Syndicate publicity material describes the 10-part series as “The Red Hot ‘Inside’ Story of the Dramatic Struggle That Led to Liberty.” McCoy’s work, or articles about his work, also appeared in Leslie’s Weekly and The Literary Digest.

The archive also includes:

  • Unpublished or draft manuscripts by McCoy, American suffragist and author Doris Stevens, and Irish writer James Stephens, under the pseudonym James Esse.
  •  A report by New York banker John J. Pulleyn and lawyer Richard Campbell, the American Committee’s  treasurer and secretary, respectively, on their October 1921 visit to Ireland, plus McCoy’s press release about their arrival to the London newspapers.
  • A map of Ireland showing the nearly 100 cities and villages in 22 of the island’s 32 counties covered by the investigative team in February 1921, a notated Irish-English dictionary, and ephemera such as a March 1921 Abbey Theatre playbill and October 1921 Phoenix Park racing form.
  • Dozens of black & white photographs by McCoy and Dublin’s William David Hogan, including key revolutionary figures and various urban and rural scenes.

Over the remainder of this year I will use the McCoy material in new pieces or to update existing stories in my American Reporting of Irish Independence series. Princeton digitized the letters portion of the McCoy papers at my request during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am willing to share my notes of the non-digitized portion of archive, viewed during my Feb. 20-23 visit to the Firestone Library, with researchers interested in Irish or journalism history. Unsurprisingly, Princeton will not reveal who has previously looked at this material. I welcome information about historians who have tapped this archive or written about McCoy.

Ledger of “civilian passes” for the eight-member delegation of the American Commission for Conditions in Ireland, dated March 3, 1921, and signed by McCoy. Samuel McCoy Papers, 1868-1964, Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

References

References
1 Carroll, Francis M., America and the Making of an Independent Ireland, A History, New York University Press, New York, 2021, and Whelan, Bernadette, United States Foreign Policy and Ireland: From Empire to Independence, 1913-29. Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2006.

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.

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

Irish visitor thanks America for 1921 financial relief

James G. Douglas, honorary treasurer of the Irish White Cross, visited U.S. cities in November 1921 to acknowledge the $5 million in relief Americans donated since the start of the year. The American Committee for Relief in Ireland, which collected the money, described him as “a prominent (drapery) merchant in Dublin, a member of the religious Society of Friends (Quakers) … held in the highest esteem by all classes of people of whatever religious or political affiliation.”[1]Report of American Committee for Relief in Ireland, New York, 1922 , p. 51. Douglas “almost singlehandedly” operated the Irish White Cross, which distributed the aid in Ireland through summer 1922.[2]See Dictionary of Irish Biography

Douglas made his first stop in Pittsburgh, where he was honored by members of the local American Committee at a Knights of Columbus hall.

Douglas

“I addressed the gathering, conveyed the thanks of the White Cross and the Irish people for what they had done and explaining the manner in which the White Cross had administered the relief made possible by the American Committee’s funds,” Douglas wrote in a seven-page account of the tour held by the National Library of Ireland. He never mentioned fundraising totals, which are in some dispute.[3]See my earlier posts: The Pittsburgh fight over 1921 relief to Ireland and ‘A duty to their own flesh & blood‘.

From Pittsburgh, Douglas traveled to Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Washington, D.C., New York City, and Boston. His report is filled with the names of long-ago discontinued passenger railroad lines and prominent early 20th century political and church leaders:

  • Bishop Hugh C. Boyle of Pittsburgh, whose Irish immigrant father was killed in the 1889 Johnstown flood.
  • Archbishop George W. Mundelein of Chicago, son of an Irish immigrant mother.
  • Former Wisconsin Gov. Francis E. McGovern.
  • Archbishop John J. Glennon of St. Louis, a County Westmeath native.
  • Dr. Vernon Kellogg, director of the National Research Council.
  • U.S. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, who was elected U.S. president in 1928.
  • Limerick Mayor Stephen M. O’Mara, also visiting America.
  • William A. Brady, president of the National Association of Motion Picture Producers.
  • Cardinal William O’Connell of Boston, son of Irish parents.
  • Massachusetts Gov. Channing H. Cox.

Douglas made several reference to his encounters with newspaper reporters and photographers, but most press coverage was brief and placed on inside pages. His month-long visit was hardly generated as much attention as Éamon de Valera’s U.S. tour from June 1919 through December 1920.

By early December 1921, the treaty between Irish separatists and the British government dominated the news as Douglas returned to Ireland. He served in the Irish Senate from 1922 until his death in 1954.

From the front page of The Evening Times, Sayre, Pa., Nov. 21, 1921. This image and a wire service story about Douglas’ American visit appeared in U.S. papers through December 1921.

References

References
1 Report of American Committee for Relief in Ireland, New York, 1922 , p. 51.
2 See Dictionary of Irish Biography
3 See my earlier posts: The Pittsburgh fight over 1921 relief to Ireland and ‘A duty to their own flesh & blood‘.

An Irish-American’s profile of five Irish treaty delegates

Retired federal judge Richard Campbell, secretary of the American Committee for Relief in Ireland, in late October 1921 met the five Irish plenipotentiaries negotiating a peace treaty with the British government. Campbell, a County Antrim emigrant, and banker John J. Pulleyn, treasurer of the American Committee, had spent most of the month in Ireland overseeing the relief effort, subject of an earlier post.

In London, Campbell lunched with the Irish delegation at the Grosvenor Hotel and breakfasted with them at the Hotel Savoy, according to his account published in U.S. newspapers days before the Dec. 6 announcement of the Anglo-Irish Treaty.

Campbell

Campbell began his career as a journalist before becoming a lawyer. His physical descriptions of the five Irish delegates are noteworthy because photos were only starting to become regular features in newspapers. Images of the Irish delegates were not included with Campbell’s descriptions in the two papers I reviewed.[1]”Gives Impressions of Sinn Fein Leaders”, The Evening News, Wilkes Barre, Pa., Nov. 29, 1921, and “Meets Sinn Fein Delegates”, Sioux City (Iowa) Journal, Dec. 4, 1921. The images on this page (except Campbell) were published in a Christmas Day photo spread in the Chicago Tribune three weeks after the treaty announcement.

I’ve edited Campbell’s commentary and added a few (italicized notes within parentheses), where appropriate.

Arthur Griffith

Griffith

… has the look of a Yale professor. His forehead is high and his head well shaped, and the cranial development impressive. He has a grayish-black mustache, blue eyes and carries the mark of introspection the bespeaks middle age in the student and thinker. (Griffith was 50 and would die in less than a year of cerebral hemorrhage, 10 days before Collins assassination.) … … By profession he is a journalist. … His mind runs in terms of commerce and industry. … He wishes to restore Irish shipping to the sea and is full of schemes for the development of Irish ports. His dream is to have Galway the great distribution point for goods from the United States to Europe.

Michael Collins

Collins

… from his appearances is still under 30 years of age. (Collins was 31 on Oct. 16, 1921.) He reminds one of the whirlwind virility of the late Theodore Roosevelt, (Campbell worked in Roosevelt’s administration.) and gives one the impression of a perfect athlete fresh from the football field. … He is above medium height, broad shouldered (and) walks with a quick, long stride. … He is always in a rollicking humor, as if life were a great joke. But when you draw him into conversation you find a man who is keenly alive to the problems of the hour, both in domestic and world politics. … Collins is a singularly modest man … There is no doubt Collins has been one of the great driving forces of the republican movement and his career in Ireland will be a notable one, I am sure. (Collins was assassinated nine months later.)

George Gavan Duffy

Duffy

… is of medium height and wears a reddish Van Dyke beard, he is still on the sunny side of middle age. (He was 39.) Duffy is a quiet man, slow and deliberate of speech, but always convincing. He is by profession a lawyer … If we had him here in America he would suggest a solid lawyer of the type who represents the average run of clients. … Since 1914 he was represented the Irish Republic in various countries of Europe, notably Italy and France. … He is the son of a former premier of New South Wales, Sir Charles Gavin Duffy.

Robert C. Barton

Barton

… has a shy, self-effacing approach and the look of an Episcopal clergyman. He is gray haired, middle aged (He was 40.) and has a florid complexion. His dress is immaculate and his outward appearance conveys anything but the impression of an uncompromising revolutionist that he is.  … (As a British Army officer) in 1916 he commanded a company in the troops assigned to the task of suppressing the Easter rebellion in Dublin. At that time he says he began to think along republican lines. … (He later) became a candidate for the Irish Parliament on the Sinn Fein ticket and soon thereafter found himself in a jail in England under a three-year sentence for ‘seditious utterances’ (and released under a general amnesty in July 1921).

Éamonn Duggan

Duggan

… gives the impression of the sort of man who if he were over here might be taken for a congressman or a United States senator. He wears a gray mustache, has a dapper appearance, is slightly bald and is just about medium height. (He was 43.) He is easy to approach … and has a distinct gift as a raconteur. Duggan is a Dublin lawyer, but he hails from the county of Armagh … he speaks with a strong North of Ireland burr. … He claims that outside the city of Belfast, Ulster is as Irish as any other part of Ireland. … He certainly impresses me as being a man of brains.

Campbell concluded:

Altogether I may say that I was deeply impressed by the ability and scholarly attainments of the men who are representing Ireland. One may here this and that, but real impressions have to be made my personal contacts.

See my full series on American Reporting of Irish Independence.

References

References
1 ”Gives Impressions of Sinn Fein Leaders”, The Evening News, Wilkes Barre, Pa., Nov. 29, 1921, and “Meets Sinn Fein Delegates”, Sioux City (Iowa) Journal, Dec. 4, 1921.

Reciprocal relief between Ireland and Johnstown, Pa.

This year I’ve been exploring aspects of the American Committee for Relief in Ireland, which began collecting funds at the start of 1921 and distributed $5 million in relief through mid-1922.

In September I wrote a piece for The Irish Story about how the people of Johnstown and surrounding Cambria County in Pennsylvania contributed to the effort “as a token of gratitude” for aid the community received 32 years earlier from Ireland, when the raging waters of a broken dam killed 2,209 people, including Irish immigrants, in an infamous flood.

The Tribune-Democrat of Johnston wrote a short feature about my research into this forgotten story: Amateur historian discovers connection between Johnstown, Ireland.

Bird’s-eye view of Johnstown, Pa., after the 1889 flood.      Image from Library of Congress.

‘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.