Tag Archives: American Committee for Relief in Ireland

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.

The Pittsburgh fight over 1921 relief to Ireland

The two-year war between Irish separatists and the British military grew so bitter by 1921 that even providing humanitarian relief to innocent victims turned controversial. British and U.S. government officials said money from the American Committee for Relief in Ireland succored the rebels. Historic animosity between pro-unionist Protestants and pro-nationalist Catholics was another factor. 

The campaign against the American Committee described below is an under-examined, if not untold, story of the 1921 Irish relief drive. Opponents probably suppressed fundraising in Western Pennsylvania and elsewhere, though it was not widely covered by the press in 1921 or mentioned in the 1922 final reports of the American Committee and Irish White Cross. Historians Francis M. Carroll and Bernadette Whelan have not referenced this counter campaign in their analysis of the relief effort.[1]Carroll, Francis M.“The American Committee for Relief in Ireland”, in Irish Historical Studies, Vol. 23, No. 89 (May, 1982), pp. 30-49. Whelan, Bernadette. United States Foreign Policy and … Continue reading Readers are encouraged to point out work I might have missed or suggest sources for further exploration.

American Committee leaders in Pittsburgh asked clergy of all denominations to announce from their pulpits on Sunday, April 3, 1921, the nationwide fundraising campaign to aid victims of the war in Ireland. The committee emphasized “impartial distribution of food and clothing to Protestant and Catholic women and children who are suffering.”[2]”Church Pleas For Irish Relief Tomorrow Asked”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 2, 1921. The Ulster Society of Pittsburgh countered with a quarter-page advertisement that denied the need for relief in Ireland and alleged the appeal was “purely a political stunt.”[3]”American Committee” advertisement, page 10, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 2, 1921.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 2, 1921.

This was the latest provocation between Pittsburgh’s Irish Protestant immigrants, who settled in the city from the early 19th century, and famine-fleeing Irish Catholics who arrived mid-century. In 1914, a ground-breaking sociological study of the city observed “here the old Irish cleavage has been repeated in the two strong religious elements in the community life.”[4]Woods, Robert A., “Pittsburgh: An Interpretation Of Its Growth” in The Pittsburgh Survey, Findings in Six Volumes, edited by Paul Underwood Kellogg, Survey Associates Inc., New York, 1914, p.9. This cleavage deepened during the Great War as Irish republicans stepped up their campaign for independence and the United States allied with Britain.   

The “cablegram of inquiry” mentioned in the Ulster Society ad was initiated by Rev. Edward M. McFadden, who founded the group soon after the 1912 Ulster Covenant was signed in Belfast. He organized an annual “Ulster Day” commemoration of the declaration against Irish home rule and was quoted using the familiar formulation of “Home rule means Rome rule.”[5]”Local Ulsterites Claim”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 23, 1914 McFadden had emigrated from Larne, County Antrim, in 1883, age 20, and settled in Philadelphia. After being ordained by the city’s Reform Presbyterian Theological Seminary, he preached in Rhode Island, Iowa, and Ohio, as well as Dumbarton, Scotland. He arrived in Pittsburgh about 1911.[6]“Rev. E. Marshall McFadden”, obituary, The Pittsburgh Press, Jan. 7, 1933. McFadden obituary in Presbytery of Monongahela (Pa.), minutes, March 28, 1933, from Presbyterian Historical Society. PHS … Continue reading

McFadden in undated photo used for his 1933 obituary.

Once the Irish war began in January 1919, McFadden would have become more familiar to the city’s 14,000 native Irish[7]1920 U.S. Census, Vol. 3, “Population-United States, Composition and Characteristics”, Table 13, Country of Birth for Cities of 100,000 or More, p. 50. and their offspring. That July, he invited Ulster unionist leader Sir Edward Carson to the United States to “offset the propaganda for Irish independence.” In December, he testified against recognition of the Irish republic at a U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing in Washington, D.C.[8]“Sir Edward Carson Asked To Come Here”, Pittsburgh Daily Post, July 17, 1919, “Ulster Day Is Observed At Services”, Pittsburgh Daily Post, Sept. 29, 1919, and U.S. Congress, House Committee … Continue reading 

Also in December 1919, McFadden traveled to New York City to meet a delegation of Protestant ministers from Ulster who sailed to America to speak against Irish separatism. The group included the same Charles Wesley Maguire quoted in the 1921 Ulster Society ad against Irish relief. McFadden welcomed the Ulster delegation to Pittsburgh’s Syria Mosque theater in January 1920 for what became a raucous evening of fiery anti-Sinn Féin speeches, frequently interrupted by pro-independence counter protesters, who were escorted from the theater by police.

“If they do this sort of thing to us here, what chance have we, a minority, in Ireland,” Maguire said. “I admit that a majority of the people of Ireland want a republic, but insist that one third of the inhabitants do not.[9]“Overflow Meeting of Ulster Delegation, Jan. 12, 1920, in John B. Collins Papers, 1913-1976 AIS.1977.17, Box 5 Folder 21, Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh, and … Continue reading

Afterward, McFadden joined the visiting ministers as they toured other cities, while members of the Ulster Society of Pittsburgh boasted about the delegation’s local visit in letters back to Belfast:

“Sinn Feinism is dead in this country. No chance of any recognition of Irish republic,” one wrote. Another cheered: “Hurrah! Hurrah! Our society slew that horrid monster, Sinn Fein … and it will see that it is never resurrected.”[10]”The Ulster Delegation in Chicago”, The Christian Workers Magazine, March 1920, p. 544, (McFadden toured), and “Effect Of Their Work: Testimony From Pittsburgh”, Belfast … Continue reading

On the first Sunday of April 1921, when Pittsburgh’s religious leaders were asked to announce the American Committee’s relief drive, McFadden scheduled a sermon titled, “What The Starving Irish Need.”[11]“Religious Services Tomorrow”, p. 8, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 2, 1921. He likely reflected the Ulster Presbyterian view of Irish Catholics as misled by Rome and republican radicals. His preaching probably sounded similar to what Ulster delegation ministers had delivered 15 months earlier, as recalled by Maguire: ” … the secret of Irish unrest is neither oppression nor lack of self-determination, but a closed Bible, with all that a closed Bible means in the life of the community.”[12]”Ulster Delegation, The Visit to America” by C. W. Maguire, Belfast News-Letter, Feb. 21, 1920. Similar comments from Maguire in Collins Papers account of the January 1920 meeting. NOTE: … Continue reading  

Press coverage

The Protestant Ministerial Union of Pittsburgh passed a resolution that also denied the existence of hunger in Ireland. It cast the Irish relief campaign as a “scheme … of Sinn Féin propaganda to raise funds to assist those who are in rebellion against the constituted authorities of their country.” The resolution urged “our people to do nothing to aid a movement having for its object creating a spirit of antagonism between the United States and its friend and ally in the late war, Great Britain.”[13]“Ministers Score Irish Relief Campaign”, Los Angeles Times, April 22, 1921.

In addition to Maguire’s cable to McFadden, the resolution referenced a second message from Belfast[14]Attributed to “Sir Robert Liddell, former Lord Mayor of Belfast.” The title was incorrect. Sir Robert Liddell held the government designation of deputy lieutenant and was a member of the … Continue reading to Ulster Society Secretary John H. Fulton. This statement made a simple and incendiary sectarian connection: “Relief fund, Roman Catholic administration.”

Above the fold: The Pittsburgh Catholic, April 7, 1921.

The Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper described the counter campaign as “malicious propaganda introduced by bigoted factionalists” in one of four front page stories on April 7. Only the death of Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore competed for space above the fold. An advertisement for the American Committee campaign filled the issue’s back page. Inside, one editorial lamented “Ireland’s Plight” of poverty and another urged “all liberty-loving Americans” to attend the fifth anniversary observance of the Easter Rising, the failed 1916 strike for independence.

A week before the Ulsterite counter campaign, the Catholic complained that a “preliminary canvas” of city parishes yielded poor responses to the plea for Irish relief. “In hundreds of homes where they called at the supper hour, the head of the family left a table weighted down with food, to ignore the call from Ireland. It is a notable fact that few gave more than a dollar,” the paper reported.[15]“Pathetic Plea Of Starving Women And Children Has Touched America’s Heart”, The Pittsburgh Catholic, March 31, 1921.

While the Catholic newspaper fumed, the city’s secular press ignored the controversy, including the Ministerial Union’s demand that its resolution be published in full. There were a few exceptions outside the region.

Los Angeles Times, April 22, 1921.

Some 2,500 miles west of Pittsburgh, the Los Angeles Times did publish the resolution. Publisher Harry Chandler was a critic of Irish nationalism’s impact on the League of Nations, which he supported. In November 1919, the Times splashed its front page with seven negative headlines about Sinn Féin leader Eamon de Valera’s visit to the city.[16]Hannigan, Dave, De Valera in America: The Rebel President and the Making of Irish Independence. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2010, page 88; and “Dev’s bad headline day in L.A.” , Mark … Continue reading

News of Maguire’s cable and the Ministerial Union’s resolution also reached a Sacramento paper, which reported it reignited “war” and “bickering” between the local Protestant church federation and pro-nationalist Irish societies. These hostilities had smoldered since Maguire and the Ulster delegation visited the California state capital in January 1920, soon after their stop in Pittsburgh.[17]“Church Union Is After Parish”, The Sacramento Star, April 16, 1921; “Irish Party Here Jan. 28”, Sacramento Daily Union, Jan. 11, 1920.

A secular newspaper in central Ohio also published the resolution in a letter to the editor. The writer indicated the content was copied from the pages of the Methodist Recorder in Pittsburgh, which demonstrates some extra attention to the resolution in the originating city.[18]“The Irish Question”, The Coshocton (Ohio) Tribune, May 9, 1921, citing the “People’s Forum” section of the Methodist Recorder newspaper in Pittsburgh.

Other secular and religious publications probably reported this story but are not available to review in digitized newspaper archives. The limited search returns from the hundreds of digitized titles indicates the coverage was not widespread. The trouble in Pittsburgh was not covered by the National Catholic Welfare Council News Service, which supplied content to diocesan newspapers, and pro-Irish republican organs including The Irish Press, Philadelphia; The Gaelic American, New York City; and the Friends of Irish Freedom News Letter, Washington, D.C.

The Catholic New Service did report on a cablegram to the American Committee from 30 “prominent non-Catholics” in Ireland, including poet William Butler Yeats, writer George Russell, and playwright Lennox Robinson, in addition to Church of Ireland, Methodist, and Jewish clergy who attested to the need for immediate relief. “Having heard that statements have been made in America that there is no distress in Ireland … we desire to express our opinion that there is work to be done,” the signatories wrote.[19]“Prominent Protestants Urge Relief For Ireland”, NCWC News Service, Week of April 25, 1921, p. 22. It is unclear whether they were responding to the counter campaign in Pittsburgh (and the quoted cables from Belfast), or statements by the British Embassy in Washington, which also cast doubt on the need for Irish relief. It’s possible that government propaganda operatives had planted the Ulster Society effort from the start.    

 Anti-Catholic

The Ulster Society of Pittsburgh fraternized with local Orange Order lodges and other Protestant groups, newspaper society columns show. More insight about the Society is found in the personal papers of businessman and former Memphis, Tennessee, mayor Harry H. Litty. The collection includes three Society newsletters from January, February, and March 1922, each signed by Fulton, the secretary who received the “Roman Catholic administration” cablegram from Belfast a year earlier. I have not determined whether the newsletter was published in spring 1921, and, if so, the circulation of the mailing list. But the three 1922 issues illustrate how it could have further damaged the Irish relief campaign.

March 1922 issue of the Ulster Society of Pittsburgh newsletter.

One issue fondly recalls the 1920 Ulster delegation visit to America. Another urges the year-old Northern Ireland parliament to “put down the Sinn Fein murderers.” And the Society’s anti-Catholic bias is clear: “It is certainly an anxious time for those of us who have relatives living on the old sod, but we know that Ulster will fight to the death before it submits to be ruled by murderers and cut-throats who represent that blood-stained fabric called the Roman Catholic Church.”[20]Harry H. Litty Family Collection, Box 1, Folder 12, “Litty, Harry H.–Clubs & Societies Involved In”, Jan. 12, 1922, Feb. 16, 1922 (1920 reference), and March 14, 1922 (both quotes). … Continue reading

Anti-Catholic bias was a regular feature of the war, from the bigotry in Birmingham, Alabama, when de Valera visited in April 1920, to the brutality of Belfast later that summer. Though the American Committee described itself as a “non-political and non-sectarian body, solely humanitarian in aim,” it closely affiliated with the Catholic Church through Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore, an honorary national vice chairman, and other high-profile clergy.

“The whole Catholic Church of America is deeply indebted to the Irish people,” Gibbons wrote in a St. Patrick’s Day appeal at the start of the relief drive, shortly before his death. “It is not too much to expect that in every parish of our land effective means be taken to collect funds for the relief of suffering in Ireland.”[21]”non-sectarian” from “American Committee For Relief In Ireland, Part 1, Suggested Plan for National Organization”, Undated. From Series X: Manuscripts & Printed Material, page 1, … Continue reading Several U.S. Catholic dioceses, institutions, and individuals sent money directly to Ireland outside the collections by the American Committee; notably, newly-elevated Cardinal Dennis Joseph Dougherty of Philadelphia.

This ad appeared on the back page of the May 5, 1921 issue of The Pittsburgh Catholic, front page show above.

The American Committee also deployed hardball tactics. An advertisement in Pittsburgh said the executive committee, in reviewing the donors list, “was surprised to note the number of well-known men and women … conspicuous by their absence.” Its name-and-shame threat targeted the local Irish immigrant community, “the very people who have drawn the line when their own flesh and blood is appealing have had their names high up in the lists of every other movement in Pittsburgh.”[22]“Names of Men and Women … “ advertisement. The Pittsburgh Catholic, May 5, 1921. 

Relief results

The American Committee assigned a $1.5 million quota to Pennsylvania, or 15 percent of the campaign’s nationwide goal. The 23-county Western Pennsylvania region set a $400,000 goal, or just over a quarter of the state quota from a third of its 67 counties. Pittsburgh businessman J. Rogers Flannery, chairman of the Pennsylvania campaign, expressed early confidence in meeting both the state and regional goals.

By late May, as the national campaign was ending, Flannery announced that $256,321 was collected toward a new $300,000 goal, without a reason reported for the 25 percent reduction. In reporting both these figures, the Pittsburgh Catholic noted the returns of eight counties and 50 local teams remained outstanding. “The Pittsburgh result will be more than was raised throughout the entire state,” the Catholic predicted, without providing any details of the Pennsylvania total.[23]“Box Sale Begun To Complete Irish Fund”, Pittsburgh Press, May 24, 1921; and “Irish Drive A Big Success In Pittsburgh Dioceses”, The Pittsburgh Catholic, May 26, 1921.

The newspaper also qualified its enthusiasm. “No campaign ever conducted in Western Pennsylvania encountered so much public opposition,” it wrote. In addition to the Ministerial Union’s resolution and Ulster Society’s ad, the paper suggested that Pittsburgh’s department stores, “which have contributed in all worthy causes, sent out a message that they would not assist in the Irish drive.” This is curious, given that Flannery announced the $256,321 total during a meeting at Kaufmann’s department store, also site of the campaign’s mid-April kickoff banquet.

The Catholic also insisted the final record would show “few dollars came from other than Catholic sources.” If true, this could be more evidence the Ulsterite counter campaign had hurt the relief drive, at least in Western Pennsylvania.

This March 31, 1921, advertisement in The Pittsburgh Catholic quoted Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore, a national leader of the American Committee for Relief in Ireland, who died a week after the campaign’s St. Patrick’s Day kickoff.

A June 3 benefit show raised another $10,000 for the campaign, now largely closed. By November, when an Irish White Cross leader visited Pittsburgh to thank contributors, city newspapers reported “approximately $300,000” in local contributions.[24]“Irish Relief Show Of All Stars Nets $10,000 For Fund”, Pittsburgh Daily Post, June 4, 1921, and “Envoy Brings Thanks Of Irish For Funds”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Nov. 2, 1921.

There is a contradiction, however, between the $300,000 reportedly collected in Western Pennsylvania and the $210,798 credited to the entire state in the American Committee’s 1922 audited report. Moreover, even including separate Catholic donations, the state campaign failed to reach a third of its $1.5 million quota.[25]American Committee for Relief In Ireland, 1922, Schedule A, p. 44, and “Copy list for American subscriptions other than those of the American Committee for the Relief in Ireland”, Undated. In … Continue reading America’s second most populous state, with the third largest number of Irish immigrants, finished seventh in donations to the relief campaign.

The $5 million collected nationwide by the American Committee, though only half the goal, was still “a remarkable amount of money,” Carroll wrote. He also notes that by 1921, Americans had donated millions to post-war relief in Europe, and more than $6 million to Irish causes: $1 million to the Irish Victory Fund in 1919, and $5.1 million to the Irish bond drive of 1920.

The Pittsburgh fight over Irish relief was surely another factor that depressed the result in Western Pennsylvania.


See more stories in my American Reporting of Irish Independence centenary series, and Pittsburgh Irish series.

© 2021, Mark Holan

References

References
1 Carroll, Francis M.“The American Committee for Relief in Ireland”, in Irish Historical Studies, Vol. 23, No. 89 (May, 1982), pp. 30-49. Whelan, Bernadette. United States Foreign Policy and Ireland: From Empire to Independence, 1913-1929. Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2006.
2 ”Church Pleas For Irish Relief Tomorrow Asked”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 2, 1921.
3 ”American Committee” advertisement, page 10, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 2, 1921.
4 Woods, Robert A., “Pittsburgh: An Interpretation Of Its Growth” in The Pittsburgh Survey, Findings in Six Volumes, edited by Paul Underwood Kellogg, Survey Associates Inc., New York, 1914, p.9.
5 ”Local Ulsterites Claim”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 23, 1914
6 “Rev. E. Marshall McFadden”, obituary, The Pittsburgh Press, Jan. 7, 1933. McFadden obituary in Presbytery of Monongahela (Pa.), minutes, March 28, 1933, from Presbyterian Historical Society. PHS does not hold individually cataloged information about the Ulster Society of Pittsburgh, per July 27, 2021, letter from senior reference archivist Lisa Jacobson.
7 1920 U.S. Census, Vol. 3, “Population-United States, Composition and Characteristics”, Table 13, Country of Birth for Cities of 100,000 or More, p. 50.
8 Sir Edward Carson Asked To Come Here”, Pittsburgh Daily Post, July 17, 1919, “Ulster Day Is Observed At Services”, Pittsburgh Daily Post, Sept. 29, 1919, and U.S. Congress, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, “To provide for the salaries of a minister and consuls to the Republic of Ireland”, p. 86.
9 “Overflow Meeting of Ulster Delegation, Jan. 12, 1920, in John B. Collins Papers, 1913-1976 AIS.1977.17, Box 5 Folder 21, Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh, and “Hecklers Lose In Disorder At Irish Meeting”, “Speaker Denies That Ireland Is Downtrodden; Calls It Most-Favored Island”, “Irish Speaker Means Tumult, Speaker Says” and “Sinn Fein Denounced, De Valera Assailed By Ulster Speakers”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jan. 13, 1920.
10 ”The Ulster Delegation in Chicago”, The Christian Workers Magazine, March 1920, p. 544, (McFadden toured), and “Effect Of Their Work: Testimony From Pittsburgh”, Belfast Newsletter, Feb. 25, 1920.
11 “Religious Services Tomorrow”, p. 8, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 2, 1921.
12 ”Ulster Delegation, The Visit to America” by C. W. Maguire, Belfast News-Letter, Feb. 21, 1920. Similar comments from Maguire in Collins Papers account of the January 1920 meeting. NOTE: Protestant ministers W.J. Dempster and David Lang of Pittsburgh traveled to Belfast in August 1920. They were thanked for “services rendered” during the Ulster delegation’s Pittsburgh visit seven months earlier. “U.S. Ministers in Belfast”, Belfast News-Letter, Aug. 27, 1920.
13 “Ministers Score Irish Relief Campaign”, Los Angeles Times, April 22, 1921.
14 Attributed to “Sir Robert Liddell, former Lord Mayor of Belfast.” The title was incorrect. Sir Robert Liddell held the government designation of deputy lieutenant and was a member of the Down County Council. He helped establish the Ulster Volunteer Force and was involved in unionist activity, according to an April 17, 1928, obituary in the Belfast News-Letter. Another Robert Liddell, born in England, was mayor of Pittsburgh from 1878-1881. He died in 1893.
15 “Pathetic Plea Of Starving Women And Children Has Touched America’s Heart”, The Pittsburgh Catholic, March 31, 1921.
16 Hannigan, Dave, De Valera in America: The Rebel President and the Making of Irish Independence. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2010, page 88; and “Dev’s bad headline day in L.A.” , Mark Holan’s Irish-American Blog, Nov. 22, 2019.
17 “Church Union Is After Parish”, The Sacramento Star, April 16, 1921; “Irish Party Here Jan. 28”, Sacramento Daily Union, Jan. 11, 1920.
18 “The Irish Question”, The Coshocton (Ohio) Tribune, May 9, 1921, citing the “People’s Forum” section of the Methodist Recorder newspaper in Pittsburgh.
19 “Prominent Protestants Urge Relief For Ireland”, NCWC News Service, Week of April 25, 1921, p. 22.
20 Harry H. Litty Family Collection, Box 1, Folder 12, “Litty, Harry H.–Clubs & Societies Involved In”, Jan. 12, 1922, Feb. 16, 1922 (1920 reference), and March 14, 1922 (both quotes). Memphis Public Library. Retrieved and digital copies by Scott Healy, History Department, June 5, 2021.
21 ”non-sectarian” from “American Committee For Relief In Ireland, Part 1, Suggested Plan for National Organization”, Undated. From Series X: Manuscripts & Printed Material, page 1, in  “Maloney collection of Irish historical papers, 1857-1965”, New York Public Library; and American Committee for Relief In Ireland, 1922, p. 19. The letter was widely published, including the March 31, 1921 advertisement in The Pittsburgh Catholic shown in this post.
22 “Names of Men and Women … “ advertisement. The Pittsburgh Catholic, May 5, 1921.
23 “Box Sale Begun To Complete Irish Fund”, Pittsburgh Press, May 24, 1921; and “Irish Drive A Big Success In Pittsburgh Dioceses”, The Pittsburgh Catholic, May 26, 1921.
24 “Irish Relief Show Of All Stars Nets $10,000 For Fund”, Pittsburgh Daily Post, June 4, 1921, and “Envoy Brings Thanks Of Irish For Funds”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Nov. 2, 1921.
25 American Committee for Relief In Ireland, 1922, Schedule A, p. 44, and Copy list for American subscriptions other than those of the American Committee for the Relief in Ireland”, Undated. In Senator James Green Douglas Papers, National Library of Ireland.

ACIS presentation & leaning into the summer

I will attend and present a paper at the American Conference for Irish Studies, June 2-5. Unfortunately, the conference is switched to virtual from in-person at Derry city, Northern Ireland, as originally scheduled. I am taking some time away from the blog to finalize my presentation about the Irish diaspora witnesses at the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland hearings, 1920-21. I will post a limited amount of new content this summer as I work on several projects. As the weather warms and COVID restrictions continue ease, it’s a good time to get outside and away from the screens that have become too ubiquitous in our lives. Below, some of my work from the first part of the year. MH

A Journey In Ireland, 1921, Revisited

Wilfrid Ewart

Novelist and journalist Wilfrid Ewart traveled through Ireland from mid-April to early May 1921. His dispatches for London newspapers were later collected and revised in the book, A Journey in Ireland, 1921. This series revisits aspects of his journey at its 100th anniversary, though the book was not published until a year later.

American Committee for Relief in Ireland

I’ve written three posts about the American Committee for Relief in Ireland and intend to add a few more before the end of the year.

Cardinal Gibbons Centenary

Cardinal Gibbons

I gave a virtual presentation in March about Cardinal James Gibbons for the Irish Railroad Workers Museum, Baltimore. He was born in the Maryland city in 1834, lived in Ireland with his family during the Great Famine, then returned to America. Cardinal Gibbons became involved in the cause of Irish freedom and humanitarian relief as the leading churchman in the United States. He died March 24, 1921, age 86.

My story for the Catholic Review (Baltimore):

Cardinal Gibbons, who died 100 years ago, was committed to Ireland