Tag Archives: Arthur Griffith

The August 1922 deaths of two Irish journalists

Arthur Joseph Griffith, the Sinn Féin founder and Irish Free State leader, and Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, the British newspaper and publishing magnate known as Lord Northcliffe, died within two days of each other in August 1922. Both born in Dublin, neither man reached age 60. Their careers as journalists had very different–at times opposing–trajectories.

The Graphic, An Illustrated Weekly, London. Aug. 26, 1922. Note the bottom right photo of Michael Collins at the Griffith funeral. He was assassinated four days before the publication date. 

Griffith

Griffith, who died Aug. 12, 1922, “remained at heart a journalist” even as political responsibilities dominated the final years of his life.[1]Michael Laffan, “Griffith, Arthur Joseph” in Dictionary of Irish Biography. He was 51, and the cause of death was cerebral hemorrhage complicated by other health problems.

Arthur Griffith

Griffith apprenticed as a printer in Dublin, following his father’s profession, and soon gained employment as a compositor and copywriter. In 1897 he sailed to South Africa and spent time as a newspaper editor before being lured back to Ireland to help launch the nationalist weekly, United Irishman. Griffith wrote much of the paper’s content under different pseudonyms, but also was assisted by contributions from Irish political and literary nationalists such as Pádraig Pearse, Maud Gonne, Roger Casement, George Russell (AE), James Stephens, and William Butler Yeats.

When the paper folded in 1906 due to a libel matter, Griffith re-founded the enterprise as Sinn Féin, after the political party he started a year earlier. John Devoy’s New York City-based Gaelic American picked up the story from there in its coverage of Griffith’s death:

When the English government suppressed Sinn Féin (in 1914) and Irish Freedom (organ of the Irish Republican Brotherhood) the IRB started Nationality and Griffith accepted the editorship of it under Sean MacDermott’s management. When that was put out of existence they put out one after another, under new names, only to be suppressed as if the very existence of the British Empire depended on putting Griffith to silence.

The most unique of all their publications was Scissors and Paste, which was made up wholly of clippings from other papers, many of them English, but always containing telling and appropriate points, and he compelled the Foreign Government to suppress in Ireland articles which had already been freely circulated in England. Griffith’s ingenuity in selecting these articles was a marvel.[2]Arthur Griffith Dies Suddenly in Dublin”, The Gaelic American, Aug. 19, 1922, p. 1.

American journalist Samuel Duff McCoy, in his early 1922 newspaper series about revolutionary Ireland, quoted James Stephens about Griffith in this period: “His worst trouble, in those days was thinking up new names for his paper. He used to lay awake nights, thinking up new names for it, he did so.”[3]”The Smiling Swordsman/Chapter 2″ of McCoy’s “The Lads Who Freed Ireland” series, Minneapolis (Minn.) Morning Tribune, Feb. 7, 1922, via United Features Syndicate.

The Gaelic American continued its description of Griffith’s journalism career:

In time he was recognized in England as one of the best journalists in Europe, and it is said that one of the London papers offered him a handsome salary as an editorial writer. That is the English way. They wanted to buy a man they could not beat. Griffith, of course, saw this clearly, but is chronic poverty never tempted him and he declined.[4]“Dies Suddenly”, p. 2.

In 1921 Griffith was appointed chairman of the five-member Irish delegation that negotiated the Anglo-Irish Treaty with the British government, which ended the war and laid the foundation for the 26-county Free State.  He became president of the fledgling government after the Treaty was narrowly approved and Éamon de Valera resigned the position.

Northcliffe

Griffith’s death in the second month of the Irish Civil War was followed on Aug. 14, 1922, with the passing of Northcliffe. He died of a heart infection, aged 57. His is generally recognized for transforming the British press from its traditional informative and interpretative role to that of the commercial exploiter and entertainer of mass public.[5]By the editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, Updated

Lord Northcliffe

Much of Griffith’s earlier polemical writing in Nationality was devoted to denouncing the iniquity of press barons such as Northcliffe, who was condemned as “the Cromwell of journalese” and an “evil genius” seducing people with “triviality or gross idiocy”.[6]Maurice Walsh, The News From Ireland: Foreign Correspondents and the Irish Revolution. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2008, p. 118-119, citing Ben Novick, Conceiving Revolution: Irish Nationalist … Continue reading In America, which he visited frequently, Northcliffe was regularly criticized by the nationalist News Letter of the Friends of Irish Freedom.

“Americans of Irish blood are confronted with no greater difficulty than that of combating the far reaching effects of the presentation of English and Irish news from the English point of view,” the weekly wrote in 1920 criticism of the Public Ledger of Philadelphia, which syndicated content from Northcliffe’s Times. “America is the victim of the short-cited policy of some editors and publishers who fail to realize that they are being exploited by Northcliffe propaganda.”[7]News Letter of the Friends of Irish Freedom, May 1, 1920, p. 5.

Northcliffe was certainly a critic of British Prime Minister Lloyd George. And the Connaught Telegraph noted, “Towards Ireland he was–of late years, at any rate, a devoted friend.”[8]”Death of Lord Northcliffe”, Connaught Telegraph, Aug. 19, 1922.

A year after these two deaths, Irish writer Shaw Desmond, a Southern unionist, suggested in his book that the Times’s coverage of the Irish war under Northcliffe’s leadership “frequently distinguished itself by its fairness.” Desmond also portrayed Griffith as “the first to crack” in the treaty negotiations with George.[9]Shaw Desmond, The Drama of Sinn Fein, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1923. Northcliffe, p. 334; Griffith, p. 485.

In less than two weeks after the deaths of these two Irish journalists, the assassination of Michael Collins would draw more press attention to the strife in Ireland.

The deaths of Lord Northcliffe and Arthur Griffith were reported next to each other on the front page of the Aug. 14, 1922, issue of the Alexandria (Virginia) Gazette. Note the story at right reports Michael Collins taking over Griffith’s duties. He was killed eight days later.

References

References
1 Michael Laffan, “Griffith, Arthur Joseph” in Dictionary of Irish Biography.
2 Arthur Griffith Dies Suddenly in Dublin”, The Gaelic American, Aug. 19, 1922, p. 1.
3 ”The Smiling Swordsman/Chapter 2″ of McCoy’s “The Lads Who Freed Ireland” series, Minneapolis (Minn.) Morning Tribune, Feb. 7, 1922, via United Features Syndicate.
4 “Dies Suddenly”, p. 2.
5 By the editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, Updated
6 Maurice Walsh, The News From Ireland: Foreign Correspondents and the Irish Revolution. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2008, p. 118-119, citing Ben Novick, Conceiving Revolution: Irish Nationalist Propaganda during the First World War, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2001, p. 167.
7 News Letter of the Friends of Irish Freedom, May 1, 1920, p. 5.
8 ”Death of Lord Northcliffe”, Connaught Telegraph, Aug. 19, 1922.
9 Shaw Desmond, The Drama of Sinn Fein, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1923. Northcliffe, p. 334; Griffith, p. 485.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first editorial in Poblacht na h-Éireann declared:

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

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

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

Additional resources:

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

References

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

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.

Ruth Russell in Revolutionary Ireland: Correspondent

Chicago journalist Ruth Russell reported from revolutionary Ireland in 1919, followed by a year of activism for its independence. This five-part monograph is part of my American Reporting of Irish Independence series. © 2019

***

Russell arrived in Ireland the day before St. Patrick’s Day, 1919, a week before her 30th birthday. Over the next few months she reported from Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Belfast, and rural Dungloe in County Donegal.1 At least two dozen of her dispatches appeared in the Chicago Daily News, and other U.S. and Canadian newspapers that subscribed to its foreign news service. 

She was not the only Daily News reporter in Ireland, which had attracted scores of American and other foreign correspondents after Dáil Éireann, the break away parliament of the Irish Republic, was established Jan. 21, 1919. As Maurice Walsh notes, “The Irish revolution became an international media event … The way in which visiting correspondents wrote up the Irish revolution was crucial to its outcome, both in the sense that they affected perceptions of the war and that they connected Ireland to the world.”2

Russell’s 1919 passport photo.

Russell’s first story from Ireland appeared in the Daily News on March 18, 1919, a day after the newspaper recognized St. Patrick’s Day with a full page of “greetings from noted Irish writers to their compatriots in Chicago.”3 She covered the prison release and triumphal Dublin return of Constance Georgine Markievicz, known as “Countess” Markievicz, who in December 1918 became the first woman elected to the British Parliament. As a separatist Sinn Féin candidate, Markievicz won a Dublin constituency while incarcerated for her role in Ireland’s anti-conscription protests earlier that year, months before the armistice.

Markievicz’s election and the Sinn Féin route of old guard Irish parliamentary nationalists received considerable press coverage in America. Her release from prison and decision to join the revolutionary parliament in Dublin was largely ignored by U.S. newspapers, giving Russell a scoop. Her story4 did not contrast Markievicz’s historic election win to American women still struggling for the vote. Her home state of Illinois would not ratify the 19th amendment until June, and U.S. suffrage waited until August 1920. 

Instead, Russell offered a narrative, scene-setting approach to the homecoming that differed from most straight-news reporting of the day. She even placed herself in the action, close enough for Markievicz to whisper an aside. Listen to a lightly edited passage of the story, read by my wife, and reproduced below:

Down one curb of the Eden quay uniformed boys with coat buttons glittering in arc lights were ranged in soldier formations. Up the other curb squads of girls were blocked. All were members of the citizens’ army of the Transport Workers union. … Up in the bare front room of the Liberty hall headquarters, where dim yellow electric bulbs were threaded from the ceiling, the countess welcomed her friends of the days of the revolution of 1916. … With her eyes slight behind her metal rimmed glasses, the countess marched to the big central window and flung it wide open to the spring night. Before she addressed the crowd below, she said to me: “Our fate all depends on your president [Woodrow Wilson] now.” 

Russell interviewed other leading political and cultural figures of the Irish revolutionary movement, including: 

  • Sinn Féin leader Éamon de Valera, describing his “white, ascetic, young–he is thirty-seven–face lined with determination”5;
  • “sharp-mustached, sardonic little”6 Arthur Griffith, the Sinn Féin founder;
  • Maud Gonne McBride, widow of an Irish revolutionary leader, “tall and slim in her deep mourning”7;
  •  “keen, boyish” Michael Collins8, the revolution’s guerrilla warfare strategist; and
  • George William Russell [no relation], “the famous AE, poet, painter and philosopher, the ‘north star of Ireland.’ ”9

Russell witnessed the Dublin arrival of the American Commission on Irish Independence, a non-U.S. government delegation of three prominent Irish Americans sent to the 1919 Paris peace conference to lobby for Ireland. She reported on a failed effort in the international race to make the first non-stop transatlantic flight. 

The three members of the Irish-American delegation, at right, receive an address written in Irish from Cumann na mBan Photo: Irish Life, 16 May 1919. From the National Library of Ireland collection, via Century Ireland.

As in her Markievicz piece, Russell was self-referential in other reporting, in both first and third person, such as her March 1919 interview with de Valera, then hiding from British authorities: “In a small white room where reddish tapestry and draperies concealed closed doors and shaded windows Mr. de Valera was talking to me as a representative of the Chicago Daily News,” she wrote. Later in the same story, Russell described being escorted from the secret meeting location: “In the darkness the correspondent was guided along a narrow garden walled to a waiting car.”10

IN THE SHADOWS

Russell’s reporting was at its best when she mixed with Ireland’s poorest citizens, those in the shadow of the revolution. She lived in the Dublin slums with families crammed into one-room tenements. She applied for hard-to-find jobs with other women, many caring for children and supporting unemployed husbands and brothers. “Their constant toil makes the women of Ireland something less than well-cared for slaves,” Russell wrote.11

Checkpoint in Limerick, April 1919.

She interviewed workers and labor leaders in the short-lived Limerick soviet, at Belfast textile mills, and outside a soon to open Ford-owned tractor plant:  “On the edge of the sidewalks in Cork there is a human curbing of idle men,” she reported. “Just now most of them are sons of farmers or farm hands, for the farmer of the south is turning his acres back to grazing and extra hands are not needed.”12

Most of Russell’s stories were published on inside pages of the Daily News with dispatches of its other foreign correspondents. A few times the paper promoted her by name in secondary headlines, such as “Ruth Russell Describes Barring of Workers from Home Town” (Limerick), and “Ruth Russell Tells Pathetic Story of Why Women Go to England”.13 It is unclear if this was an attempt by the Daily News to market her as a “stunt girl” reporter, or leverage the reputation of her late father, Martin J. Russell, one of Chicago’s pioneering newspaper editors.

In this reading from “Why Women Go to England”, Russell describes looking for work in Dublin with recently unemployed female munitions workers, like those she had labored with two years earlier in a Chicago armament plant.14:

Down a puddly, straw-strewn lane we were blown by the wind to a candy factory. It was next in factory size to the biscuit plant. Dublin considers a 50 to 100 hand plant very large. At this place, it was possible to earn $4.50 a week, but the thumbed sign on the door read: No hands wanted. … Up the narrow wooden treaded stairs we mounted to a big room where girls sitting sideways on a long table nailed yellow wooden candy containers together. Through a crack between the planks of the floor we could see hard red candies swirling below. As the melting sleet was pooling off our hats, the ticking aproned manager came out to sputter: Can’t you read? … That night along Gloucester Street, past the Georgian mansions built before the union of Ireland and England, flat uprising structures from behind whose verdigrised brass trimmed doors came the mummers of many membered tenement families–I walked until I came to a shining brass plated door. “Why don’t you go to England?” was the first question the matron of the working girls home put to me when I told her I could get no work. “All the girls are.”  

Note how this story was published on June 3 but has a May 5 dateline.

IRISH CHILDREN, CHICAGO CONNECTIONS

Russell detailed malnourishment, mental illness, and other social problems in Ireland’s cities and rural western counties. She reported about children, teachers, and schools, likely drawing on her own earlier classroom training. Perhaps 175,000 of 500,000 enrolled children did not attend school; and only 3,820 of 13,538 teachers were efficient because their pay was low, $405 to $1,440 per year, she reported from government data.15

“Dead, mentally dead, teachers are frequent in Ireland,” Russell wrote.

Russell followed Daily News Publisher Victor F. Lawson’s advice about the paper’s correspondents to stay close to the native people. Here is an example from her stay in the Dublin slums16:

Then as a lodger I was given the only chair at the breakfast table. The mother and girl sat at a plank bench and supped their tea from their saucerless cups. As there was no place else to sit, the children took their bread and jam as they perched on the bed, and when they finished, surreptitiously wiped their fingers on the brown-covered hay mattress. Before we were through they had run to the streets to warm their cold legs inside the fender till the floor was tracked with mud from the street, ashes from the grate, and bits of crumbling bread.

Russell named other children in her reporting, detailing their young ages and harsh circumstances:

  • Six-year-old Mary Casey “has some difficulty curling her arm about the papers she carries” as the youngest member of the Dublin Newsgirls’ Club.
  • “Eight-year-old Michael Mallin drags kelp out of a rush basket and packs it down for fertilizer between the brown ridges of the little hand-spaded field in Donegal.”
  • “Nine-year-old Patrick Gallagher may go to the Letterkenny Hiring Fair to sell his baby services to a farmer.”
  • “Ten-year-old Margaret Duncan can be found sitting hunched up on a doorstep in a back street in Belfast.”17 

And like any good reporter, Russell found Chicago connections in Ireland to relay back to her hometown readers: 

  • Fr. J. P. Flannigan at St. Mary’s procathedral in Dublin, who led a committee of Catholic priests trying to quell Irish labor unrest, had studied in Rome with Archbishop George William Mundelein of Chicago.18
  • Progressive social reformer Jane Addams of Chicago helped send rubber boots to war-torn Germany through the Women’s International League.19
  • “Chicago girl” Stella M. Franklin, former secretary-treasurer of the city’s Woman’s Trade Union League, worked to improve housing conditions throughout the British Isles.20
  • Russell’s story on the Irish economy questioned whether England prevented Ireland from developing “all the Chicago side industries that can be established in connection with the cattle trade.” Money was lost shipping the animals across the Irish Sea for slaughter and processing. Russell reported that a London firm “has just issued a prospectus for a plant designed for slaughtering, tanning, chandlery, glue making, and which is intended to transform Drogheda in Ireland into a Chicago.”21 

Some of Russell’s stories published up to two months after their dateline. Her byline from Ireland appeared in American newspapers at least through October 1919, though she returned home in August.22

In 1920, Russell would expand her reporting into magazine articles and her book, What’s the matter with Ireland? She also would take on a new role of publicly speaking out for Irish independence beyond the printed page.

NEXT: Russell’s Irish activism in America.

Describing Éamon de Valera before social media

Éamon de Valera in 1919.

In June 1919, commercial film, radio, and television were still in their infancy. Photography, after nearly a century, was on the verge of overcoming its earlier technical limitations and moving into widespread use. 

It was not until 1919, with the launching of New York’s Illustrated Daily News, that American newspapers began to feature photographs routinely. The lighter cameras and “faster” lenses introduced in the 1920s brought about a revolution in news photography, ushering in the age of photojournalism.1

The dozens of reporters who gathered at New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel for the American debut of Éamon de Valera as the president of Ireland had to describe their subject as well as detail his pronouncements. There would be photos of de Valera’s U.S. tour, to be sure, but they were not disseminated as widely or as easily as today’s digital and broadcast media. 

Below are some of the reporters’ descriptions of de Valera published in June 24, 1919, editions of U.S. newspapers. Some are from wire service dispatches and appeared in numerous papers across America. I’ve highlighted some common reference points. This roundup begins with the best description I found, and ends with a quote that hints of the shift to journalism bolstered by images in addition to words:

Standing six feet, one inch tall, he easily overlooked the crowd about him. He was clad in a dark business suit, with white waistcoat, and wore a turn-down collar with a dark four-in-hand tie. But for all his pleasantry, his face has the look of one who has seen more than thirty-seven years ordinarily betoken.

His visage is thin, doubtless so because of his harrowing prison life, and the deep, long seams about his mouth spell a knowledge of troublous, weary days. Behind his nose glasses, his sharp eyes, deep set, penetrate his auditors, giving the impression of unflinching determination.

As he stood addressing the reporters … he looked much like the pedagogue, as indeed he has been, and doubtless the clear, crisp, studied enunciation, with its touch of brogue, comes as the result of his teaching days.

Brooklyn (New York) Times Union

Here are a few more:

He wears glasses, his brown-black eyes are deep set, his nose is rather prominent, his upper lip is clean shaven, and the general expression of his face is one of eagerness. Upon arrival yesterday he was attired in a salt-and-pepper tweedish mixture, wore a collar almost of collegian highness and a big blue tied tied in a big knot. … a brogue that was just an echo of a brogue was apparent.” The New York Times

“…a tall man with a face lean and lined with care. … [his] brogue is most pronounced. When he used the word “merchant,” for example, it sounded like “mare-chint” and when he said “reduced” it sounded like “rejuiced.” New York Tribune

“Mr. De Valera, a tall, smooth-faced, clear-eyed, young Irishman, was born in New York in 1882, but said he “renounced” his American citizenship when he became an Irish soldier.” Pittsburgh Daily Post

“… a tall, bronzed, smooth shaven man wearing eyeglasses … with a smile and speaking with well modulated voice with a mellow Irish brogue …” The San Francisco Examiner

“By those who had seen portraits and moving pictures of the professor he was easily distinguished and recognized.” St. Louis Star and Times, below, which included a photo of de Valera addressing an 1918 anti-conscription meeting in Ireland, with inset images of Count Plunkett and Arthur Griffith.