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. 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- Unpublished or draft manuscripts by McCoy, American suffragist and author Doris Stevens, and Irish writer James Stephens, under the pseudonym James Esse.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.