Pittsburgh Irish

This page collects my original work related to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, my native city and state, a mid-19th and 20th century hub of Irish and Scots-Irish immigrants. Stories begin below the image, newest to oldest. A few are Pittsburgh only and not Ireland related.

Original research by Mark Holan. © 2021

Pittsburgh in the 1890s.

Don’t drink: Father Mathew’s temperance tour in Pittsburgh Father Theobald Mathew, Ireland’s 19th century temperance priest, visited Pittsburgh in July 1851. Cork-born Michael J. O’Connor, who eight years earlier became the first bishop of the new Catholic dioceses in Western Pennsylvania, was among 8,000 Pittsburghers who took the pledge.

Reciprocal relief between Ireland and Johnstown, Pa. The Pennsylvania community contributed to the 1921 American Committee Relief for Relief in Ireland “as a token of gratitude” for aid it received 32 years earlier, after 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 feature about my research, which was published in The Irish Story.

The Pittsburgh fight over 1921 relief to Ireland The Ulster Society of Pittsburgh countered the American Committee for Relief in Ireland campaign. A year earlier, the Society president had welcomed a delegation of anti-Irish independence Protestant preachers to the city.

Irish Pittsburgh’s November to remember, 1920 Pittsburgh’s Irish community in November 1920 mourned the hunger-strike death of Terence MacSwiney, remembered the Manchester Martyrs of 1867, and followed other Irish news in Dublin and Washington, D.C.

Feakle ambush & reprisals: Multiple views of an event Pittsburgh innkeeper Patrick J. Guilfoil returned to his native County Clare in 1920 and got caught in the crossfire of the Irish War of Independence. He testified about his experiences before the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland during a December 1920 hearing in Washington, D.C.

When Irish Was Spoken in Pittsburgh Irish language scholar Douglas Hyde visited Pittsburgh in January 1906. At the time, a local Gaelic society held twice-weekly Irish classes, and Saturday night cultural and history lectures. (Pittsburgh Quarterly)

Éamon de Valera’s October 1919 Visit to Pittsburgh The event capped more than a year of large, passionate public meetings in the city focused on Irish independence. It wasn’t his last stop there.

December 1918: Pittsburgh rally for Irish freedom The city’s Irish community gathered at the Lyceum Theater for the second time in seven months, part of the nationwide “Self Determination for Ireland Week.”

Pennsylvania pledges to Irish freedom in 1918 U.S. election “Will you, if elected to the public office for which you are a candidate, openly and unequivocally support Ireland’s claim to Complete Independence?”

Troublesome Men: The Irish Nationalist Feud in Western Pennsylvania, 1894-1896 The 1895 Chicago convention of the Irish National Alliance is well recorded, but the divisions among pro-independence Irishmen in Western Pennsylvania leading to it, and the ouster of the Pittsburgh delegation, is a lost story of this period. (Part 1)

Irish Nationalism’s “Troublesome Men” , Part 2 of 2

An Irish-American’s most perilous summer, 1918 Kerryman John Ware immigrated to Pittsburgh in 1910. Eight years later, he was shipped to France.

Rare Irish atlas stolen from Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Library The crime was discovered in 2018, but the theft of hundreds of rare books and maps had been happening for years.

Shamrock Fund and the Irish War Exhibit of 1918  The “Countess of Kingston” visited Pittsburgh to debut a traveling exhibit of war items intended to raise money for the Shamrock Fund, a charity for wounded Irish soldiers.

The Manchester martyrs: From last letters to lasting legends  The last letters and other ephemera of William P. Allen, one of the three mid-19th century heroes of Irish nationalism, were transferred from Ireland to the University of Pittsburgh. (The Irish Story)

Irish Immigrants, Unbanned
“Do not imagine there is any exaggeration in the reports,” of a devastating famine in Ireland, a correspondent wrote in an 1847 letter to a priest in Bedford, Pa. The letter survives at the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh Archives and Records Center. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Detailing Irish prisoners in Western Pennsylvania Immigrants and first generation Irish-Americans incarcerated at the Allegheny County Workhouse and Inebriate Asylum, and Western Penitentiary in Pittsburgh.

How an 1879 prisoner report won good press for the Irish Penn Monthly magazine observed: “There is a very common notion that the Irish in America contribute more than their share to our criminal class. But this expectation is contradicted” by Pennsylvania prisoner enrollment records.

His Last Trip My 2013 blog serial about the 100th anniversary of my grandfather’s emigration from Kerry.

Pittsburgh Ancient Order of Hibernians records available for reviewA 2013 story, plus a 2014 update post.