No Irish Need Apply

No Irish need apply – a heartbreaking sentence that swept across America after a mass migration of Irish refugees hit the US shores. The influx of refugees caused upheaval to major parts of America and the American people became discontented by the disruption to their way of living. The million Irish peasants who were now living in America became an economic and social burden which caused vexation in the American people who revolted against the Irish refugees. It would seem that the Irish Famine would only be the start to these peasant farmers troubles.

Lowly Irish Peasants

Upon leaving the death ship, the Irish found themselves ranked the lowest in American society because of their extreme level of poverty. These skinny starving Irish instantly became the laughing stock of America because of their old fashioned torn clothing. The Irish became the misfits in a fashion forward wealthy country. Desperate to save their families from further suffering – men and women started to look for work and suitable living situations for their children. The arrival to such a wealthy country offered the Irish people hope that the oppression they had endured under the English rule, and the horrendous poverty they endured would now be over. The Irish would soon learn that their religious beliefs and the burden they put on the economy would keep them in poverty for much longer than expected.

Economic Burden

Boston natives became extremely annoyed at the Irish. Unable to properly deal with the huge influx of Irish into the city, jobs and housing became limited. Wages were been under cut by the Irish – who were willing to work at a much lower rate than the Boston natives. A huge disdain grew for the Irish who also caused major disturbances with significant increases in crime citywide. These lowly hungry peasants were willing to do anything for food to pay for their families. The anti – Irish sentiments continued to increase in Boston which lead to signage been posted in businesses everywhere ''No Irish Need Apply''. The Irish lived in slum like buildings often taken advantage of by the landlords again. The landlords in Boston seen the influx of Irish as a money making opportunity and rented out small rooms within buildings with no proper hygiene facilities. These buildings were infested with death and disease.

New York was a much easier life for most Irish Catholics. The economy was able to absorb a lot the impact of the new amount of Irish almost exactly 650000 over the years of the famine. The unsuspecting Irish were met with more danger of con artists – who hired Irish men to meet the immigrants as they got of the boat to offer them help. The home sick, hungry Irish were relieved to see a friendly fellow Irish man who had seemingly made a good life for himself in the big apple offering them a helping hand. The con artist would promise them shelter for a low rate until they could move on but would demand much higher rates when looking for payment and then when they could no longer afford to pay they would take their belongings and kick them out on the streets with nothing. Crime rates in New York grew during these times and the drunken fighting Irish – did just that! They got drunk and started fights with each other to pass the time. Irish mothers were faced with exceptionally difficult situations with child mortality rates sky rocketing among them because of lack of sanitary conditions, disease, no health care and a hungry mother unable to breast feed.


The massive influx of Irish brought an extremely unwelcome component to the Country – Catholicism! The American party or the 'Know Nothings' movement were set up with the intention of keeping Catholics out of congress and away from political control. They banded together to try ensure that no American born Irish had the same rights as native American born. The party used propaganda in order to instill fear into the protestant church. An anti – catholic movement of hate and bigotry began towards the Irish people. A heavily protestant country was now so over run with Irish that Americans feared that Catholicism would become the main religion with massive increases in Irish born babies in America. Massive brawls erupted between the Irish and Americans and Catholic churches were burned to the ground. Fr. John Hughes sent men onto the ground to protect the churches from attack and warned the mayor that if one more church was set a light the whole of Manhattan would be burned to the ground. The violence lasted three days as bands of Catholics fought Protestants on the streets across many major American cities.

While many hundreds of thousands of Americans supported the Know nothings there were many genuine protestants who were appalled at the treatment of the Irish, Germans and African-American people. George Washington was quoted as saying '' I am not a Know- Nothing - that is certain. How could I be? How can anyone who abhors the oppression of Negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that all men are created equal. We now practically read it ''all men are created equal, except Negros''. When know nothings get control, it will read ''all men are created equals, except Negroes, foreigners and Catholics''. When it comes to that I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty - to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy''.

The know nothings soon reduced in popularity as time went on but the nationalist spirit that they promoted and echoed was reproduced in other groups in later years such as the Klu Klux Klan.

The Irish gained recognition from the American people during the civil war. Their fearless and fighting Irish spirit fought along side fellow American men – gaining them a level of respect that has been lacking before the war. People started hiring the Irish as nannies and assistants and there opportunity for employment increased. As time passed, the ''No Irish Need Apply'' signs disappeared and the Irish settled in homes in the suburbs to rear their Catholic families in peace – but never forgetting the generation who fought for them to have a future, free from bigotry and oppression.

Generations Ago

This was all generations ago! Today, hostility between Irish and Americans is non existent. In fact, so many Americans proudly connect their Irish heritage to every part of their life. Although, in a lot of ways we are still the fighting drunken Irish – we are now loved for it worldwide. Americans celebrate Ireland in many ways now – often proudly wearing a Claddagh ring or wearing their Shamrock on Saint Patrick's day. Lets not forget the Irish Americans who hang their Saint Bridget's cross on the door on the 1st of February.

Interested in finding out more about the Irish famine. Check out all out the Irish Landlords in these times here.