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Irish Stereotyping In The Late 1800’s Essay

Published in Puck, America’s first successful comedic magazine containing several types of cartoons, on June 26, 1889 a cartoon entitled “The Mortar Of Assimilation And The One Element That Just Won’t Mix” clearly shows an Irishman rebelling against the rest of the American crowd with a knife in his hand, expressing violence, and possibly alcoholism. Through further research I found that how poorly the Irish were treated during this time period. The cartoon “The Mortar Of Assimilation And The One Element That Just Won’t Mix” expresses the idea Irishmen just do not belong in America, despite the several other races intertwined into our country.

This cartoon brings me to the question; Why? Why were the Irish labeled as such outcasts? I have discovered three main reasons to answer this question: The Irish were labeled as violent, drunk, and having strange religious views. One clear reason the Irish were labeled as outcasts is because of the violence they were stereotyped to portray. The Irishman holding the knife in the cartoon is a perfect example of this. The Fenian brotherhood was a group with one main goal to obtain all freedom and become an independent republic of Ireland. For many played the role of motivation in emigrating to the United States, played a large role in this stereotype. One article in particular, entitled “The Fenians In Ireland” published in The New York Observer And Chronicle on November 23, 1895, articulates a perfect example of the violence portray by the Fenian brotherhood. It wrote:

“The Derry Journal contains the following account of a sense of terror and alarm which occurred in a quiet village, but a few evenings since in consequence of a farmer of reliable veracity knocking up his sleepy neighbors to defend their homes and their firesides against a host of bloodthirsty, who were in march for their well-stocked farmyards. After some delay a great number of the male inhabitants were brought together in a truly warlike style…. The supposed Fenians had disappeared leaving the mangled remains of one of their companions behind them.”

Another reason the Irish were labeled as outcasts is because of their religion. At this point in history America was made up of mostly Protestants, however the majority of the Irish emigrants were Catholic. Most Irish children were put into parochial schools and religion was placed as a big priority in their lives. The Irish held on tightly to their religious ways, a main reason being that was the one thing that still tied them to their homeland. Roman “Catholic priests denounce the common schools, and set up their protests in the form of un-American parochial schools.” (The Methodist Review, 5 January 1889) Americans refused to accept this religion due to the differences in their beliefs and practices. Today, Catholicism is one of the United States’ most common religions, with much thanks due to the Irish emigration. .

Catholics also weren’t able to run for any political office, so that ruled out most of the Irish population for a great while, until the Know Nothing Act took place and the United States was able to look past religion. “The curse of the Irishman in America is strong drink.” (The Chautauquan, 8 October 1887) Drinking was a big part of Irish cultures. Even wakes were associated with alcohol due to the celebration of the deceased’s life. Americans feared their mostly Protestant nation would soon die out if the mostly Catholic Irish all emigrated to the United States, another reason why the Irish were not treated fairly. Not only were the Irish viewed as hot-headed violent, people with strange religious views, they were also known to be unskilled and drunk. Americans viewed Irish as alcoholics due to the drinking that is weaved into their culture and ways of living. Much like our culture does today, Irish drank in several difference social settings, although they did drink alcohol at someone’s wake before the funeral, which may have been what disgusted Americans the most.

Americans saw alcohol has ruling over the Irish and they were merely the slaves. One should also note, this was during the time of the ban of alcohol in the United States, so to see one consuming alcohol at such high rates was highly alarming and it would not be long for one to create a bad reputation because of something so simple. Due to this, Americans also stereotyped the Irish to be unskilled and lazy, at times signs were even put into windows stating things such as, “Irish need not apply.” At this point in history, Irish were viewed much similarly to African Americans when it came to respect. Over time, the Irish were able to keep their customs without encountering further confrontation, and the United States was able to run as one country under many different religions and customs as it does today.

Catholics were able to run for office and Catholicism soon became one of the United States’ top most common religions. The Irish were looked down upon by Americans for three main reasons; they were stereotyped to be violent, drunk, and had different religious views which were frowned upon by the Americans. The Fenian brotherhood played a big role in the Irish being stereotyped as violent. At times, it is possible Irishmen were stereotyped to be violent because they were also known to be drunks. The Irish were known to be drunks because of the drinking that is associated with their culture. The Irish emigration to America had a lasting effect on everyone that was a part of the country, without the Irish emigration to the United States, America would not be what it is today, with a beautiful mix of races, religions, and beliefs.


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