Guinness beer, St. Patrick’s Day, Celtic music and great pubs are just a few of the cultural treats the Irish brought with them when they migrated to the U.S. in droves back in the mid nineteenth-century.
In fact, according to this U.S. News & World Report article, the Ireland Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade found that 35 million people in modern-day America claim Irish decent—meaning there are over five times as many Irish-Americans as there are individuals in Ireland itself.
With Irish-Americans consisting of 10.5% of the total U.S. population, you’re probably wondering how Ireland, a country with under 5 million inhabitants, came to be so culturally significant and widespread in a nation so far from home.
The Potato Famine Drives Irish to U.S. Shores
Starting in the 1800s, the story of Irish history is one riddled with immigration, global sprawl, and a growing diaspora. In the nineteenth century, it was widespread famine that drove hordes of starving, impoverished Irish to the shores of the United States.
The first American city to give them refuge was Boston—a municipality that, according to this Boston Globe article, is still home to 1.5 million people of Irish descent. Accustomed to hard labor in their homelands, these new Irish immigrants flocked to the big city hoping to find work as low-wage, unskilled laborers.
As more Irish arrived, shantytowns and slums formed, breeding widespread violence and crime. It was conflict regarding the Irish that coined the racially-charged terms such as “paddy wagon” that exist still in our modern-day discourse.
As conditions worsened in Boston, more and more immigrants ventured South to New York. At three times the size of Boston, New York was more capable of absorbing the influx of refugees. Today, Boston and New York are still densely populated by the offspring of these first immigrants.
Irish Migration after the Civil War
In the mid 1860’s when the Civil War ended, the country entered an economic boom. Fueled by relentless industrialization, factories sprouted up across the nation, creating promising jobs for Irish immigrants.
Inspired at the hope for better work, Irish laborers moved West to seek jobs on railroads, or further inland to Pennsylvania, Virginia and Montana to seek employment in new factories. It is these states where the highest Irish populations remain still today.
Irish-Americans in the Nation Today
Since the nineteenth century, close to ten million Irish have left the Emerald Isle either by force or by choice. Many of those ten million ended up here, in the United States.
While it’s true that in any given county across the US, Irish Americans account for at least 5% of the population, it is the north eastern states that still house the densest Irish population, with Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and all boasting over 15% heritage from the Emerald Isle.
It’s no wonder this intensive, long-term integration has steeped the US in Irish culture and tradition, making the Northeastern states especially an unforgettable place to taste Irish culture on American soil.
How we can help
In addition to providing valuable information about the heritage of Irish Americans, we offer guidance to Irish individuals who are interested in travelling to the United States. Specifically, we provide information about the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation to the citizens of Ireland.
Get in touch with us to find out more about how we can help you to kick start your American travel experience in the right way. With our help, you’ll be well prepared for your trip and can feel confident about embarking on the adventure of a lifetime.