Irish Stereotypes


Irish Stereotypes Political Cartoon

Stereotyping of the Irish Immigrant in 19th Century Periodicals

Immigrating to the United States during the 19th century was not the magical solution for the majority of the newcomers. Many ethnic groups ran into prejudice in America; with Irish stereotypes being a major problem.  The Irish especially faced this problem in America, often being depicted in anti Irish cartoons as hot-headed, old-fashioned, and drunkards. During the 19th century, political cartoons were widely used to express the widespread negative opinions about Irish immigrants. Often the full stereotype meaning of the cartoon was subtle and could be missed by the casual reader, while other times it was cruelly obvious.

The Irish were stereotyped as uncivilized, unskilled and impoverished and were forced to work at the least desired occupations and live in crowded ethnic ghettoes.  Irish immigrants often found that they were not welcome in America; many ads for employment were accompanied by the order "NO IRISH NEED APPLY." Throughout the 1800s, as hordes of technologically and agriculturally unskilled Irish immigrants settled in the major cities of the east, several anti-immigrant groups began to develop demonstrating a rise in Irish stereotypes. Nativists reacted to increased Irish immigration with violent riots and increased demands for limits on immigrants' rights.  These nativist groups considered the immigrants as a threat and regarded the Catholicism of the Irish as an alien and rebellious religion and culture. During the mid-nineteenth century anti-Catholic riots struck the major eastern cities and vandalism against Catholic institutions became such a common practice that many insurance companies refused to cover Catholic schools and churches. 

Many nativists urged policies that would limit Irish political power and immigrants' rights to vote and to hold public office, to be passed. In 1849 The Order of the Star-Spangled Banner, a clandestine society of nativists, emerged; its members pledged to only support native-born Protestants for public office, to fight the Roman Catholic Church and to support an obligatory 21-year waiting period for naturalization.  This society, later reformed into the American party, when asked about their anti-immigrant activities would simply reply "I know nothing," earning them the name the Know-Nothings.  This party with its motto "Americans Shall Rule America" won many city and state elections throughout the 1850s and produced a multitude of political cartoons depicting the Irish as a barbaric civilization.

 
Irish Stereotypes Political Cartoon
 

Anti Irish cartoons for magazines such as Harper's Weekly featured cartoons by Thomas Nast and depicted Irish immigrants as ape-like barbarians prone to lawlessness, laziness and drunkenness. "St. Patrick's Day, 1867...Rum, Blood, The Day We Celebrate" shows a riot with policemen and ape-like Irishmen.

 
Irish Stereotypes Political Cartoon

This cartoon printed in 1889, stereotypes the Irish as unmixable in America's melting pot.

 
Irish Stereotypes Political Cartoon

This Irish stereotypes cartoon was labeled "A Question of Labor" and was published in Harper's Weekly in 1888.

 
Irish Stereotypes Political Cartoon

The Conscription Act of 1863 made all white men between the ages of twenty and forty-five years eligible for the draft by the Union Army. Blacks were not drafted or forced to fight and  white men with money could  legally hire a substitute. Lower-class whites (many of whom were Irish) resented the draft. This print shows the 1863 riot in New York City by a mob of lower-class whites (including many Irish stereotypes).

 
Anti Irish Political Cartoon

An 1850s cartoon showing a "poor house" of immigrants from Ireland.

 
Anti Irish Political Cartoon

An 1854 caricature of an Irish immigrant in Dublin.

 
Irish Stereotypes Political Cartoon

Cartoon showing the Irish celebrate St. Patrick's Day, 1867.

 
Anti Irish Political Cartoon

Thomas Nast cartoon from 1870 expressing the worry that the Irish Catholics threatened the American freedom.

 
Anti Irish Political Cartoon

An 1854 Nathaniel Currier cartoon called "Taking a 'Smile"  picturing Irish drinking.

 
Irish Political Cartoon

A cartoon from the 1850s by the "Know-Nothings" accusing the Irish and German immigrants of negatively affecting an election.

 
Irish Political Cartoon

Harper's Weekly image of the "coffin ships" showing the cramped, unhealthy accommodations for the Irish immigrants.

 
Anti Irish Political Cartoon

These cartoons from an 1881 issue of Puck depict common held negative views of  most Irish-Americans.