Discovery Assignment - Final Project

Irish Immigration of the 1700’s and its Influence on America’s Culture / Economy

Irish Shamrock. Image. Squid and Whale Image Collection. <>.

    In general, the Irish population comprises of a large percentage of the modern American population because of the long history that this particular nationality has had with immigrating and descending from ancestors when the United States of America had broken from English rule. Specifically, the focus of Irish immigrants for this purpose is on the people who came during the later colonial wave of 1700 to around 1775. With a population of about a quarter million coming to the colonies during this wave, they left an immense influence on the American culture and economy by means of contributing to America’s diversity, customs, and language.
    America is commonly referred to as a “melting pot” of the world in which many nationalities and ethnicities are prevalent in the American society. The presence of Irish nationality in the U.S. initially started during the immigrant wave of the 1700’s with Irish Protestants and Catholics (McCormack). Not only did this wave bring another nationality to the English mix that was in the colonies, but also this wave brought religious diversity, too. Originally the English Protestants were the travelers who settled the colonies, but with this wave both Irish Protestants and Catholics came over and spiced things up. By looking at American ancestry even in modern day, 34 million claim Irish ancestry in which there are three states: NH, DE, MA that have more people who have Irish ancestry than any other nationality (Irish-American). Information from the History News Network about Irish ancestry goes into more depth explaining how Irish ancestry is so prevalent, including regards to religious diversity:
                    Huge numbers of Irish immigrants came to America in the colonial period (…30 percent … arriving between 1700 and 1820 came from Ireland) and the great majority of them were
                    Presbyterians from Ulster. Of the many thousands of Catholics who came in the 17th and 18th centuries, most appear to have converted to some form of Protestantism. The Protestant
                    descendents…have been multiplying ever since. In contrast, the great migration of Irish Catholics began only in the 1830s (during which time… the Protestant Irish continued to come)
With such a high Irish Protestant and Catholic presence in American society, along with the diversity, they brought some of their customs into American culture too.
    Probably the most significant and well-known custom that has been brought to American culture through means of the Irish population is the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Though St. Patrick was an important figure in Irish history and was honored on March 17, the customs involving parades and large celebrations were created here in the U.S. (Myths) With the founding of the Charitable Irish Society in 1737, Irish immigrants made a larger deal out of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with commemorations and parties, but it was not until 1762 when the first parade began (Myths and St. Patrick’s). This aspect alone of Irish-American culture has had a big economic impact as well. With each yearly celebration of the holiday, many consumers spend money on cabbage and bacon (traditional Irish food), beer, and decorations such as shamrocks, dyed chrysanthemums, etc. which brings in millions of dollars (St. Patrick’s). This holiday further influenced American culture through the symbolism in the holiday. Four-leaf clovers, leprechauns, rainbows, pots of gold - all of these are Irish symbols brought into American culture, generally shown on St. Patrick’s Day to indicated good luck, wealth, and prosperity (Myths).
    Lastly, the Irish influenced American culture by means of the Gaelic and Celtic languages. In the 1700 wave of Irish immigrants, many of them set up their own communities of which allowed them to continue speaking those languages which in some parts of Ireland and England they were forbidden (Schneider) This allowed the Gaelic and Celtic languages to be preserved rather than dying out. Also, by looking at many of the surnames in American society such as MacDonald or McCooly the prefix “Mac” or “Mc” are Gaelic contractions that indicate ‘the son of …’ (Myths). Another aspect of those languages that was incorporated into American culture was the “O” as in O’Reilly meaning grandson in Gaelic, but it was misinterpreted to mean the word “of” in American society (Myths).
    The Irish immigration wave of the 1700’s introduced many things to American culture and left lasting effects on the economy simply because they were the first main Irish group to come to the colonies and be given that opportunity. They brought national and religious diversity, customs and celebrations that affected both the culture and economy, and also the Gaelic and Celtic languages that explains many of the spellings in modern American names. Of course these influences are not simply attributed to this immigrant wave alone, but it essentially started here