Irish Immigrants (1820s - 1850s)
This is a picture of a nice Irish family coming over from Ireland to America.

What were three reasons why the Irish left their homeland?

The Irish were living in extremely difficult conditions in Ireland. Because of the Napoleonic Wars, they had a large overpopulation and soon were living in extreme poverty. Extreme religious persecution from the Irish Protestants and unfair political situations pushed the Irish closer and closer to leaving. Many Irish came to America at this time just for the freedom. In 1845, the great potato famine swept through the country. The Irish's main food source were potatoes and when the famine came through the country, many Irish people's food sources were completely wiped out, causing them to starve. Irish who wrote about the account said that the children looked sick, and that you could see every bone in their body. The crops remained undependable for 5 years afterwards. Many weren't able to pay their landlords and their only escape was emigrating to America.

What they experienced once they got here?

Irish arrived with little to no money. Few of them ever were able to get out of extreme poverty. Most of them were lucky enough to get jobs digging the great canals, the first links to the national transportation system. All the Irish had to use with this job was a pick axe and a shovel.

After the arrival of the Irish Anti-Irish groups, such as the Know-Nothings, were formed, and they began to persecute them. Irish were persecuted by the Know-Nothings constantly, and they were very violent and hostile. Some signs were placed on stores because they that said Irish need not apply.

What was the American reaction to their presence?
Most Americans who called themselves nativists believed that the Irish were taking American jobs. They burned down their houses,and discriminated against them constantly. They didn't like their religious views, and believed they were wrong.

What cities did they settle in?

The Irish settled mostly in the major cities on the east coast. Like cities in New York, New Jersey, and Maine. Since these cities were close to ports, they did not have to travel far from were they were let off the ship that brought them to America. They stayed in the communities which mostly were populated by their on culture.

What was housing like?
The Irish weren't able to live in expensive housing due to the cost of their trip to come to America; therefore, for the housing for the Irish was horrible, the apartments were small, and on average 9 people lived in 2 rooms. There was no indoor plumbing, so all sewage went outside, which led to rats. These rats carried disease which sometimes caused death in children.

What kinds of jobs did they get?

The Irish were offered non-skilled required, strenuous, and dangerous jobs. For the men this included building railroads, streets, houses, canals, and sewer systems. For the women, it was factory work and being hired as a servant. Either job was very tiring and did not pay much. It was not unusual for the immigrants to work up to 16 hours a day.


In the beginning or as most would say, before the potato famine; all was well in Ireland.
(JT and Kindall are happy YAYYY!)

As time went on, life in Ireland was beginning to be hard; work was tiresome, and constant harassment from the unpaid landlords didn't help.
(Kindall and JT are sad)

Then the Potato famine came, all was lost, and many people died from starvation. The only ones who survived were able to restart in the new world.
(JT says “We should go to America” Kindall agrees.)

The journey to America wasn’t easy. Most Irish passengers only had enough money to pay for a journey to America in steerage, which was the crowded and disease filled part of a ship providing accommodations for passengers with the cheapest tickets.
(Jt and Kindall cough uncontrollably)

Many people died from the travel to America, but the few that did make it to America weren’t through the worst yet.
(JT (still sick) and Kindall are happy again)

Immigrants from various countries were lined up for inspection at Ellis Island. Even though the wait was long and tedious, mostly all immigrants kept their fervent belief that America would be better alive.

(JT and Kindall are waiting to get inspected, but there was a long line, JT is still sick)

As the immigrants were inspected one by one the line moved by. There were 2 doctors at the front. One doctor check for normal diseases or infections. The doctor would use a shoe hook to look under your eye lids to check for pink eye, which was a potential life threatening and scary disease back then. The other doctor would check for lameness or other mental diseases that could make life harder for the immigrant to survive in America.

(JT and Kindall will be at the front of the line, and they will be getting inspected by the two doctors, but JT has a bad cough)

If immigrants were sick or weren’t able to get their paper work in order; they were detained until they were cleared to enter America.

(Doctor says “You are free to go. Welcome to America.” Luckily JT and Kindall weren’t detained even though JT has a cough. JT and Kindall are happy again)

After entering America many people were able to go free or do as they pleased in their new home in America.

This is a picture of two Irish immigrants getting excited as they near America.

This is a picture showing the persecution that the Irish went through when they came to the U.S.

A man waits his turn at Ellis island to get into America.

This is a picture illustrating the quickly decreasing population and increasing sadness during the potato famine.