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My Blog

The Irish of Chicago

Good morning to all.  Hope you are having a great weekend.  Just a few more days until it is officially Spring....with the winter we have had...I am really waiting!!  I had a rough night sleeping and when I finally decided to stop the tossing and the turning, I made a cup of tea and as I passed the window...I couldn't believe that once again, there was snow covering the car in the driveway!  Spring...you are sorely missed...please hurry and come already!
Well, today's blog is about some Irish history in Chicago.  By the year 1860, Chicago had the fourth highest population of Irish settlers.  They had made a phenomenal contribution the Chicago's growth.  The laborers worked on the canal, the lumber and stockyards, wharves and the steel mills.
The Chicago Irish are perhaps best known for their political skills in winning elections and creating a multiethnic Democratic  machine.  In fact, in Chicago, we have had  twelve Irish mayors who have governed for more than 80 years in this fair city. 
Now not all the important Irish happening were due to the Male population...The Catholic Schools  contributed to the growth and development of this larger city. The University of St. Mary of the Lake was dedicated on July 4, 1846, and  was Chicago's first institution of higher learning, and Saint Xavier Academy was also founded by the Irish Sisters of Mercy in 1846, and had enrolled more Protestants than Catholics in its early years. It was an Irish woman by the name of Agatha O'Brien, who was  a working-class immigrant from County Carlow, Ireland, and her Mercy Sisters taught school, operated an employment bureau for Irish women.  She  established Chicago's first orphanage.  Many of the Irish woman were nurses and worked the orphanage and the hospitals in the city as well.  Our historic landmark, St. Patrick's church, on Adams and Desplaines Streets in 1856  is one of the best-known example of Celtic Revival Art in America.
It is no wonder that Chicago hosts a parade in honor of St. Patty's Day, and not only do they host a Parade...but we even dye the Chicago River bright green.  You don't need to have any Irish blood in you to be Irish....on St. Patty's Day....EVERYONE is Irish!   It is a time honored tradition here in Chicago. 
Now...on a side note...I have to also reveal something I learned once on a trip to Rockford, Illinois at the Midway Museum.  One year, I took my husband there to spend the day on Fathers Day.  One of the historic buildings that we toured was the stone police station.  The tour guide explained many things about the jail...the cell itself and also told us a bit of information that was one of those pieces that you stop and say "wow, really?".  Back in the olden days, many of those hard working Irish men would have quite a bit of fun out on the town.  Of course, there wasn't anything serious going on...just a bit over the top on their consumption of Irish Whiskey.  The police would be called and they would be hauled away to the jail for a place to sleep it off.  It seems that it was such a repeated occurrence....the police would say "Let's get them Paddy's into the wagon....well, from that time on...we have referred to the police wagon as the "PADDY WAGON".  I, growing up had always referred to it in that manor....but never really had given much thought of why it was called that. 
So, there you have it a bit of history on the Irish here in Chicago.  I-RISH you a pleasant day!

1 Comment to The Irish of Chicago:

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yalae on Sunday, June 01, 2014 11:35 AM
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