How is it that St Patrick’s day is celebrated all over the world? Why do we all love the Irish so much that their national day brings New York to a standstill and millions of people across America go out to party?
Well, one of the main reasons is that the USA has a huge Irish heritage and is connected with Ireland in more ways than we could ever imagine. Here are some of the reasons why America is the most Irish country in the world…
1. No Thanksgiving without Ireland
The ship ‘The Lyon’ arrived from Dublin bearing food for the pilgrims, who were close to starving. After unloading the ship the first ever Thanksgiving was held, and the most important holiday in the American calendar was born.
2. More than 10.5% of Americans reported Irish ancestry in 2013
That is a whopping 33 million people who can trace their roots back to Ireland. Some states are as high as 10% while the lowest is Miami with “only” 1% Irish.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, one of America’s most iconic and important presidents, was the first Irish-Catholic president – a son of two families whose roots stretched back to Ireland.
4. Police and fire departments
In the mid-1800s as much as 30% of the police force in New York was made up of Irish men who had moved to the US. And by the turn of the 20th century, five out of six NYPD officers were Irish-born or of Irish descent.
As late as the 1960s, 42% of the NYPD were Irish-Americans. The same is true of the fire services in some Eastern cities. This Irish influence has had a huge effect on the way people live their lives and the law enforcement agencies through the generations.
5. The Irish built America
When most Irish people arrived they went straight to work, hired by Irish contractors to build the America we know today. Everything from railroads, streets, canals and sewers were built by the Irish before graduating to mass transit projects and skyscrapers.
6. The Catholic and Protestant faiths
The Irish had a huge hand in running both these religions. There are more Protestants stemming from the arrival of their ancestors, primarily in the colonial era, while Catholics came mostly in the 1900s.
7. A huge 4.7 million people emigrated from Ireland to the USA
Between the years 1820 and 1910, massive numbers left these shores trying to find a better life in America. It is mainly from that base that the current Irish-American population has emerged.
8. Chicago turns an entire river green
St Patrick’s Day is celebrated all over America, but in Chicago (a very Irish city) they take things a step further and turn an entire river green.
9. Michael Flatley and Riverdance
Irish dance shows Riverdance, Lord of the Dance, Feet of Flames, and Celtic Tiger were all developed by Flatley and exported all over the world. He grew up on the South Side of Chicago.
Home to the Boston Celtics and easily the most ‘Irish’ city outside Ireland itself. Everything from the accent to the food can be traced back to this small island.
11. Tom Brady
The poster boy for one of the biggest sports in America. The quarterback says himself that his father is ‘100% Irish’.
12. Billy The Kid
The famous outlaw was actually born “William Henry McCarty” and his family came from Antrim. His parents emigrated during the famine to New York before he moved on and started running wild killing people and so forth.
13. Bill Clinton’s role in the Irish peace process
Bill Clinton claims an Irish heritage and Hilary has just this week been inducted into the Irish Hall of Fame. His legacy as a president, though, will mostly be remembered for the huge focus he put on bringing peace to Ireland.
14. Even McDonald’s honour the Irish
The biggest restaurant chain in the world, and an icon of American culture, makes sure to go Irish with their Shamrock shake.
15. An Irishman touched land ahead of Christopher Columbus
Legend has it that an Irish monk was a full 900 years ahead of Columbus in “discovering” America. Brendan the Navigator returned speaking of a land of unimaginable size.
16. Even Obama hails from Ireland
On a recent visit to the Emerald Isle Obama – or O’Bama – made sure to go and have a pint of Guinness in a small midlands town called Moneygall, from which his ancestors came.
17. An Irishman designed the White House
James Hoban was the architect of the White House project. He was born in Ireland, and after arriving in the USA he won a competition to design presidential residence in 1792 – he even modelled it on Dublin’s Leinster House, where the Dáil (Irish parliament) is based.
18. Parts of the North East touch top 30% of people with Irish American Backgrounds
You only have to look at the maps and the percentages to see just how Irish some of the neighbourhoods are in the likes of New York.
19. The US is the spiritual home of U2
The biggest band in the world have been embraced by America as if they emerged from there themselves. Some of the band live there, they’ve shot countless iconic videos there and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg even named a street after them.
20. There are 10,000 Irish pubs in America
You don’t have to go far in any city in America to find a good Irish pub or restaurant. The Irish were quick to embrace the jobs in the service industry and the tradition continues today.
21. Quentin Tarantino
Possibly the best director of his entire generation, he needs no introduction really – his mother, Connie McHugh was Irish.
22. Google, Facebook, Apple and Twitter choose Ireland
Some of the biggest tech companies in the world have their European HQs in Ireland meaning the connections with the Emerald Isle stay strong.
23. An Irishman composed ‘Star Spangled Banner’
Turlough O’Carolan composed the music that went on to be the most famous tune in America, and although it was altered and claimed by an Englishman it is argued the original can be traced back to Ireland.
24. The pumpkins and frights of Halloween have Irish origins
It’s one of the biggest holidays in America, but to find the origin of Halloween, you have to look to the festival of Samhain in Ireland’s Celtic past. It’s evolved into something different today, of course, but pumpkins are still at its core.
25. An Irishman designed the dollar sign
Designed by Oliver Pollock, who was born in Coleraine, Co Derry in 1737. He became a plantation owner in Spanish New Orleans and used his connections to supply and finance the Americans during the Revolutionary War. Business was conducted in Spanish pesos for which the abbreviation was a large ‘P’ with a small ‘s’ above it to the right. Pollock adapted this to the upward stroke of the P running through the S, or $.
26. Mickey Mouse
Walt Disney’s ancestors hail from Co Kilkenny. His early partner Pat Powers, co-founder of Universal Studios and the man who enabled Mickey Mouse to speak, was born in Co Waterford in 1870.
27. The Golden Gate Bridge
Financed by the Mellon Bank, founded in Pittsburgh by Thomas Mellon, born Cappagh, Co. Tyrone, in 1813. The Mellon Bank also provided the funds to found Gulf Oil, US Steel, Heinz, General Motors and the world’s biggest company, ExxonMobil (originally Standard Oil).
28. Four basketball teams have special “Irish jerseys”
You’d expect the Boston Celtics to wear green but during the week of St Paddy’s Day, four teams change their third jersey to green – including the Chicago Bulls.
29.The White House Fountain
Every year since 2009 the White House, the most powerful place in the modern world, deems Ireland so important that it turns its fountain green. Meanwhile, inside the building, an Irish delegation that includes the Irish prime minister has ‘the craic’ with Obama.
30. Some 144,221 Union soldiers who fought in the Civil War were born in Ireland
Some say the number could even have been as close to half a million, but whatever the number, the Irish were instrumental in the most seminal moments in America’s history – putting themselves right on the front lines.
31. World’s first St Patrick’s Day parade
You’d expect the tradition of parades to come from Ireland itself, but it was in the 1800s that Irish Americans started holding parades to honour their returning soldiers. The tradition has spread from there all across America and now around the world.
32. Fighting Irish – 267 Irish-born men have received a Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the USA’s highest military honour, and the Irish have played a huge part in serving their adopted country.
33. There are 16 places named ‘Dublin’ in America
It’s the name of our capital, and even the title of our website, but we aren’t the only Dublin in the world. You’ll find 16 of them in varying sizes in the USA.