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Irish Immigrants in the 1900s – The hands that built America

The true story of the Irish Immigrants of the early 1900s

As a company that specializes in moving to Ireland, we think of how different it was for all the Irish emigrants back in the days of the famine and early 1900s when they were forced to leave their homeland to seek a new life in the land of promise “America!” Check out our article on what the Irish immigrants in the 1900s went through and how they became the hands that built America.

History of Irish Immigration

The Great Famine (1845) and Mini Famine (1879)

Through 19th century Ireland suffered from multiple famines. In order to escape the worsening situation many laborers decided to move to America. Over 5 million people came from Ireland to the US during this time of famine and hunger. They landed with hope in their hearts that this new land would offer them a better life.

Irish Immigrant Labor in the 1900s

For most, America was their last chance of survival and they offered themselves to the country as hard working laborers who became legendary in the construction of the big cities on the east coast, such as New York, Boston, and Chicago.

A big reason for these cities in particular is just that these were the port cities they landed at. Usually immigrants were too poor to move, and they needed the support system within their culture. When landing, many construction jobs were offered to Irish immigrants right as they got off the boat. Even the cheap wages were great to them as they just left a place where there was no food.

The skyscrapers, Boston common, and most land space in these new cosmopolitan cities grew with this Irish labor and unfortunately many died on the job.

Many of the Irish also became members of the US army, police force, and political positions at the time. Giant political machines like Tammany Hall installed many Irish into these positions of power in order to gain more control. To this day, there is still a major influence on these public service offices. 

Irish immigrants in New York early 1900s
Irish workers having lunch on a steel beam

Westward Expansion and Manifest Destiny

For some Irish immigrants, the vast west and chance to make it rich in the West was more enticing. This westward movement had the power of Irish labor fueling the expansion process at the time. Both railroads and cities used this Irish labor and their heritage is found throughout the westward path.

Reduced Immigration Through Emergency Immigration Acts of 1921 and 1924

In the 20s, America passed immigration laws in order to reduce the amount of immigrants entering the country. While they meant to keep out certain countries, it lowered Irish immigration as well. After these acts, Irish immigration waned, which also is due to the recovery of Ireland as well.

Legacy of Irish Immigrants

The Hands that Built America is a song by another wonderful Irish creation, U2. This song is a remembrance to the Irish immigrants in the 1900s and keeps that time alive today. This moniker really describes Irish Immigrants in the 1900s as much of their hard labor built the backbones to American cities as we know them today.

Approximately 12% of all Americans have some trace of Irish heritage in them. The worldwide celebration of St. Patrick’s Day is a testament to the strength of the Irish presence abroad and the legacy of what all those hard working exiles left for us to bask in today.

Moving To or From Ireland in the 21st Century?

When the Irish immigrated, they did not have the luxury of bringing their furniture or personal belongings with them. International moving companies did not exist in the same regard then!

Moving to or from Ireland and the USA? Contact our international moving specialists at Schumacher Cargo Logistics for your free moving quote.


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Schumacher Cargo Logistics utilizes insured, secured and bonded facilities. We provide warehousing, packing, crating, trucking and loading services out of our own warehouses here in the USA - Los Angeles, Houston, Savannah, Miami, New York, and New Jersey. All other worldwide destinations are covered by our affiliated organization member companies.