Irish of Chicago

Chicago is known as perhaps the most Irish city in America, beating out other highly Irish populated cities like New York or Philadelphia. Only Chicago has a city council that consents to their river being dyed green every St. Patrick’s Day. This city can arguably be responsible for the widespread myths of Leprechauns, of the thoughts we as Americans associate with the end of a rainbow, and they are the audience that inspired lucky charms, a basic staple of American childhood. While Chicago doesn’t have the biggest Irish population of American cities (it comes in fourth), somehow this is the place where they are the most influential. Many of Chicago’s mayors have been Irish, at least for eighty years out of the 170 or so years they’ve been here. This could be attributed to how many union leaders and police chiefs, fire chiefs, and religious leaders in the community are Irish. Most of the cities governance is run by Irish Americans, such as its police and fire department, but not just run by Irish, they are predominantly represented in these fields. As well, Irish Catholics have founded over 80% of Chicago’s churches, their number and size dwarfing the grand Italian Catholic cathedrals. Migration to Chicago from Ireland was caused by the potato famine in their country around the 1840s. Starvation killed a million Irish and pushed another million across the sea to look for work, as the melting pot of America looked more welcoming to Irish refugees than the countries of the long-established communities in Europe.

The history of Irish in Chicago is also a controversial one. During the widespread factory strikes of the 1910s, the Irish were leading the unions that clashed with African and Mexican American workers during the 1919 Riots. The North Side Gang fighting over territory with Al Capone is what led to the Valentines Day massacre, followed by more gang-related murders. Today the mafia’s of Chicago is said to have gone legit or been arrested, now the Irish exert their influence in Chicago through politics, civil service, and religion, a huge improvement.

Works Cited

Skerrett, Ellen. “Irish.” Encyclopedia of Chicago,

The Journeyman Plumbers Association turn the Chicago River green on St Patrick’s Day, 3/17/2018, by injecting a green dye

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Chicago’s Little Mexico

Irish of Chicago

History of Chicago

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