The Irish in Cincinnati

This website grew from a University of Cincinnati Honors Program seminar, “The Irish in America,” in coordination with the Archives & Rare Books Library. The focus is on the history and the living heritage of the Irish in Cincinnati and is designed to be a sustainable and informative site that is a collaborative effort between archivists, students, scholars, and the general public.

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Irish Dancing in Cincinnati

By: Onnie Middendorf
Annie and Onnie, Celtic Festival 2011

“Annie and Onnie Celtic Festival 2011” These are close ups of the school dresses and headbands that Erickson Academy of Irish Dance wear. Each school has their own colors and designs that set them apart from other dance schools. These are worn by less experienced dancers and dancers doing traditional ceili dances.

Just like Saint Patrick’s Day is enjoyed by most who consider themselves Irish-American and those who just enjoy the festivities on March 17th, Irish Dancing is enjoyed by people with and without Irish ancestry all around the world.  Here in the United States, names like O’Brien and Sheehan appear on feis lists, but there are also names like Mueller and Kraemer and other non-Irish names.  A feis is an Irish Dance competition, and they typically have a list of all of the dancers competing as well as the dance school they attend.  One of my neighbors told me about a time when she went to see her niece dance and referred to it as a “Shirley Temple” convention because of all of the wigs.  Everyone is welcome to compete, and welcome to learn as well.  Irish Dance instructors are dedicated to preserving the Irish-American cultural tradition of Irish Dance by teaching it to people from all backgrounds, from curly Irish redheads to people like me without any Irish Heritage at all, and everyone in between.  Continue reading

“The Quiet Man” Impact on Irish Tourism

By: Remy Nering

2_Nering_The Quiet ManThe Quiet Man is a 1950s romantic comedy starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Sean Thornton (Wayne) returns home to Ireland from American to claim right to his childhood home but in the process, he angers a local man, Will Danaher, who wanted the land Thornton purchases for himself. To Danaher’s dismay, Thornton ends up falling in love with his sister, Mary Kate (O’Hara).  With a little scheming by locals, Danaher agrees to permit Thornton and Mary Kate to marry. When the scheme is discovered, Danaher refuses to give Mary Kate her fortune which she deems necessary to be wed to Thornton. The fortune is of no consequence to Thornton, but Mary Kate will not stand to be with him if she does not have it. It’s only after Thornton confronts Danaher about the ridiculous custom of a fortune’s necessity that Danaher hands it over. Thornton then begins a fight with Danaher; the fight takes an intermission for the men to have a drink then ends shortly after with the two agreeing on grounds of mutual respect. Continue reading

Luck of the Irish

By: Sydney Vollmer

Disney_-_The_Luck_of_the_Irish“The luck of the Irish” is a fairly common saying. Most probably think it means the Irish are a people of great luck.  Anyone who knows the history of Ireland and its people will be able to tell you that wasn’t always the case.  In fact, for most of history, the Irish have been a very unlucky people.  When people started immigrating to America, they were met with hatred and stereotypes were quickly formed.  The phrase, “the luck of the Irish” was born out of a stereotype.  Irish who struck gold during the 19th century rush were said to have found the gold by luck, because no one believed an Irishman could succeed through skill or intelligence (Walsh). Continue reading

Is Slagging for America?

By: Kelly Schmitz

Cincinnati Irish Website Additional Contribution 1 PhotoSlagging is a term used to describe a kind of harsher form of teasing.  While this may seem like an insult to some, to the Irish, it’s considered a behavior that shows affection or bonding, and, in some cases, is even used as a compliment.  You might consider pointing out how much weight your friend has gained or take a poke at their short stature, for example.  At this point, you, like me, might be thinking, “Gosh, I tease my friends all the time?  What does any of this have to do with being Irish?”  This difference lies in that unlike in America, slagging isn’t just used to playfully make fun of the other person, it’s used as a form of positive reinforcement.  To the Irish, slagging is just a bit of “craic”, a term the Irish use to describe fun, entertainment and enjoyable conversation, and no harm is meant by what is said.  In a workplace setting for example, a boss will tell his employee how great they’re doing.  Not the case in Ireland, where that same boss would be more likely to tell his employee that he finally got off his lazy arse.  It’s the difference between distributing straight up compliments and hiding them in the humorous lingo.  Such harsh words, it seems, but is this behavior particularly unique to the Irish?  To answer this question, I decided to delve deeper and ask a couple of my close friends for input. Continue reading

Are “Irish” Beers Actually Irish?

By: Colleen O’Brien

20170220_185203When most Americans think of Ireland or Irish-American culture they think of Guinness as one of the key elements, aside from shamrocks and leprechauns. Guinness is an Irish dry stout known for its tangy, sharp flavors, black color, and creamy texture.   Arthur Guinness began brewing the beer in 1759 at the St. James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin, Ireland. Eventually in 1932, during the Anglo-Irish Trade War, the Guinness & Co. headquarters were moved to London. This was due to the Control of Manufactures Act, which limited a company’s ownership to Irish citizens, as Guinness had foreign investors. The company merged with Grand Metropolitan in 1997 to form Diageo. Continue reading

The Big Dogs of Ireland

By: Cassidy Moody

In 1571, Father Edmund Hogan, an Irishman and a Jesuit priest wrote, “The Irish are not without wolves, and greyhounds to hunt them bigger of bone and limb than colt.” He wasn’t actually referring to a small and slender greyhound known for its speed, but rather the larger than life Irish Wolfhound.

Wolfhound2Seen in ancient wood carvings as far back as 273 BC, the Irish Wolfhound has long been a part of the Irish culture. Often used in ancient battles, it was said that Julius Caesar and “all [of] Rome viewed them with wonder.” In addition to fighting and hunting, the wolfhounds were also used to guard homes and livestock. The dogs became very popular with the British nobility in Ireland, causing them to become a negative symbol to the public. Due to their regal appearance and calm nature, the dogs were often presented as gifts to other aristocrats. Soon, more hounds were being exported from Ireland than were being born and the population began to decrease. Continue reading

Is Green Dye Edible?

By: Megan Dunlevy

The Shamrock Shake returns every March. For many people the annual return of McDonald’s Shamrock Shake means that St. Patrick’s Day is upon us. This mint-flavored shake started off as a charitable Cornedbeefpromotion that started the first Ronald McDonald house. Since the introduction of the shake in 1970 there have been over 60 million sold and there is even a website ( ) to find Shamrocks out of season. There are numerous examples of foods that are seen as Irish or are specific to St. Patrick’s Day, from artificial green beer, Irish soda bread, and potatoes to corned beef – the examples seem never ending. To many Irish Americans, including myself, corned beef, boiled potatoes and carrots is a classic St. Patrick’s Day meal and for bakers, Irish soda bread is equally traditional. But are these “traditional” foods actually Irish? Or have they simply become “Irish” over time?  Clearly some foods like the Shamrock Shake and green beer are not traditional, but what about corned beef and Irish soda bread? Continue reading

Who Was the Public Enemy?

By: Gabe Brown

My perception of The Public Enemy is that it is, first and foremost, a fascinating piece of propaganda.  It’s release date, in 1931, put it shortly after the start of the Great Depression and the rise of organized crime powers throughout the nation.  In both its opening and conclusion, the film specifically allies itself with the cause of raising public activism against organized crime.  Irishmen are very obviously associated with gang activity in the film, despite several characters who sport the stereotypical brogue who are on the far opposite end of the spectrum.  The devotion of lead James Cagney’s character (Tom Powers) to his mother (Ma Powers, played by Beryl Mercer) and closest friends is also an extension of the stereotypical Irish character.  That is to say, he is fiercely loyal to her, even to the point of hiding his own questionable deeds from her.  On her part, Ma Powers refuses to see him as anything but her “baby boy” and is happy to accept money from him without questioning its origins. Continue reading

“Philomena” & Irish Catholicism

By: Meredith Anness

Organized religion, I’ve always thought, is mostly good.  It provides a motivation to be a better person, follow a moral compass, and remain a humble servant of something other than oneself.  In particular, Christianity gives its followers the promise of an everlasting life in return for good deeds and faithful following of the omnipotent God.  But what happens when one of the tenants of that religion goes against your own sense of right and wrong?  This was the dilemma I faced watching Philomena, a 2013 movie adapted from the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by Martin Sixsmith, published by Pan Books in 2010.  Starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, it won accolades at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, and for good reason. This movie opened my eyes to a serious injustice that I believe should be recognized rather than swept under the rug. The suffering that the main character, Philomena, endured in the name of her religion and God is beyond my scope of understanding. But to me, it speaks volumes on the true devotion she had, as well as how her Irish upbringing may have affected the circumstances of her tale. In many ways, she is a typical Irish Catholic woman with an atypical story to tell. Continue reading

Why Your Irish Food Might Not Be: An Exploration of Ireland’s Culinary Past

By: Ryan Doyle

Think of a traditional Irish dish, one that would be served on St. Patrick’s Day or in front of an Irish family at home.  What you are picturing is likely no more Irish than spaghetti and meatballs is Italian. Most dishes that Americans associate with the Irish are just that, American, or at least Irish-American. Now, explore the real history behind some “Irish” dishes and figure out fact from fiction.

Soda BreadStart with a simple one: soda bread. Soda bread in and of itself is a very Irish tradition, borne of the fact that Ireland was a fairly poor country for a long time.  Soda bread is unique among breads in that it is leavened not by yeast, as is typical, but rather by the action of baking soda, usually in conjunction with the acidity of buttermilk. Traditionally, soda bread is comprised of only four ingredients: salt, baking soda, buttermilk and flour.  These characteristics of soda bread make it ideal for a poorer family to make, it requires only the bare minimum of ingredients for bread and none of the truly expensive ones, salt here is only added for flavor and could be taken out if the family were impoverished. This makes the bread cheap, filling and adaptable; things can be added to the bread in times of plenty and reduced to a bare minimum as needed. While similar in construction, American soda bread seems to belie the fact that America has a lot more resources readily available to the average consumer.  Looking at current American recipes for soda bread, we see additions like butter, eggs, sugar and more exotic things like dates and caraway seeds. This comprises something the Irish call “foreigner’s bread,” demonstrating that Americans may not be as connected to their roots as they might like to think.  Indeed, the caraway seeds may be derived from the traditional Jewish-American recipes for rye bread, calling for caraway seeds to lend flavor to the loaf. Continue reading

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