Irish Americans' Contributions to Our Nations

As each generation moves into the future, we must give all we have inherited to them. If we don’t possess the stories of our past, we must seek them—or what can we give our children to define who they truly are? If we only bring trivial legends, tales and media impressions of our heritage created by others, instead of our true history, we have nothing of value to offer those who come after us. And with nothing for them to pass on to their heirs, those stories that were left to us will be lost forever. 

America has been a mecca for Irish immigrants since the 1600s. They and their sons participated in significant numbers in the American Revolution. There were Irish Americans among the signers of the foundational documents of the United States: the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

In 1790, the first national census was held to count everyone and learn where Americans had come from. From a total population of 3.9 million, 65% were from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland—the majority was Irish. A little more than 19% were from Africa and the rest were from the Netherlands, France, Sweden or were Jewish with no homeland.

Though they started at the bottom of the economic ladder, Irish and Irish American insistence on education for their children paid off. By 1900, Irish Americans slowly rose within the working world and had jobs and earnings about equal on average to their neighbors. The yet there were still shanty towns in major cities.

After 1945, the Irish consistently ranked at the top of the social hierarchy and business world contributing to the shaping of America, thanks to their high rate of college attendance. According to the last Census, there are 34.5 million Americans who list their heritage as either primarily or partially Irish. That number is, incidentally, seven times larger than the population of Ireland itself. From their coming, America has seen 22 Presidents of Irish descent and countless CEOs of major corporations. The story of Irish America is truly one of the more remarkable success stories in the History of America.

Legacy Stories from the Americans All Heritage Honor Roll

We are pleased to host and share these legacy stories created by honorees’ family, friends and associates. They, like us, appreciate that heritage and culture are an integral part of our nation's social fabric and want to help students participate effectively in our nation's economy, workforce and democracy.

Last Name of Individual
First Name of Individual
Group name

Alamo, The [Ancient Order of Hibernians] (February 23, 1836 - March 6, 1836) Historic Military Garrison /node/564843

The Irish National Flag stands in a place of honor inside The Alamo in recognition of the largest ethnic group to defend that icon of independence. Renowned Author, James Michener, once said The Irish gave Texas it's basic character. If Texas character is one of determination and bravery, then the celebrated scribe hit the nail right on the head. Irishmen and women have played pivotal roles in the Lone Star State . . . 

Andersonville Angel [Ancient Order of Hiberinans] (c.1802 - February 6, 1871) Irish Catholic Priest /node/564869

Rev. Peter Whelan, administrator of the Savannah diocese, distinguished himself as a chaplain for the Montgomery Guards, an Irish company in the First Georgia Volunteer Regiment, named for one of America’s earliest heroes—Irish-born Revolutionary General Richard Montgomery.  In 1862, The Montgomery Guards were bombed into surrender by Union forces and though he was offered freedom, Rev. Whelan chose to remain with the prisoners.

Antietam, Battle of [Ancient Order of Hibernians] (September 17, 1862 - September 22, 1862) Revoluntionary War Battle /node/564870

The bloodiest day in American history took place during the Civil War and the Irish had a major part in the Union victory that day. It took place at Antietam on September 17, 1862, and it was the victory that emboldened President Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Foremost among Union forces was the Irish Brigade led by Irish-born Gen. Thomas F Meagher.

James Duane [Ancient Order of Hibernians] (February 6, 1773 - February 1, 1797) Lawyer, Jurist and Revolutionary Leader /node/564865

During the American Revolution, New York was totally destroyed and was rebuilt by the son of an immigrant from Co. Galway, Ireland. He was the first post-colonial person to wear the title ‘Mayor of New York’ and his name was James Duane. He was born in New York, then called the Province of New York, to Irish immigrant parents on February 6, 1733; a time when the Central Park was considered ‘upstate’ and a wilderness.  

Henry Ford [Ancient Order of Hiberinans] (July 30, 1863 - April 7, 1947) Founder of Ford Motor Company /node/564868

In 1846, a carpenter named William Ford fled his home in Co. Cork, Ireland with scarcely two Pounds in his pocket to escape the poverty of the Great Hunger. He sailed on a coffin ship to Canada with his eyes set on America. He stole across the border and settled in Michigan where he began farming. He married and, in 1863, his wife presented him with a son whom he named Henry.

Stephen Foster [Ancient Order of Hibernians] (July 4, 1826 - January 13, 1864) American Songwriter /node/564866

America's Troubadour of Song was an Irish American born on the fourth of July! If you said George M. Cohan, you'd be mistaken, for the title America's Troubadour of Song is reserved for another Irish American born on July 4. He was the Great Grandson of a Co. Derry emigrant who settled in New Jersey in 1725 and later moved to Pennsylvania. We’re referring to Stephen Foster.

Mike McCormack [Kevin McCormack] (June 8, 1938 - ?) Author and Historian /node/564962

Mike McCormack is a former columnist for the Irish Echo and feature writer for the Arizona Desert Shamrock, San Francisco Gael, Florida Irish American, Hibernian Digest, as well as St Patrick’s Monthly and Ireland’s Eye magazines in Ireland. He helped organize a Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and served as Secretary, Vice President, and President before his knowledge of Irish history earned him the post of Division Historian.