1854: No Irish Need Apply

Mark Bulik takes a look at The Times’s classified sections to find the first mentions of the phrase “No Irish need apply."

Comments: 27

  1. My great grandparents came to Boston from Ireland in the 1870s. I would be absolutely certain that they saw this phrase more than once. They eventually made their way to San Francisco, which despite the nativist* feelings in politics just 20 years earlier, succeeded quite well.

    *The 'Know Nothings.' (The irony: Many of them, including Dennis Kearney were children of immigrants themselves.)

  2. I'm curious about the term "automotive accident". The initial usage and evolution of this term would be very interesting to readers.

  3. Thank you for this story. I've heard people say that job postings like these never happened! I always believed they did, but never actually saw one before.

  4. I would like to see how long these sort of discriminatory ads against Irish Americans appeared in the NYT. There's a recent controversy over the frequency and even the existence of such ads brought on by the work of Prof. Richard Jensen. He claims that such "no Irish need apply" (NINA) ads and signs were not as common as people think, especially after the end of the Civil War.

    Contradicting his claim, a precocious teenager named Rebecca Fried produced proof from multiple newspapers and archives documenting the pervasive publication of these NINA ads. Though outside the scope of this feature, a further exploration of this topic would be edifying.

  5. When were some of the first references to Anarchism or Anarchist?

  6. How many of these persons would say they did it because the Irish refused to become American, resigning to their Catholic faith and stop celebrating St. Patrick's day?

  7. I was born in 1952 and had three grandparents who were born in Ireland. They arrived in the U.S. in the very early 1900s, and yet, I grew up hearing that tale that "Irish need not apply". I guess it was nearly as cruel as how the British had treated them and just as wounding. Still, the Irish are terrific grudge holders.

  8. And within a generation Irish women, including my grandmothers, were cleaning other women's homes coast to coast.

  9. Am I the only person who looked up the addresses on Google maps and street-viewed them?

  10. You should be aware that addresses today and a century or more ago are often very different. If you are looking for an address from 1850, you need to look on an 1850 map. That is about when house numbers were first printed on Manhattan maps.

  11. My great-grandparents arrived in NY from Ireland in 1892, and they told their children and grandchildren that this type of thing was still very common then. The only job my great grandfather could get was breaking wild horses at a livery stable, because he came from the Curragh region of Kildare, knew horses, and no one else wanted to do the dangerous job.

  12. Excellent reporting. Thanks. It would be interesting to ping the historians who've denied this. I wonder how they will interpret this evidence.

  13. My great-great grandfather who landed in Boston and served along with his son in the Civil War, spending two years in the Confederate Libby Prison, returned to New England in the aftermath of war to find the doors to employment closed to him because of NINA. Somehow he learned the secret Masonic handshake and began to use it during business introductions. The Hennessy Printing Company prospered in downtown Boston on State Street until my great-grandfather was inveigled upon by a gentleman named Hearst to travel around the Cape of Good Hope and fit out the presses at his San Francisco newspaper. As a child I was always reminded by family members of the discrimination faced by the Irish when they first arrived.

  14. It started when the Jews arrived in New Amsterdam in the very early 1600s, and continues to this day, each arriving group being glad to have the next one to scorn and look down upon.

    The tune is the same, only the lyrics change.

  15. Thanks! There was plenty denial including "scholarly" work denying this ever was the case.
    I think a 15yo Ms Rebecca Fried demolished his argument.
    Let's hope the Irish and their descendants here remember this discrimination and fight against it. Trump, Cruz, Rubio - take on these bullies.
    Likewise, in Ireland, with a global refugee crisis.
    Half of the small Irish Navy is on rescue operations in the Mediterranean, Ireland it seems will do much more now in this crisis but the treatment of asylum seekers in Ireland while awaiting determination of status is very shameful.

  16. Nothing wrong with it! If you want your family to be Protestant, you have the right to go Protestant when you hire people of influence. Can you imagine what would have happened if someone had hired the young Fulton Sheen to tutor his son?

  17. Actually, there IS something wrong with it. It's called discrimination.

  18. I find about 2000 occurrences of "No Irish Need Apply" in the archives of newspapers which Gale publishes--but that's only the exact phrase. It was a common phrase, but I'll wager they used less direct means of indicating Irish applicants would not be welcomed. There's probably a lot of "code" in these ads and we just need to crack it. http://tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/fbvX1 contact me if you are interested in some kind of textual analysis/data mining project to dig into this. Happy to oblige.

  19. My ancestors were not admitted to the U.S., orphaned on the ocean voyage they were sent to Ontario, England where the seven siblings were adopted by local families. Immigrants have paid dearly for the chance of a better tomorrow.

  20. Interesting. Similar notices (Protestants only!) were common throughout Ireland less than a century ago. And of course many Irish were Protestants. Still are.

  21. I wonder about the extent of similar restrictions against Italians.

  22. So? What's wrong with wanting to associate with someone you prefer rather than someone you're uncomfortable with?

  23. Actually there IS something wrong with it. It's called discrimination, in this case in the workplace. The thing that this article demonstrates is that the wrongness of discrimination isn't a new thing. "No Irish need apply" resulted in bitterness and resentment that resonates to this day.

  24. As an Irishman the NINA phenomenon is no news. However, at the time it was legal. Perhaps the lesson is that almost everyone has been discriminated against based on stereotyping, unfair bias, and prejudice. In the case of the Irish, there was a powerful religious driver as well as a racial driver. My view is we need to look forward not back and strive to deal with each other entirely on the content of character and the power of potential rather than facile and flawed bigotry.

  25. A research librarian from Dublin has performed his own search through the archives, and the subsequent sample he compiled is remarkably different than the sample we see published here: https://twitter.com/limerick1914/status/623259257471913984 "No Irish Need Apply" "Scandinavian or German girl; no Irish need apply" "Only Americans, Scandinavians, Irish, English, or Germans need apply" "only Irish or Germans need apply" "Only Irish need apply" "No German need apply" He ends by stating that the "vast majority" of US advertisements from this period did not contain an ethnic qualifier. This is a strange omission as far as this issue is concerned. Articles on NINA are naturally obsessed with 19th Century prejudice directed at Irish immigrants - which they claim was widespread and intense - but they provide no supporting evidence outside small samples of ads; they offer no sound insight into the historical circumstances; and they omit ads that targeted other immigrant groups, which are crucial pieces of evidence if the intention is to provide people with an accurate understanding of immigration history. Their argument also fails to comport with other undeniably known facts of the matter: 19th Century Irish immigrants had full control over the politics of their cities within 1 generation, and reached educational and socioeconomic parity with other white Americans in 2. Not to mention, the Great Hunger refugees account for less than 20% of historical Irish immigration.