In the nineteenth century, Americans saw Irish people very differently than we might today. Large numbers of Catholic Irish began arriving in the US in the 1850s--numbers in the millions, driven from Ireland by poverty and famine. These immigrants were typically very poor, unskilled, and illiterate. Significant numbers spoke little or no English. The United States was predominantly a Protestant country, and native whites often saw the Irish Catholics as a danger.

In this cartoon we can see many of the stereotypes of the irishman of the 1800s--the association with drink, but also a flat nose, pronounced mouth and lips, low forehead, and general air of brutishness. Below is another typical example.

In this cartoon the drunken, violent Irishman sits on a powder keg that threatens the US itself. He has the same pronounced facial features as the character above and below.

In this image John Bull (England) and Uncle Sam (the U.S.) debate how to solve the problem of the riotous Irishman, who again has the pronounced lower jaw and mouth, the flat, short nose, and the sloping forehead of a racial inferior.


In this image, drunken Irishmen riot against the New York police

Some historians have argued that the Irish were seen as not quite white--not black, exactly, but not quite "white" either.

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