Wandering Labourers: The Irish and Mining throughout the United States, 1845-1920

Abstract: This work begins with an examination of Ireland’s major mining regions
where skilled Irish miners worked alongside Cornish miners. It details the Irish
arrival to the mines of Britain and elsewhere in the world exploring the variety of
experiences they encountered. It also traces miners’ migration through Britain on
their paths to different mining regions of the United States. The majority of this
work focuses on the US where the use of new sources to detail labour troubles in the
anthracite region of Pennsylvania reveals the involvement of the Molly Maguires in
incidents in the 1860s and 1880s. Consequently, this necessitates a re-examination of
the historiographical interpretations of the Molly Maguires reassessing their role in
the region and challenging the belief that Molly activities were restricted to the
1870s while also further exploring the causes for the violence and labor unrest in the
region. Also detailed, with particular reference to emigrant letters, is Irish
involvement in the gold rushes of the American West, the large Irish population of
Virginia City, and the anti-Irish and anti-union policies at the heart of the early
labour troubles of the Coeur d’Alene region in Idaho. Other regions examined
include the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan, Randsburg in California, Marysville,
Montana and perhaps the most important mining town in the American West for the
Irish, Butte, Montana. The works seeks to show the variety of circumstances Irish
miners and their families encountered in their search for employment and
opportunities and the mechanisms they used in coping with those situations.

 

The dissertation is available to access at the Boole Library, UCC, Cork. Anyone with any questions or any information on Irish miners in nineteenth and early twentieth century, coal copper, gold, anything, please drop me a line.

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About Alan Noonan

Alan Noonan is currently a Kluge Fellow at the Library of Congress. He received his PhD in history from University College Cork, and has experience as a historical consultant and researcher. He has been awarded several fellowships including the Glucksman Government of Ireland Fellowship at New York University, a Mellon Fellowship at the Library Company in Philadelphia, and a fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution at the National Museum of American History.
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