10 ways Ireland transformed America

These are the ten most incredible ways Ireland transformed America.

America is one of the most culturally significant countries in the world, but many of its greatest places and oldest traditions are actually rooted in Irish heritage. Ireland transformed America, there’s no way around it, and it continues to do so even to this day.

These are the ten greatest ways Ireland has transformed America over the years.

10. There are 10,000 Irish pubs in America – that’s a lot of Guinness

There are 10,000 Irish pubs in America, one of the biggest pieces of evidence that Ireland transformed America.
Credit: @OharasPubNYC / Facebook

Any city with a nightlife worth its salt has a lively, rowdy Irish pub to call home. Though, America’s cities have 10,000 of them!

The Irish were quick to embrace jobs in the service and hospitality industry when they emigrated to America, and this tradition still lives on today.

9. Irish emigration dramatically shaped America’s current population – we’ve spread like wildfire

Ireland transformed America in terms of emigration, there are huge communities of people with Irish heritage in America.

Between 1820 and 1910, enormous amounts of Irish people left the shores of the Emerald Isle to find a better life in America. It’s mainly from this original pool of emigrants that the gigantic Irish-American population emerged.

Parts of north-east America account for 30% of America’s Irish-American roots, with places like New York, Philadelphia, and Massachusetts possessing notably large Irish neighbourhoods.

Boston, Massachusetts, is perhaps the most ‘Irish’ city outside of Ireland, and its quintessential Irishness shaped its food, accent, and even its basketball team – the Boston Celtics.

8. The Irish brought Halloween to America – it evolved from Ireland’s Samhain

Halloween, derived from the Irish pagan celebration of Samhain, is another of the main ways Ireland transformed America.

Although we identify pumpkin carvings, trick or treating, and spooky costumes most strongly with American culture, the origins of Halloween come from the Irish.

The event dates to ancient times when the people of Ireland celebrated Samhain, a Gaelic pagan festival that marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. During the event, bonfires were lit, rituals were performed, and it was said that evil spirits would roam free.

Decades later, when the potato famine struck Ireland, Irish immigrants took many of the celebration’s old traditions with them.

7. There wouldn’t be thanksgiving without Ireland – no need to thank us

Thanksgiving is another of the ways Ireland transformed America, the exchange of food led to the first celebration.

Thanksgiving lends its history to the Irish. When early British pilgrims were struggling to acclimatise to the wintery colds of America, they considered moving back to their country and giving up their dream of forging a life in the New World.

In the 17th century, the Irish arrived from Dublin in a ship called The Lyon, providing a shipment filled with food and drink that revived the discouraged spirits of the immigrants. A meal was held to celebrate the miracle supply. After this, it became an annual celebration. President Lincoln would eventually make this the national holiday that Americans celebrate today.

6. The Irish built America – construction is in our blood

The Irish built America in terms of construction, one of the main ways Ireland transformed America.

After flocking to the New World in their hundreds of thousands, the Irish picked up their hammers and began building the infrastructure of America.

Everything from railroads, streets, canals, and even sewers, were built by the Irish before they elevated their process to America’s mass-transit projects and skyscrapers.

5. Many American place-names were taken from Irish cities – there’s no place like home

There are many American place names named after Irish places, another of the main ways Ireland transformed America.
Credit: Tourism NI

America has more place-names named after Irish cities, towns, counties, and municipalities than any other country in the world.

Dublin, the capital city of the Republic of Ireland, also exists in Ohio, and it hosts the largest three-day Irish festival in the world. Belfast, the capital city of Northern Ireland, also exists in Maine. It is a historic port city filled with antique buildings and maritime infrastructure.

4. We gave the green light to the Golden Gate Bridge – and we’re glad we did

The Golden Gate Bridge wouldn't exist without Irish people's help.

The Golden Gate Bridge was financed by the Mellon Bank, which was founded in Pittsburgh in 1869. The bank was established by Thomas Mellon, born earlier that century in Cappagh, County Tyrone.

And it was Michael M. O’Shaughnessy of Loughill, County Limerick, who gave the green light for the bridge to be constructed. O’Shaughnessy was appointed as San Francisco City Engineer in 1912, giving the go-ahead on the Golden Gate Bridge’s designs.

3. An Irishman invented the dollar sign – and history was made

The dollar sign, used all across the world to mark dollar notes, was designed by an Irish man.

Amazingly, the icon of the American Dream was designed by an Irishman. Oliver Pollock, born in Coleraine, County Derry, designed the dollar sign in 1737 after becoming a plantation owner in Spanish New Orleans.

Pollock supplied and financed the Americans during the Revolutionary War, conducting business in Spanish pesos. The abbreviation for this currency was a large ‘P’ with a small ‘s’ above it to the right, which was then adapted into an upward stroke forming a ‘P’ which ran through the ‘S’. Today, this is the ‘$’.

2. Ireland gave America its presidents – many trace their heritage back to Ireland

22 of the 44 presidents of America can trace their roots back to Ireland.
Photo by Cecil Stoughton in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

A whopping 22 of America’s 44 presidents have claimed Irish heritage, from seven-times-great-grandparents to direct descendants of original Irish immigrants.

Some of the presidents included in this long list of Irish lineage include Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan, Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.

1. An Irishman designed the White House – it’s a remarkable beauty

An Irishman was the person who had designed the White House after wining a competition in doing so earlier.

An icon of American politics, and much of America’s cultural significance around the world, the White House was actually designed by an Irishman.

Born in Kilkenny in 1758, James Hoban was an Irish architect who designed the White House after winning a design competition for the project in 1792.

The United States is the most Irish country in the world outside of Ireland and wouldn’t exist the same way if Ireland hadn’t have transformed America. Most of its infrastructure, traditions, names, people, and culture demonstrate the legacy left behind by the original Irish immigrants many years ago. 

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James Lavery grew up satiating his lust for travel with trips around the various cities and coastal regions of Ireland. Although he has since ventured far and wide for bigger bites of culture, he continues to sing golden praises of the Emerald Isle wherever he goes. When he isn't geeking over TV sitcom Friends or Disney films, James is writing or designing blog posts for numerous companies all over the UK, Ireland, and further afield.