We marvel at the hard work, family devotion and associations that were an essential part of life for our immigrant ancestors. Yet, surprises abound when we discover their commitment to leisure time, spent along the abundant waterfront surrounding Baltimore: a major industrial city tucked into the land bordering the west side of the Chesapeake Bay.
Early immigrants who came to America were attracted by the abundant work available, with no taxes or tithes taken from their pay by the powers-that-be. Catholic Irish from the Western Connaught region were entirely unfamiliar with industrial work, but it was waiting in abundance in America’s shipyards, coal mines, canals and railroads that were desperate for the unskilled labor that strong Irish backs could provide. They came alongside men like Frederick Douglas, ship caulker.
Baltimore's St. Patrick's Parade is a time of celebration (wait 'til next year), and a visual delight. Perhaps you have enjoyed it in its modern form. What attracts you to it, in particular? Is it the joy and spectacle of the day? The festivities are, for many, the purpose in and of itself. Yet, as with so many themes in Irish life, there is a deeper significance to it. Our American heritage, and our rights listed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is the foundation of the expressions of the day.
You would think that the position of Lamplighter would be fairly straightforward, but even this modest work had a few political twists and turns. Let's talk about working for a simple public utility involved knowing the right people.
Accomplished brick masons had something beautiful to look at after their working days, and left remarkable structures and pieces for future generations. They often established villages, neighborhoods and families that continued this important trade, much to the benefit of our historic city and region.
We thank Museum friend Steven G. W. Walk for sharing this remembrance of a young woman who had a heart for the struggling Irish and others who knew hunger intimately. She gave of herself in remarkable ways.
The compassion shown by communities and parishes was especially valued in the days prior to social programs run by local, state and national government. Neighbors, extended family and women religious were the heroes of that day, and private institutions, such as pictured Bon Secours Hospital, played essential roles for the hurting.
The ambitions of men often lead to great accomplishments, but these are sometimes realized via acts of true humility. Such is the tale of Irish sea captain and business owner William Kennedy, who came to recognize the humanity of others.
Baltimore's public markets were the center of life for many immigrant neighborhoods. These included West Baltimore's Hollins Market.
Even the simplest railroading work has a fascination for many of us, and some even name their place of business after them. Such is the charm of the Gandy Dancer.