What is a modern man to think when he rolls past the abandoned and decaying houses found in major cities? Perhaps our thoughts turn to disgust and a bit of anger, but many of these were places of transformation for our immigrant ancestors…and for several generations. Baltimore was such a place: where rural immigrant families were transformed into American urbanites, in neighborhoods not so different from Washington Blvd. and Bayard Street (pictured).
Our immigrant ancestors usually arrived in a rather modest state. They were most often listed on ship passenger lists as laborers or farmers, and a considerable number arrived in American cities with very little money at all. Families saved as they could, and some gathered enough capital to open a business of their own, whether it was a pub, grocer, bakery, or confectionary. Arthur Murphy was a third-generation Irishman who did just that. He soon learned that such a life was not without its own share of both rewards and peril.
It would be difficult to overstate the role and contributions of Irish women both in their native land and in America. Friends from the Gorham Historical Society joined us as we wrote this story of mothers, wives and heroes.
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.
Baltimore's early Irish Catholics gathered in parishes close to the waterfronts and factories where jobs could be found, and they could be part of a supportive Irish church. A swelling population pushed the faithful outward, and an answer needed to be found on the edges of town...once the shadowlands of city life.
Baltimore's population swelled in the years following the arrival of thousands of desperate Irish. They gathered in waterfront and downtown parishes in huge numbers, and something had to give.
Baltimore's markets were the center of life for many immigrant neighborhoods. These included West Baltimore's Hollins Market.
An Irish hearth is often thought as the center of the home, where light and warmth brought about nourishment and comfort. The kitchen was (and is) the gathering place for family and guests, in whatever form it took over the years. Those who arrived in the years of the Great Hunger, and settled in homes like our 918 Lemmon Street must have marveled at the place.
Today we remember two generations that endured hardship, sacrifice and loss, and yet they persevered. Generations that followed did not quite know about their sacrifices, but we remember them today.
This series continues to present the realities of life for desperate emigrants aboard ship, new arrivals in America and the dramatic ways they cared for families as they settled in Baltimore. Food, of course, is central to any people's story...as it is to our own experiences today as we make our own best decisions about meals during the present crisis.