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No Irish Need Apply

Well, happy Saint Patrick’s Day to you. On my mother’s side there is a lot o’ Irish as on my father’s side is mostly German. Having been born in this country I am an American. When the Irish side of my family came over here because they were starving in one of the Potato Famines in the 1800’s they were expecting to come to a heavenly place where the streets were paved with gold and money flowed like rivers of water.

Newspaper ads from the early 1800’s can be found looking for domestic help stating “No Irish Need Apply.” Signs existed everywhere that said “Help Wanted” and underneath were the words “No Irish” or “No Irish or Colored.” While there are people who say these signs did not exist, most of the historical accounts I came across said that they did. They were likely handwritten cardboard “Help Wanted” with a little note on the bottom that said “No Irish.” I found one source that showed ads that said things like “No Catholic,” “Protestant only,” and “General Servant Wanted. No Irish Need Apply.”

Things in this country are never easy, but if you work hard and stick with it you can make it here. Even in the face of abject poverty, prejudice and hatred of your race. Many people do not realize that the Irish were once more despised than the black slaves. In fact the most dangerous jobs on the loading docks in the south were given to the Irish because “The niggers are worth too much to be risked here; if the Paddies are knocked overboard, or get their backs broke, nobody loses anything.” The Irish were referred to as “Niggers turned inside out” and one traveler from England noted that both Irish and African Americans “were viewed as outcasts.” “To be called an Irishman is almost as great an insult as to be stigmatized as a nigger feller.”

In the North there was the “Know-Nothing” party which was against allowing immigration from anywhere. Lincoln wrote, with his characteristic wit, in a letter dated August 24, 1855, “I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we begin by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty-to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy.”

Oh it wasn’t only the Irish, but also the Chinese, the Germans, the Italians and many other groups who faced such discrimination that it is a wonder that anyone ever survived in this country. But they did. The great Wild West was one place where a man was judged by how he worked and the group of westerners we call the cowboys was a mixed bunch of all races.

One of the reasons the Irish got along and were accepted after a while was their white skin. After a couple of generations here they lost their brogues and changed their names (My ancestors dropped the “O” from O’Hagan) and made an effort to fit into the culture that was becoming America.

There are many sources you can go to on the Internet and as with any other research you have to be careful. You can find things out there that say anything. ALWAYS double-check “facts” you learn on the Internet by reading books or looking a wide variety of places.

A couple of my favorite Irish sites are:

This last one was interesting because they do historical Civil War reenactments. They do an all-Irish regiment and they have an interesting CD, which I bought, of Irish Civil War era songs. One of the songs they do is available for viewing at the Library of Congress website where I also found the words to this song by John F. Poole written in 1862 called “No Irish Need Apply.”

This is copied from the broadside that the original song was published. Later on the words were changed slightly and an easier to read version with chorus can be seen at


Written by JOHN F. POOLE, and sung, with immense success, by the great Comic-Vocalist of the age, TONY PASTOR.

I’m a dacint boy, just landed from the town of Ballyfad;
I want a situation: yis, I want it mighty bad.
I saw a place advartised. It’s the thing for me, says I;
But the dirty spalpeen ended with: No Irish need apply.
Whoo! says I; but that’s an insult — though to get the place I’ll try.
So, I wint to see the blaggar with: No Irish need apply.

I started off to find the house, I got it mighty soon;
There I found the ould chap saited: he was reading the TRIBUNE.
I tould him what I came for, whin he in a rage did fly:
No! says he, you are a Paddy, and no Irish need apply!
Thin I felt my dandher rising, and I’d like to black his ere–
To tell an Irish Gintleman: No Irish need apply!

I couldn’t stand it longer: so, a hoult of him I took,
And I gave him such a welting as he’d get at Donnybrook.
He hollered: Millia murther! and to get away did try,
And swore he’d never write again: No Irish need apply.
He made a big apology; I bid hlm thin good-bye,
Saying: Whin next you want a bating, add: No Irish need apply!

Sure, I’ve heard that in America it always is the plan
That an Irishman is just as good as any other man;
A home and hospitality they never will deny
The stranger here, or ever say: No Irish need apply.
But some black sheep are in the flock: a dirty lot, say I;
A dacint man will never write: No Irish need apply!

Sure, Paddy’s heart is in his hand, as all the world does know,
His praties and his whiskey he will share with friend or foe;
His door is always open to the stranger passing by;
He never thinks of saying: None but Irish may apply.
And, in Columbia’s history, his name is ranking high;
Thin, the Divil take the knaves that write: No Irish need apply!

Ould Ireland on the battle-field a lasting fame has made;
We all have heard of Meagher’s men, and Corcoran’s brigade.
Though fools may flout and bigots rave, and fanatics may cry,
Yet when they want good fighting-men, the Irish may apply,
And when for freedom and the right they raise the battle-cry,
Then the Rebel ranks begin to think: No Irish need apply

Remember, as the Good Book says, “If tarnin’ the other cheek don’t work turn to them yer shillelagh.” Or something…


One response to “No Irish Need Apply”

  1. […] to be exact, about the prejudices that were faced by the Irish during the 1800s. It was called No Irish Need Apply and even though I researched it fairly well, the original sites I had used and quoted in the piece […]

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