Famous Irish Americans

John and Lionel Barrymore: In the 1920's the American stage belonged to the Barrymore's. It was said that when Shakespeare wrote "Hamlet," he had John Barrymore in mind for the part..

Nellie Bly (born Elizabeth Cochrane, 1864-1922): Journalist and adventuress. First made America conscious of the woman reporter by making a trip around the world in 72 days, 6 hours, and 11 minutes. This created a great international stir in 1889.

Matthew Brady (1823-1896): Civil War photographer.

William J. Brennan, Jr. (1906-1997): U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

Aedanus Burke (1743-1802) was chief justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court in 1778 and represented his state in the First Congress, 1789-1791.

Thomas Burke (1747-1783) and his brother Aedanus arrived in America in 1764. Thomas represented North Carolina in the Continental Congress from 1776 to 1781, when he was elected governor of North Carolina; captured by the British, he died shortly thereafter.

James Cagney (1904-1986): Actor whose Oscar-winning role in 1942 was in Yankee Doodle Dandy, the life of Irish-American composer George M. Cohan.

Charles Carroll III* (1737-1832): The only Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence, Carroll was born in Maryland, whose laws at the time prohibited Catholics from voting, holding office, worshipping openly, or educating their children as Catholics. Despite this rampant anti-Catholic prejudice, Carroll took an active part in the Revolution, using his business acumen to help the colonies arm themselves against Britain. He served as a U.S. Senator in the first Congress, and when he died was reputedly the richest man in America.

Charles Clinton (born 1690 at Corbay, County Longford) landed at Cape Cod in 1729. He and his wife, also a native of Ireland, later settled in New York.

DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828), son of James Clinton, served as governor of New York, 1817-1821 and 1825-1828.

George Clinton (1739-1812) held the governorship of New York, 1777-1795 and 1801-1804, and served as vice president of the United States, 1805-1812.

James Clinton (1733-1812) son of Charles Clinton became a brigadier general during the Revolutionary War.

Eddie Cochran: "Summertime Blues" was his lock on stardom in 1950's Rock 'n Roll. Along with another Irish-American, Bill Haley, they shaped the course of American music.

Buffalo Bill Cody (1846-1917): Western scout and showman.

George M. Cohan* (1872-1942): The father of American musical comedy, Cohan was born into theater. He gradually worked his way from his family's vaudeville troupe to Broadway, where by the 1920s he was doing ten productions in a single year. In his long career as author, composer, director and performer, this powerhouse of the popular stage had a favorite theme: star-spangled patriotism. His World War I composition, Over There, won him a Congressional Medal, while I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy brought the honor of defining what it meant to be an American.

John Coleman an Irish sailor on Henry Hudson's Half Moon, he was killed in a clash with Indians on the coast of New Jersey in 1609. The place where he died was named Coleman's Point, but is now known as Sandy Hook. Coleman was buried at Coney Island. 344

Father Charles Coughlin* (1891-1979): Having spent his childhood in Ontario, Canada, Father Coughlin moved in 1926 to Royal Oak, Michigan to serve as pastor of a new church, the Shrine of the Little Flower. This small parish in a largely Protestant community soon found itself menaced by an active Ku Klux Klan. Coughlin needed a broader constituency(for financial reasons as well as solidarity) and so he began broadcasting his sermons over a local radio station. By 1930, the magnetic priest had won a national audience of 40 million listeners. But Coughlin wasn't just lecturing about religion. In these post-Crash years, the radio priest was campaigning against the gold standard and Wall Street, decrying the evils of modern capitalism. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected in 1932, Coughlin called him the salvation of the nation. But his adoration soon turned bitter: Coughlin thought the New Deal monetary reform was moving too slowly. He launched his own political organization -- the National Union for Social Justice -- and became passionate in his hatred of Roosevelt, calling the New Deal a communist conspiracy. In 1938 he also turned against Jews. He began expressing sympathy for Hitler and Mussolini. This rapid extremism lost him many suppporters. In 1940 he ran out of money for his broadcasts; two years later Coughlin withdrew from the political fray. He maintained his parish duties until 1966.

Davy Crockett* (1786-1836): Born to a pioneer family living on the Nolichucky River in east Tennessee, Crockett eventually made his home in the northwest corner of the state. A member of the Tennessee militia, Crockett's second enlistment was under Andrew Jackson at Pensacola. His political career advanced quickly; he spent several terms in Congress as a Democrat, but eventually broke with Jackson. After only one term as a Whig, he gave up on politics and reportedly said, "You can all go to Hell and I'm going to Texas." He settled in east Texas in 1835 and died when the Alamo fell a year later.

Harry L. "Bing" Crosby (1904-1977): Entertainer who made over 850 recordings and appeared in over 50 films, including Going My Way for which he won an Oscar in 1944.

Richard J. Daley (1902-1976): mayor of Chicago from 1955 until his death.

Richard Daley born in 1902, served six terms as mayor of Chicago.

Dorothy Day (1891-1980): Journalist and peace activist; founder of the Catholic Worker movement.

Jack Dempsey Heavyweight champion. He was a descendant of Irish immigrants from County Kildare. He hailed from Manassa, Colorado and won the title in 1919, his nickname was the "Manassa Mauler".

Rev. Samuel Donance - Members of the Presbyterian congregation at Voluntown (near Hartford), Connecticut, petitioned for the removal of their minister, Reverend Samuel Donance: "He came out of Ireland," and since his coming, "The Irish do flock into town."

Sir Thomas Dongan, born in Kildare, was named Governor of New York in 1682. He held the post until 1688 and was subsequently named Earl of Limerick.

Daniel Dulany (1685-1753), born in Queen s County, Ireland, arrived in Maryland as an indentured servant in 1703. After gaining his freedom, he won admission to the Maryland bar (1710). He became a judge, attorney general of the province, a member of the legislature (1722 1742) and of the Governor s Council(1742-1753), and championed the Colonial cause in his pamphlet "The Rights of the Inhabitants of Maryland to the Benefit of English Laws" (1728). His son, Daniel (1722 1797), was secretary of the province of Maryland (1761 1774) and a leading opponent of the Stamp Act.

Darby Field, an Irishman, was sent by Governor Winthrop of Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1640 to explore northern New England. He discovered the White Mountains.

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940): Novelist and author of, among others, The Great Gatsby (1925). He was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, the son of Mary McQuillan who was the daughter of a wealthy Irish immigrant.

Irish Born, Maureen Fitzsimmons (shortened to Maureen O'Hara because her last name was too long to fit on a marquee): Remembered for her role in the original production of the film "The Parent Trap", co-staring with Brian Keith (who may or may not be Irish but I thought I'd throw that in). Her credits are too numerous to mention in this tiny little spot. "Ms. O'Hara is too beautiful", film directors complained. She stood out from her co-stars and, well, no one noticed anyone else in the movie. Too beautiful? I don't think so! Maureen has dual citizenship in both the United States and Ireland.

Father Edward J. Flannagan Born in Roscommon in 1886, founded Boys Town, USA.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (1890-1964): labor activist and organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World ("IWW"); first woman to head the U.S. Communist Party.

John Ford (1895-1973): Film director who won Oscars for The Informer, The Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley, The Battle of Midway and December Seventh.

Henry Ford (1863-1947): Pioneering automobile manufacturer. Son of an Irish immigrant who married during the American Civil War. Henry's father John emigrated to America after being evicted from Cork in 1847.

Jackie Gleason (1916-1987): Actor best known for his role as Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners.

Anne Glover was hanged as a witch in Boston in 1688. A native of Ireland, she had been sold as a slave in Barbados in Cromwell's time and subsequently was brought to Massachusetts.

W.R. Grace (1832-1904)a native of Queenstown, County Cork, in 1865 founded W. R. Grace and Company to engage in trade with South America. Business leader, steamship line operator and first Roman Catholic mayor of New York.

He later organized the NewYork and Pacific Steamship Company and the Grace Steamship Company and as elected Mayor of NewYork in 1880 and 1884.

John Hancock , signer of the Declaration of Independence, traced his ancestry back to Ulster.

Helen Hayes (1900-1993): The "first lady of American theater," who won Oscars for The Sin of Madelon Claudet and Airport.

William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951): Editor and publisher of the largest newspaper chain in America; member of Congress.

James Hoban (1762-1831) from Co. Kilkenny, who settled in Charleston after the Revolutionary War. He designed and supervised the executive mansion ("President s Palace") between 1792 and 1800. The "Palace," subsequently known as the White House, was modeled upon Leinster House in Dublin. When the British burned it in 1814, he oversaw the reconstruction after which it was known as "The White House".

John Philip Holland: A submarine designer who finally convinced the U.S. Navy to use submarines in 1900.

John Huston: Director of classics such as "The Maltese Falcon," "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre," "The Red Badge of Courage," "The African Queen," "Moby Dick," "The Man Who Would Be King," and many others.

John Joseph Hughes* (1797-1864): A native of County Tyrone, at the age of 21, Hughes emigrated to America, where he found work on the canals and later as a seminary gardener. It was in the United States that he began studying for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1826 in the Philadelphia diocese, and in 1842 became archbishop of New York. An outspoken leader of the city's Catholic community, he vigorously promoted the growth of parochial schools. He was also the force behind the building of a new cathedral in 1858.

Andrew Jackson* (1767-1845) Born in the Carolina hills to an immigrant farming family from Ireland, Jackson fought in the Revolution at the ripe-old age of 11. By the end of the war, he was alone, all but one member of his immediate family dead from the conflict. He decided to study law and to head farther west. By the time he was 30, he had been elected to Congress, won a seat on the supreme court of Tennessee, and set up a modest estate that would soon become a major cotton plantation. However, it was his military career that won him national recognition. During the War of 1812, Jackson's troops crushed the Creek Indians and then, at the Battle of New Orleans, the British. In 1821 he was named military governor of the Florida Territory; in 1828 he defeated John Quincy Adams to become the 7th President of the new Republic. Jackson appealed to the common man and in many ways advanced the causes of majority rule: he waged war on the Second Bank of the United States for the power that it gave to a few unelected bankers, and he sought to build a new mass political party. Yet Jackson's vision of democracy was limited: he condemned abolitionism and brutally subjugated Native Americans.

William Johnson (1715-1774), a native of Meath whose original family name was MacShane, settled in the Mohawk Valley, New York in 1738. In 1755 he was created a baronet and named superintendent of Indian Affairs. On his death he was succeeded by his nephew Guy Johnson (1740 1788), also born in Ireland, who directed Iroquois attacks against the colonists during the Revolutionary War.

Mary Harris Jones ("Mother Jones") (1830-1930): Foremost labor agitator in the United States; helped organize the International Workers of the World (IWW).

Buster Keaton (1895-1966): Vaudevillian and early film star.

Buster Keaton, born Joseph Francis Keaton in 1895 to Irish immigrant, was best known as a star of silent films.

Gene Kelly (1912-1996): Entertainer born in Pennsylvania in 1928, who danced his way into American hearts in the musicals On the Town, An American in Paris and Singin' in the Rain.

Grace Kelly (1928-1982): Film and stage actress, who won an Oscar for The Country Girl, she was also Princess Grace of Monaco. Her parents came from County Mayo.

Michael Kelly a "native of Ireland," (c. 1699) was commissioned by the Council of Rhode Island to prepare "defensive works" against Indian attacks.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy * (1917-1963) Kennedy's political career began in 1946, in a run for Congress in the district where his parents had been born. The working-class community which elected him was not his; Kennedy had gone to Choate and Harvard and lived an almost aristocratic life. Yet he had a sense of history and learned quickly. His election in 1960 as the 35th President of the United States -- the first Roman Catholic to hold that office -- was a crowning triumph for the Irish. His great-grandfather emmigrated from Co. Wexford.

Joseph P. Kennedy* (1888-1969): Born in East Boston and educated at Harvard, Kennedy began his swift climb to fortune as a bank president. He quickly amassed millions in the pre-Depression stock market. After the Crash of 1929, power shifted from Wall Street to Washington, and Kennedy made himself a confidante of President Roosevelt. Roosevelt named him chairman of the newly formed Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 1934, and in 1937, Ambassador to England. The first Irish Catholic Ambassador to the Court of St. James, Kennedy served in that role until 1940. Rumors that he favored appeasement soured his relationship with Roosevelt and dimmed his own political career. But Kennedy's ambitions never faltered. He turned his attention to his sons, three of whom became United States senators and one, the 35th President.

Richard Kyrle "an Irish gentleman," was named governor of South Carolina in 1684. During his term there was a considerable influx of Irish settlers.

James Logan (1674-1751), from Armagh, came over in 1699 as secretary to William Penn. He subsequently became a member of the provincial council, mayor of Philadelphia, acting governor (1736-1738), and chief justice of Pennsylvania. While mayor, he authorized his fellow Irishmen to attend the first public Mass in Philadelphia.

Rev. Francis Makemie (1658-1708), from Donegal, organized the first American Presbytery, in Virginia.(1706) He had been a "wandering evangelist" since his arrival from Ireland in 1683, and is regarded as the founder of Presbyterianism in America.

George Meany (1894-1980): President of the American Federation of Labor; instrumental in merger of AFL with CIO.

Charles McCarthy from Cork, in 1677 led a party of forty-eight Irish immigrants in the founding of East Greenwich, Rhode Island.

Daniel McCarthy from Cork, settled in Virginia, becoming a burgess in 1705 and Speaker of the House, 1715 1720. His son Denis married (1724) Sarah Ball, a first cousin of Mary Ball, George Washington's mother. Washington was a neighbor and intimate friend of his MacCarthy cousins.

Eugene McCarthy (1916- ): Congressman from Minnesota; candidate for President in 1968.

Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957): Senator from Wisconsin.

Mary McCarthy (1912-1989): Writer and author of, among others, The Group.

Henry McCarty: (changed his name to William Bonney known as "Billy The Kid." ) Made into a legend through the fiction of Hollywood, "The Kid" accepted a pardon, but is double-crossed in the process and escapes only to be killed in the dark and unarmed at the age of twenty-one.....

John McCloskey (1810-1885): First American cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of immigrants from Co. Derry.

In 1784, Daniel McCormick, a native of Ireland and a director of the Bank of New York, was elected the first president of the Friendly Sons of St.Patrick, a fraternal organization.

Cornelius McGillicudy, better known as Connie Mack, was born in 1862 in Brookfield, Massachusetts. He changed his name so that it would fit into a box score.

Joseph McKenna (1834-1926): US Attorney General and Justice of the Supreme Court.

Andrew Meade from Kerry, settled in Nansemond County, Virginia,1690, and later became a burgess, judge, and colonel of militia. Among his descendants was General George Meade, victor of the Battle of Gettysburg.

George Meany (1894-1980): President of the American Federation of Labor; instrumental in merger of AFL with CIO.

Andrew W. Mellon (1855-1933): Banker, capitalist and Treasury Secretary under President Harding.

James Moore (1640-1703), a native of Ireland, was appointed a member of the Governor's Council.(1685) He subsequently served as acting governor, chief justice of the province, and attorney general. His son James became governor of South Carolina in 1719.

Marrion Morrison: (who changed his name to John Wayne.) John Wayne has become a legend of American Film, mostly Westerns. He is best remembered in "The Quiet Man", filmed in Ireland and co-starring with Maureen O'Hara.

Timothy Murphy of Morgan's Rifle Corps picked off two British commanders a major factor in the American victory.1777 Battle of Saratoga (October 7). Murphy (1751 1818), son of Irish immigrant parents, was the most famous marksman of the Revolution.

Hercules Mulligan, an Irish-born tailor in New York City, was appointed Washington s chief "confidential agent." While posing as a collaborator during the British occupation of the city, he provided the American commander with vital information on the enemy's plans and movements.

Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965): CBS correspondent.

Jeremiah O'Brien (1744-1818), whose father was a native of Cork, captured the British schooner Margaretta in Machias Bay, Maine, on June 12, 1775. This first naval action of the Revolution has been called "the Lexington of the Seas." Jeremiah and his brother John commanded American privateers during the war.

William O'Brien from County Clare, settled in North Carolina. (1692) He was the first American ancestor of William Jennings Bryan.

Carrol O'Connor, a native New Yorker, studied at the National University in Ireland before he began his acting career. He reached national fame portraying Archie Bunker in the television series All in the Family.

Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964): Novelist and short-story writer; author of, among others, A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories.

Sandra Day O'Connor (1930- ): First female Supreme Court justice, appointed in 1981.

John O'Hara (1905-1970): Novelist and short-story writer; author of, among others, Butterfield 8 and From the Terrace.

Georgia O'Keefe (1887-1986): Painter.

Eugene O'Neill* (1888-1953): Son of a matinee idol best known for his portrayal of the Count of Monte Cristo, O'Neill attended Princeton briefly, then fled his immigrant family and its lace-curtain respectability. For 6 years he wandered, making his home in waterfront bars and brothels. A bout of tuberculosis in 1912 brought his reckless living to an end, and in the solitude of a hospital, O'Neill began writing plays. Within a decade, he had won a Pulitzer and a reputation as the one-time down-and-outer who created works of high art. He became a cultural hero, an American success. And yet he wondered if it was all worthwhile. After winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936 (the first American playwright to do so), O'Neill turned his back on Broadway; he turned instead to the past, to his family's passage from Irish peasant to Nobe laureate. It is during these years that he wrote the Irish masterpieces, The Iceman Cometh, Long Day's Journey Into Night, and Moon for the Misbegotten, the work for which he would be remembered. In 1944, he put his pencil down and never wrote again.

Captain Florence O'Sullivan English and Irish emigrants established in 1670 a settlement at Charleston and began the colonization of South Carolina. One of the ships in the first fleet was commanded by Captain Florence O Sullivan, who was named surveyor-general of the new province and commander of the militia. Sullivan's Island in Charleston harbor is named after him.

James Patton (born Londonderry, 1692) received in 1736 a grant of land west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Augusta County, Virginia, was settled largely through his efforts. He crossed the Atlantic twenty-five times bringing Irish settlers. Patton was killed by Indians in 1755.

Gregory Peck (1916- ): Ocsar-winning actor whose roles included To Kill a Mockingbird.

Robert Pollock from Donegal, and his wife (a native of Londonderry) arrived in Maryland in 1672. Their son, William, who contracted the name to Polk, was the great-grandfather of President James K. Polk.

Dennis and Mary Ruchford from Wexford, accompanied William Penn on his first visit to Pennsylvania.(1682) Dennis was named a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1683.

Alfred E. Smith* (1873-1944): Born on New York's Lower East Side, Al Smith left school before he'd finished the eighth grade and worked for 6 years at the Fulton Fish Market. But politics was the road upward for the Irish. Smith began by running errands for the Tammany boss, Tom Foley. When he was 22, he got a paying job serving subpoenas and from there on, the opportunities multiplied. In 1903 he won election to the state legislature. Several terms later, in 1915, he was elected Sheriff of New York City, then President of the Board of Aldermen, and finally Governor of New York. In four terms as Governor, Al Smith would change the focus of government, instituting rent control, subsidized housing and hospital care, price limits on electric power, heat, and telephones. In 1928, with the backing of Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Smith won the Democratic presidential nomination. Feelings of great pride in the Irish American community would soon turn to bitterness and shame, as religion became the issue of the campaign and Herbert Hoover rode the tide of anti-Catholicism into the White House. Smith suffered another blow in 1932, when President Roosevelt kept Smith out of his New Deal government.

Jeremiah Smith born in Ireland in 1705, came to America in 1726 and began operating the first paper factory in this country, at Dorchester, Massachusetts.

Alexander T. Stewart (1803-1876): entrepreneur; "invented" the American department store.

Daniel Sullivan from Cork, settled in Nansemond County, Virginia, 1690, and was subsequently elected to the House of Burgesses. His descendants, who spelled the name Sullivant, were pioneers in the settlement of Ohio.

Ed Sullivan (1902-1974): Journalist and television producer, whose Ed Sullivan Show ran for 22 years.

Sullivan, John and Cornelius are listed in 1635 as settlers, in Virginia land records. The latter, possessed of considerable property, died in 1672, leaving legacies to his "countrymen" Patrick Norton and John Kelly.

John L. Sullivan* (1858-1918): Born in the Roxbury section of Boston, Sullivan made his name one night in the Dudley Street Opera House, when he knocked a professional fighter into the orchestra pit and boldly announced to the crowd, "My name is John L. Sullivan and I can lick any man in the house." Three years later he got a title fight with Paddy Ryan, another in the distinguished line of world champions. John L. knocked him out in eleven minutes -- and declared himself champion of the world. Then he did what no man had ever done before: he challenged America, offering a thousand dollars to any man, anywhere, who could stay on his feet for four rounds. And wherever he went, the Irish came out to cheer him. He became a very rich man, of indisputable elegance; a real hero. His career would have its ups and downs, as would his personal reputation, but even when he was old and gray, John L. took to the road, shaking hands along the way. He knew the Irish needed a hero they could touch.

Louis H. Sullivan (1856-1924): Modernist architect and father of the skyscraper.

George Talbot "an Irish gentleman," received a land grant in Maryland in 1680,which he named New Ireland and subdivided into estates called New Munster, New Leinster, and New Connaught. It included what is now Hartford and Cecil Counties, Maryland, and part of Newcastle County, Delaware, and was settled by Irish immigrants.

Charles Thomson (1729-1824), came to America as an indentured servant after being orphaned at the age of ten. By 1760 he was a prosperous merchant in Philadelphia. He served as secretary of the Congress from 1774 to 1789. It was his duty to read the Declaration before the Congress for the first time and to notify George Washington of his election to the presidency in 1789.

Matthew Watson a native of Ireland, settled at Barrington, Rhode Island, (1722) and engaged in brickmaking. He supplied much of the brick for New York's "urban expansion" during the eighteenth century, as he remained active in business until over one hundred years of age.

Last updated 5/10/2004