Irish Americans of Cleveland

Cleveland Press Articles About the Old Neighborhood

Irish Get Early Start in Politics

100 Years of Nationalities in Cleveland, 37th of a Series
by Theodore Andrica
Cleveland Press, January 16, 1951

Ever since they settled in Cleveland 125 years ago, the Irish have had much to do with politics, just as they did in other parts of the country.

Unlike the Germans, who constituted the first large immigrant group in this city, the Irish had no language barrier to isolate them.

In addition, having been oppressed for centuries by the British, the Irish have developed a "feeling" for politics which served them well when they came to this country.

Dumped into hastily constructed tenements and often ruthlessly exploited, the Irish of Cleveland became rather clannish, which quality was in turn exploited by their political representatives.

Became Citizens Soon

Being able to speak English, the Irish quickly became familiar with citizenship requirements and, not liking their British citizenship, they were eager to become Americans.

The Irish immigrants seized upon the advantage of speaking English and became straw bosses, foremen and superintendents in factories and on construction jobs earlier than did other nationalities.

Such positions automatically gave them the privilege of influencing the political affiliations of the men working under them. Sometimes this was resented by other nationalities and there were many fights, especially on Saturday nights, in the saloons that had Irish and other groups' patronage.

Newspaper Complains

Once here the Irish lost no time in playing politics. Nothing illustrates this better than the complaint, voiced by the Cleveland Register in its issue of January 15, 1822:

"It appears that Ohio has not one single native born representative in the present legislature but she can boast of haing called to her councils the talents of almost every state of the Union and even Ireland."

A graphic illustration of how early the Irish established in Cleveland the tradition of having numerous representatives on the police and fire forces is the following:

In 1850, when Cleveland's population was 25,000 and Ohio City's around 6500. Cleveland had three constables. Two pf these were Irish: Michael Gallagher who lived in the Commercial House and Barney Mooney whose home was in Hickox Alley.

In 1852 Gallagher was third lieutenant of the Hibernian Guards, then a new and active Irish military organization here. The other officers were William Kinney, captain; T.T. Harney, first lieutenant, and James Barney, second lieutenant.

From the modest beginning of two constables in 1850, the Irish in Cleveland in time developed their participation in politics to a degree not matched by any other nationality group.

It would take several chapters to enumerate all the prominent Cleveland public officials of Irish ancestry. No attempt is being made here to give a complete picture.

Two examples of outstanding services rendered by Irishmen in the political and civic life of Cleveland are the late Judge Martin Ambrose Foran and "Honest" John Farley who was tice mayor of Cleveland, in 18983-84 and 1899-1900.

Born in City

Farley was born in Cleveland in 1845. His father, Patrick Farley, came from Ireland in the early 40's. Before his election as mayor, Farlye served three terms as councilman, starting in 1871.

Farley was known as one of the most modest men in public life and his indifference to newspaper publicity was known to every newspaperman of that period. In 1885 he was collector of Internal revenue. He served for years as member of state Democratic committee.

Judge Foran was born in 1845 in Pennsylvania. After serving in the Civil War, he came to Cleveland in 1868 and continued his trade, that of a cooper. When he was elected president of the Coopers International Union he took up the study of law and was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1874. In 1910 he was elected judge of Common Pleas Court.