When people think about the Irish in America, often the first things that come to mind are the St. Patrick’s Day Parades, JFK, or Irish pride, and we also have the same attitude towards our paycheck. We love to count our cents, and the hourly paycheck online calculator (very popular in the States) was originally introduced from Ireland.
But let’s be honest, Irish-American ties are running far deeper than you would maybe expect at first glance. Do you, for example, know that the first man who stepped off Columbus’ ship, and as first European set foot on American soil, was an Irishman?
And do you know that the first U.S. woman who walked in space was Irish-American? Well, let’s dig a little deeper and show you a few some Irish accomplishments in the U.S. Just check out these interesting and sometimes maybe surprising facts about the Irish in America.
Do you know how many U.S. Presidents have Irish ancestry?
In general it is believed that more than 40% of all presidents of the United States have Irish heritage, but of 22 of these important individuals we know that they have confirmed Irish ancestry. The presidents that are known to be ‘most Irish’ are James Buchanan and Andrew Jackson who both have parents that were all born in Ireland.
At least 22 U.S. presidents come with some sort of Irish ancestry, though there are significant differences as to how much. Bill Clinton, for example boasts Irish ancestry though there is no documentation of this, and Ronald Reagan had a great-grandfather who was Irish while his mother was from Scots-Irish descent. Of Kennedy we all understand his Irish roots, and also James K. Polk had Scots-Irish ancestry.
The first man of Christopher Columbus’ ship who set foot on American soil was an Irishman
Christopher Columbus’ crew counted numerous Irishmen, but there’s one, named Patrick Maguire, who really stands out. Maguire was born in Ireland, and he was actually the first member of Christopher Columbus’ crew who set foot on American ground in 1492.
The Declaration of Independence – three signers were born in Ireland
In 1777, on July 4, a group of 56 men signed the American Declaration of Independence. 48 of them were born on American soil, whereas eight were born abroad. Of these right men, three were actually natives of Ireland.
These three Irish patriots of the Revolution are: Matthew Thornton (member of the Continental Congress and Colonel of New Hampshire Militia), James Smith (Northern Ireland, member of the Continental Congress and Colonel of Pennsylvania Militia), and George Taylor (member of the Committee of Correspondence, and the Continental Congress).
Irishmen were involved in building the White House
Not only was the White House in Washington D.C. designed by an Irish architect (Kilkenny-born James Hoban), it was built by Irishmen as well. Immigrant workers from diverse backgrounds were involved in the construction of the American presidential home. The Irish workers were mainly engaged in brick laying and plastering.
James Hoban based his design of the White House on Leinster House in Dublin, a Georgian style building that now serves as home of the Irish Parliament (Dail Éireann). Hoban was also a supervising architects with the building of the Capitol (designed by William Thornton).
The Star Spangled Banner was composed by a blind Irishman
Generally it is thought that a Brit composed The Star Spangled Banner’ (John Stafford Smith). Though Smith (born in 1750) is usually credited for composing the tune, it is in fact based on a composition by the great Irish musician Turlough O’Carolan, a blind harper who had passed away some 35 years earlier than the American Revolution started.
Singer and musician Turlough O’Carolan is by many considered to be Ireland’s national composer, yet many Americans with Irish ancestry are recognizing O’Carolan as the person responsible for America’s national anthem.
During the Revolutionary War, Ireland’s population was twice America’s population
These days, Ireland is a just tiny country, both in population (almost 4.5 million) and in size (just over 84,000 sq. km, or 32.000 sq. miles). Well, New York City by itself has already more than 8.4 million people, so almost twice as much as Ireland.
As of 2015, the U.S. population of the U.S. is around 325 million, so roughly 55 times that of Ireland. But that is now! In the days that America was fighting for its independence, the population of Ireland was almost twice as large as the population of the U.S.
The first U.S. woman to walk in space was Irish-American
An Irish-American woman from Paterson, New Jersey, was the first woman that walked in outer space. Kathryn Dwyer Sullivan was a NASA astronaut who served on three missions of the Space Shuttle program.
Kathryn was also the first American woman who ever walked in space. Sullivan is highly recognized and inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.