Library Of Congress Online Resources
These resources are drawn from the Library of Congress’s collections and are made available through its website. Interviews, articles, lectures, and blog posts discussing Irish American heritage and culture, as well as music and recordings can be found through these online collections.
Tip: Searching on "Irish" rather than "Irish American" may yield more extensive results in some of these collections.
American Folklife Center
The American Folklife Center collects and documents living traditional culture, while preserving for the future its unparalleled collections in the state-of-the-art preservation facilities of the Library of Congress. Among the materials related to Irish American culture:
- Interview with Mike Flannery about Irish American culture
- Chicago Ethnic Arts Project Collection (Irish music, dance, etc.)
- Ireland and Northern Ireland Collections in the Archive of Folk Culture. Finding Aid
- Montana Folklife Survey Collection
- Rhode Island Folklife Project Collection (audio recordings, interviews, photos)
In the Muse: Performing Arts Blog March 17, 2011
The Wearing of the Green: Irish-American History in Song - The story of Irish–Americans is one that can be told and studied through popular song and commercial culture as seen through the medium of sheet music.
Teaching with the Librray of Congress, March 1, 2013
Beyond the Blarney: A St. Patrick’s Day Look at Images of Irish Immigrants in America - It is a common misconception that primary sources convey the truth. On the contrary, many historical documents reinforce rather than disprove the stereotypes of racial or ethnic groups such as the Irish. In fact, some images in cartoons, sheet music, and broadsheets have historically spread far more damaging and negative stereotypes of the Irish than those seen in shop windows today.
NLS Notes March 19, 2015
Erin go bragh! Irish Music from the NLS Music Section - Although St. Patrick’s Day may remind you of tin whistles, bodhráns, bagpipes, or some other such traditional Irish instrument, one may neglect to think of the Celtic harp.
In the Muse: Performing Arts Blog March 17, 2016
My Irish Song of Songs - Looks at three different aspects of the Irish-American identity using materials from the Music Division collections.
Folklife Today, American Folklife Center, July 7, 2016
Billy McComiskey: Irish American Tradition Bearer - one of the foremost musicians in Irish music today, Billy has played at every major festival of Irish music and most of the prestigious folk music concert series in the country, including the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, the Kennedy Center, and here at the Library of Congress.
Jacob Riis: Revealing “How the Other Half Lives”
Harrowing images of tenements and alleyways where New York’s immigrant communities lived, combined with Riis's evocative storytelling, were intended to engage and inform his audience and exhort them to act. Riis helped set in motion an activist legacy linking photojournalism with reform.
Local History & Genealogy
Sources for Research in Irish Genealogy
Web Guide, prepared primarily as an aid for those who are researching Irish genealogy and local history at the Library of Congress. Also useful for those searching in other large libraries.
This site allows you to search and view millions of historic American newspaper pages from 1789-1949. Search this collection to find newspaper articles that reference Irish Americans from this time period. Sample search: Irish immigrants
Topics in Chronicling America - Molly Maguires
An alleged Irish secret society known as the Molly Maguires is thought to be responsible for a string
of violent attacks in the Pennsylvania coal fields.
New York Journal and Related Titles, 1896 to 1899
The New York Journal Collection consists of The Journal (1896-01-01 to 1896-07-18) and subsequent titles, New York Journal (1896-07-16 to 1897-04-01) and New York Journal and Advertiser (1897-04-02 to 1899-12-31) . In 1895, William Randolph Hearst purchased the paper to compete with Joseph Pulitzer's New York World. The New York Journal is an example of "Yellow Journalism," where the newspapers competed for readers through bold headlines, illustrations, and activist journalism. Sample search: Irish immigrants
America Singing: Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets
The collection spans the period from the turn of the nineteenth century to the 1880s, although a majority of the song sheets were published during the height of the craze, from the 1850s to the 1870s. Held by the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress.
American Variety Stage: Vaudeville
A multimedia anthology selected from various Library of Congress holdings. This collection illustrates the vibrant and diverse forms of popular entertainment, especially vaudeville, that thrived from 1870-1920.
Early American Sheet Music
This collection includes music printed or ‘copied in manuscript’ in the United States and colonies through 1820. As an early record of musical life, sheet music explores many interesting popular and topical subjects.
Historic Sheet Music Collection, 1800 to 1922
This sheet music collection consists of approximately 9,000 items published from 1800 to 1922, although the majority is from 1850 to 1920 [view finding aid for the collection].
The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America
The Songs of America presentation allows exploration American history as documented in the work of some of our country's greatest composers, poets, scholars, and performers. From popular and traditional songs, to poetic art songs and sacred music, the relationship of song to historical events from the nation's founding to the present is highlighted through more than 80,000 online items. The user can listen to digitized recordings, watch performances of artists interpreting and commenting on American song, and view sheet music, manuscripts, and historic copyright submissions online. Includes an article about Irish American Song.
Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, ca. 1820 to 1860
Consists of over 15,000 pieces of sheet music registered for copyright during the years 1820 to 1860. Included are popular songs, operatic arias, piano music, sacred and secular vocal music, solo instrumental music, method books and instructional materials, and some music for band and orchestra.
Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, ca. 1870 to 1885
Consists of over 47,000 pieces of sheet music registered for copyright during the years 1870 to 1885. Included are popular songs, piano music, sacred and secular choral music, solo instrumental music, method books and instructional materials, and music for band and orchestra.
In 1870 the United States Congress established the Library of Congress as the sole agency for copyright registration and deposit. The law also required that a complete copy of the copyrighted work be deposited in the U.S. Copyright Office. The new law had an immediate effect on the Library's acquisition of music materials.
National Jukebox Historical Recordings from the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress presents the National Jukebox, which makes historical sound recordings available to the public free of charge. The Jukebox includes recordings from the extraordinary collections of the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation and other contributing libraries and archives. Recordings in the Jukebox were issued on record labels now owned by Sony Music Entertainment, which has granted the Library of Congress a gratis license to stream acoustical recordings.
At launch, the Jukebox includes more than 10,000 recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company between 1901 and 1925. Jukebox content will be increased regularly, with additional Victor recordings and acoustically recorded titles made by other Sony-owned U.S. labels, including Columbia, OKeh, and others.
Performing Arts Posters
Contains approximately 2,100 posters in the online Performing Arts Posters category representing the entire contents of three collections: the Magic Poster Collection, the Minstrel Poster Collection, and the Theatrical Poster Collection.
American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940
This collection of life histories consists of approximately 2,900 documents, compiled and transcribed by more than 300 writers from 24 states, working on the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers’ Project, a New Deal jobs program that was part of the U.S. Works Progress (later Work Projects) Administration (WPA) from 1936 to 1940. Typically 2,000-15,000 words in length, the documents vary in form from narratives to dialogues to reports to case histories. They chronicle vivid life stories of Americans who lived at the turn of the century. Sample search: Irish
Pioneering the Upper Midwest: Books from Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, ca. 1820 to 1910
Portrays the states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin from the seventeenth to the early twentieth century through first-person accounts, biographies, promotional literature, local histories, ethnographic and antiquarian texts, colonial archival documents, and other works drawn from the Library of Congress's General Collections and Rare Books and Special Collections Division.
Prints & Photographs
Search the Library's collections of pictures to find hundreds of images related to Irish Americans, including photographs, engravings, political cartoons, and posters. Interesting images can also be found by searching terms like shamrocks, St. Patrick, and the names of people and places.
A selection of highlights includes:
Irish Immigration - presentations from the Teacher's Page look across the Library's collections to investigate curricular themes. They include historical background, helping to tell the story behind the theme.
Today in History
Huddled Masses Yearning to Breathe Free - On January 1, 1892, a fifteen-year old Irish girl named Annie Moore became the first of the more than twelve million immigrants who would pass through the doors of the Ellis Island Immigration Station in its sixty-two years of operation.
St. Patrick’s Day - an Irish and Irish-American holiday commemorating the death, as legend has it, of Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, on March 17, circa 492. It is also the occasion, in many American cities, for celebrating Irish heritage with a parade.
Under the Sea - On April 11, 1900, the U.S. Navy acquired its first submarine, designed by Irish immigrant John P. Holland.
Cardinal James Gibbons - Roman Catholic Cardinal James Gibbons, champion of labor and advocate of the separation of church and state, was born to Irish immigrants in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 23, 1834.
My Irish Song of Songs - Janet McKinney, Gershwin archivist in the Music Division, explores Irish-American identity in popular song and musical theater, as evidenced in the sheet music and recording collections at the Library of Congress.