by Patrick M. Sweeney, Glucksman Ireland House, New York University(c) Patrick M. Sweeney, 2015. All rights reserved.
Like much of Manhattan, Prince Street (running across the 8th and 14th Wards) in the 1850s was dominated by a largely Irish and German immigrant population. Historian Robert Ernst reports the following from the New York State Census of 1855:
|Ward||Total Population||% Irish-born||% German-born|
Source: Table 14 in Robert Ernst, Immigrant Life in New York City, 1825-1865 (NY: Syracuse University Press, 1994), p. 193
From the information recorded in the Test Books of the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank, this project’s research has revealed a wealth of statistical data regarding the origins of the Irish-born account holders living on Prince Street in the 1850s.
Below: An initial breakdown of all qualified EISB account holders from this study who recorded a County of Origin shows a clear majority arriving to New York City from the West of Ireland, especially from the province of Connacht.
Below: Another statistical breakdown of the Prince Street EISB account holders, this time specifically by Irish County of Origin, further demonstrates the preponderance of immigrants from the West of Ireland who settled on Prince Street in the 1850s. Note: Clear evidence of emigrant clustering, more than 25% of all those reporting a County of Origin in this Prince Street study were natives of the three Connacht counties of Galway, Mayo or Sligo.
The means by which most of Irish-born EISB account holders from this study arrived in New York City was by a direct route from ports in Ireland or in Great Britain to the port of New York. As seen in the graphs below, Liverpool, England was the primary port of departure for Irish immigrants to America, including those living on Prince Street in the 1850s.
In some cases however, the port of New York was not the first point of debarkation for Irish emigrating to New York. In the case of the EISB Prince Street sample, 12% of qualifying account holders reported another port of arrival – and in those cases, Canadian ports dominated.
The EISB Test Books indicate that a majority of account holders living on Prince Street were male, while the overall labor breakdown appears evenly split between skilled and unskilled. This dominant male representation my not indicate a majority of males living on Prince St, but rather a majority of EISB account holders from Prince St as male.
Of the 68 qualifying EISB account holders, there were 37 distinct named occupations named (see list below). The method of analyzing these occupations as well as separating them into leveled categories, skilled vs. unskilled, was taken from Robert Ernst’s Immigrant Life in New York City 1825-1863. In his Appendix VII (p 206-212) is a study of these occupation nomenclatures as they commonly appeared in the census and other mid-19th century records. This information was used to determine whether any special training or education was required for each occupation and, hence, whether the occupation could be identified as skilled or unskilled.
The 37 distinct occupations as reported by the 68 qualifying EISB account holders for the Prince Street study. These were separated into skilled and unskilled, they were further divided into 7 subgroups, or Occupational Classification. This interpretation is also based on the method used by Robert Ernst in Appendix VII of Immigrant Life in New York City. Below are the occupations named, their classification and assigned skill level for this Prince Street study:
|Self-reported Occupation||Occupational Classification||Status|
|Porter in Carpet Store||Labor||Unskilled|
|Egg Dealer||Petty Entrepreneur||Unskilled|
|Sells Fruit||Petty Entrepreuner||Unskilled|
|Packing Box Maker||Trade||Skilled|
When looking at the Occupation Classification data graphed, two categories make up about 2/3rds of the working population; Transportation and Labor. As can be seen in the previous page, the Labor category not only included male occupations such as ‘Laborer’ but also common female occupations like ‘Domestic’ and ‘House Keeper’. In fact, women make up 52% of the Labor Category from the Prince Street study.
The Prince Street study data challenges many of the preconceived notions of mid-19th century Gender and Labor amongst New York City’s Irish immigrant population. Contrary to the images of legions of male unskilled manual laborers lining the streets, this data suggests that the majority of unskilled labor was done by girls/women and in the context of housekeeping and domestic work. While unskilled labor is indeed common among the male EISB account holders, it represents only about a quarter of the male workforce. It can be said that for Prince Street in the mid 1850s, it was the skilled tradesmen – Plumbers, Blacksmiths, Bakers, Shoemakers, Printers, Tailors, and Hatters – who represented the Irishman’s working majority.