Info Mine: a distinctly dusty dissertation

Coogan, Timothy. 1992. The forging of new mill town: North and South Adams, Massachusetts, 1780-1860. Dissertation, New York: New York University.

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Coogan writes his dissertation on the history of the Adams area of Massachusetts in Jacksonian America. He makes a comparative analysis of the Northeastern factory communities and their paternalistic arrangements such as boardinghouses, management policies, millwork experience and interpersonal relations. He traces the town’s agrarian and Yankee roots to its transformation into an industrial town with a large Catholic immigrant population. This dissertation was extremely lengthy with a plethora of annotations and footnotes. It follows more general trends than coverage of specific events. It was not clogged with too much academic jargon, but still not an easy read. This source is useful for observing social and economic trends in North Adams during the early part of the nineteenth century.

Wow. I was not expecting much from this extremely long dissertation written by a guy in New York nearly thirty years ago, but I found so much information.  We already knew a lot about the general socio-economic live of the Irish Immigrants, but it is nice to have concrete confirmation. He also included some very helpful facts, figures, and sources. Hopefully I’ll be able to find some of the sources he used and mine them for more information about some interesting events I found. For instance, an Irish tunnel worker was found beaten to death in the Hoosac Tunnel in the 1860s as tension in the town rose due to increasing immigration and strike activity, but Coogan doesn’t say who he was or if his killer was ever found. A man’s murder was reduced to an interesting factoid in parentheses. I find this story very sad, and now I want to discover more.

“Make America Great Again” is Nothing New


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Ammons, Elizabeth. 2008. “The Myth of Imperiled Whiteness and Ethan Frome.” The New England Quarterly 5-33.

Ammons writes an analysis of the well-known book Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, looking specifically at several different characters and how they represent the ideas of white New England versus colored immigrants as well as farming versus industry. Ammons also draws from Wharton’s contemporary writers and politicians to show how common the views expressed in Ethan Frome were at the time. She discusses the common fear of change and racism that is evidenced by police reports, newspaper clippings, and personal letters. This article is well researched and fully cited, and is written with an higher level academic audience in mind. This source will be useful in examining the common attitudes towards immigrants in New England. As Ethan Frome is in fact set in a fictionalized version of North Adams, this article is one of the few that specifically references the small town, and gives exacting evidence of the racism immigrants to the town faced during this time period.

Because this is an article about a book from the time period, the article itself is a secondary source, but I may want to ready through the book myself so that it can be a primary source. Perhaps when I have time…ke

Irish Versus the Yankees (no, not the baseball team)

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(above) a view of one of the largest factories/mills in North Adams

Morgan, Jack. 2009. “Among Cromwell’s Children: The Irish and Yankee New England.” New Hibernia Review 89-107.


Morgan’s article explains the anti-Irish sentiment of native New Englanders pre-Civil War as mostly a struggle between nativist sentiment versus immigrants (Yankees being natives and Irish being newer immigrants) and Protestants versus Catholics (Yankees being Protestant and Irish being Catholic). He goes on to explain that rising numbers of Irish around the mid 1800s, their fighting in the Civil War, and the emergence of several respectable figureheads in the intellectual and political communities lead to a softening in attitude. Although there was still pushback when agrarianism was supplanted by industrialism and Irish immigrants took work in factories. Eventually many intellectuals became more exposed to Catholicism and Celtic culture and helped soften Protestant Nativism, and the Irish became viewed as an infusion of energy and culture into a stagnating Protestant Yankee culture.

Morgan’s writing is clearly directed towards those who have an extensive background in New England and Europe history, and there are whole paragraphs that are nearly incomprehensible to the uninformed.

This article provided a background and general timeline from the main influx of Irish immigrants in the 1800s to their general acceptance just before the 1900s, as well as illuminating the Protestant versus Catholic conflict and Irish contributions to New England culture. This article is very useful for exploring the main reasons that the Irish came into conflict with the New Englanders, as well as how they eventually came to be accepted.

A Deeper Look

My task this week was to do an in depth reading of one of the sources I’ve found.

Rudolph, Frederick. 1947. “Chinamen in Yankeedom: Anti-Unionism in Massachusetts in 1870.” The American Historical Review 1-29.

Rudolph begins by describing North Adams’ rise as an industrial town, then gives a general biography of Calvin T. Sampson, a shoe factory owner and businessman. During the Civil War, a better sewing machine made skilled craftsmen unessential in the factories, which led to the rise of the Knights of St. Crispin, a workers union. The Crispins of North Adams struck against Sampson for better wages, an eight hour day, and better opportunities for the skilled craftsmen. Sampson tried again and again to break the strike by ordinary means, but was foiled, and he eventually hired 75 Chinese workers from the west coast in June of 1870. The general attitude of the North Adams people was curiosity and suspicious acceptance of the Chinese (who kept themselves isolated for the most part), while directing their anger towards Sampson. Sampson profited from the cheap and newly trained immigrant labor. The Crispins of North Adams formed their own co-operative shoe factory in response. Rudolph ends by running through the different political parties viewpoints on Chinese labor at the time, the eventually end of the Crispins, and some reverberations Sampson’s Chinese strike breakers had caused. Rudolph’s writing is clear and would be understandable for a layman. While this article does not mention the Irish immigrants of North Adams directly, there were many Irish members of St. Crispin and Irish factory workers, so this event would have effected some of the Irish population of North Adams. This was a significant event in North Adams’ economic and labor history, of which the Irish are also a significant part of.

Irish Migration into New England

My partner and I have decided that the topic of our research for this semester will be the Irish that migrated into New England, and more specifically North Adams, MA. Since the largest wave of Irish migration took place in the mid 1800s, the focus will probably be from 1800, extending into the first decade or so of the 1900s. We had originally thought to study the Irish factory workers, since North Adams was largely a factory town, but my research thus far indicates that although there were many Irish factory workers, most of the Irish migrants were employed by the local mining and railway companies. Given this, it may be interesting to further research the the Hoosac Tunnel and discover how many Irish migrants were involved in its creation.

I have found several interesting articles about famous writers, Thoreau and Wharton, and the racial themes present in their works. I even made the discovery that Wharton’s book, Ethan Frome, is set in a fictionalized version of North Adams. It might be interesting to read Ethan Frome and analyze it myself, or maybe I’ll be lazy and watch the movie.

Another source I found is a report of oral histories dating back to the turn of 20th century about North Adams when it was still a prosperous factory town with a diverse community. I thought that this would probably be one of the most modern sources that we will use in this project. Perhaps the only more modern information would would use would be tracing the descendants of Irish migrants and conducting interviews about the Irish community (if one still exists) today.

A very good source that is worth mentioning is an article about the Crispin Strike of 1870. While Irish people are not the focus, the article does include a large amount of information about the Knights of St. Crispin workers union that undoubtedly contained Irish members.

My most useful source thus far is an article by Jack Morgan that details the Irish migration patterns in New England during the 19th century as well as shifts in public opinion and the causes. Two recurring themes are Catholicism versus Protestantism, and Industrialization versus Agrarianism. I believe that these themes will continue to be a focus throughout this project.