Gangs of New York - THE IRISH ARRIVE

Irish people were forced to leave their villages and settle elsewhere, including in America, when the “Irish Potato Famine” (known as “The Great Hunger” in Ireland) caused a national calamity between 1845-1849. This illustration—from the May 10, 1851 issue of The Illustrated London News—depicts Irish people leaving their village. Online via Vassar College.


In 1845, a blight ruined Ireland’s potato crop. A single-crop failure should not have caused a deadly famine. A national disaster, however, quickly followed when other crops—which had NOT failed—were exported by British owners of Irish farms.

With nothing to sell, potato farmers had no money to pay rent. Landlords evicted families from their homes as starving mothers begged for food. Fathers, trying to provide some type of shelter for their families, carved "hovels" out of Irish bog. Death had descended on the Emerald Isle.

Those who survived had one thought: leave Ireland. Within four years, a million people fled the country. But "Famine Ships" became "Coffin Ships" as already ill people could not survive the crossing to America. By the time ships arrived in Boston or New York, they were far less crowded than when they had left Europe.

Once in New York, immigrants from the same country tended to live in the same neighborhoods. And young men from those neighborhoods tended to form gangs. Among the most notorious gangs, in the mid 1800s, were those from the Irish section of Five Points.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5197stories and lessons created

Original Release: Dec 01, 2002

Updated Last Revision: Jul 08, 2019

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"THE IRISH ARRIVE" AwesomeStories.com. Dec 01, 2002. May 30, 2020.
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