Anthracite and the Irish : extricating the Irish immigrant mining community from the Molly Maguire myth, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, 1850-1879

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Historical Studies

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The Molly Maguires were a reputed secret society of Irish immigrant mine workers who allegedly terrorized the anthracite coal fields of Pennsylvania from the Civil War until twenty men convicted as Molly Maguires were hanged in the late 1870s. The sensational nature of the Molly trials and executions has spawned a myth concerning the Molly Maguires which has clouded historical understanding of the episode. One of the unfortunate results of the Molly Maguire myth is that the legacy of the nineteenth-century anthracite Irish mining community has been inextricably and wrongly tied to the legacy of the alleged criminal activities of the Molly Maguires. The thesis seeks to draw a portrait of the Irish mining community of one anthracite county, Schuylkill, with as much depth as possible. The thesis first details Irish demographics and culture within Schuylkill County and proceeds to follow the Irish community through the years of the first regional mine workers' union to the destruction of the union as a consequence of the bitter ''Long Strike" of 1875 . The thesis demonstrates that negative expectations of the Irish conditioned negative perceptions by Schuylkill County's native population. The mass executions of the alleged Molly Maguires were only possible because of the deep anti-Irish sentiment that existed in Schuylkill among the non Irish, from Anglo-Protestant mine bosses to the large Welsh immigrant mining community.