The Laboring Irish: Developing Community and Industry in Early Kansas City
By 1880, the Kansas City community had experienced phenomenal growth. Since 1820, the new city had evolved from a fur trading post, an outfitting center for western trails, a trading center for Native Americans, a center for railroad construction and distribution, and became the second largest slaughter/packing house industry in the United States. Due to the enormous number of cattle and hogs coming from the west, that were slaughtered and shipped to markets in the east, Kansas City developed an enormous appetite for labor. The slaughter/packing house industry consumed the most labor, but labor was also required for removal of the city's bluffs, building of streets, grain milling, railroad construction, and the manufacturing to support the slaughterhouses. Irish immigrants filled this need. Irish immigration to the United States peaked in the mid nineteenth century. Most Irish immigrants were Roman Catholic from rural Ireland and possessed limited skills, other than their willingness to perform manual labor. Kansas City was a second or third stop in the United States for most Irish immigrants, having entered through New York, Boston, Philadelphia, New Orleans, or Canada. Most of the immigrants were single male and females, and used a social and family network to encourage and finance other family members to emigrate. This thesis explores the effects of labor on the economy of Kansas City, labor that was provided by Irish immigrants. In that process, Irish immigrants built communities for themselves based on employment, Catholic parishes and schools, and social and fraternal organizations. Through the use of federal censuses, city directories, and newspapers, this study reveals the impact that Irish immigration had on the development of Kansas City. This study also examines the Kansas City community through the eyes of arriving immigrants and the community that the Irish built for themselves.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- An emerging cowtown -- A laboring community -- A new community -- Conclusion