Cleveland Irish: Ward 24, 1940
By Francis McGarry
In 1921, the City of Cleveland instituted the City Manager Plan, replacing the ward-mayor system. Four city districts elected a total of twenty-five members of the City Council, who then elected a City Manager.
That lasted for a decade, and the ward-mayor system was reinstated by voters with thirty-three city wards. Ward 24 was to the west of St. Aloysius, on East 110th and St. Clair, and it encompassed the neighborhood south of St. Clair to East 88th. If your geographic lens is watersheds, between Doan Brook and Dugway Brook.
Ward 24 was a cultural bricolage of 27,201 inhabitants. If you turned south on East 105th, you would pass Glenville Christian Church, Glenville Presbyterian Church, Glenville Baptist Church, the Shomre Shabbus Congregation, the Knesseth Israel Congregation, the Anshe Grodno Congregation, Anshe Emeth Beth Tefilo Congregation and the Cleveland Jewish Center. The post office was at East 105th and Pasadena, in case your god did not hear your prayers and a written reminder was in order.
In 1940, the total immigrant population in the United States was 8.8%. Ward 24 had 14,717 inhabitants born in Ohio and 4,459 born in forty-four other states. Southern states contributed 647 folks, 148 of them relocating from West Virginia. Western states contributed 197 residents, Missouri supplying 76 of those.
Migration from Eastern states accounted for 1,312 people, 930 from New York state. Big 10 states supplied 2,303 inhabitants, with 1.540 of those from PA. New Jersey was not a Big 10 state (seriously Rutgers?) nor was Maryland and Nebraska. The chair of the theoretical data team referenced the Corcoran Hypothesis, which states that 3% of all Jeopardy questions are, “What is Rhode Island?” There were 20 inhabitants born in Rhode Island.
Those who were not born in the United States comprised 29% of the population of Ward 24 and native Ohioans were 54%; of those, 98% listed Cleveland as their place of birth. The chair of the comparative data team noted that 100% of Joe Ward was born in Ohio.
Russian immigrants were 10% of the population alone, Czechoslovakians 4%, Polish 4%, Hungarians 3%, Irish 1%. Those born in Ireland numbered 284. Native Italians numbered 109. As Aunt Irene would say, “A win is a win.” I thought we had another win when reviewing the list of “inmates” on Lakeview Road. The data is the data, but there is a sense of pride when your people look historically good.
Not a single Irish surname or native-born Irish on the entire inmate list, a testament to the character of the Irish people. Then I saw the ages, and place of birth; it was the Orthodox Jewish Old Home.
My cousin Mike Wagner was sharing his oral history of the neighborhood while we were packing food bags at St. Philomena. He was a Junior Hibernian in his youth. East 105th was a major Jewish section of the ward. The Irish in the neighborhood were closer to St. Aloysius and 110th. Although his grandmother’s, Mary (McGarry) Duffy, brother Michael lived on 102nd with his wife Catherine and family.
Not Coming to America
The relatively low number of native born Irish is not surprising in a global context. The Dillingham Commission provided Congress with “research” and recommendations to limit immigration by imposing quotas based on eugenics, which cannot even be called pseudo-science.
A 3% limit based on the number of immigrants from each country was recorded in the 1910 census. The First Quota Act of 1921 was based on the Dillingham Commission. The National Origins Act of 1924 furthered the limitation of immigration.
It lowered the percentage to 2% and applied it to the 1890 Census. The greatest effect of the legislation was on Italians. The 1921 law reserved 42,000 visas and the 1924 law restricted that to 4,000.
Irish immigration to America was at 146,181 from 1911 to 1920, 220,591 from 1921 to 1930, and only 13,167 from 1931 to 1940. The establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression redirected Irish immigration to Britain. The demand for labor during the Second World War maintained the flow across the Irish Sea.
1924 was the first time all immigrants had to get paper visas with photographs. The Department of State was assigned to regulate immigration.
Visas were now $9. That was added to the head tax, and total cost for immigration was $18.
Monthly rent in Ward 24 was about $10. The highest paid resident made $8,139 annually. There were only nine people who made over $5,000 a year. The total yearly wages for the Ward were $10,908,739.35, but the average was $401 per wage earner.
The diversity of the Ward was not limited to income. Ward 24 had 7,153 heads of households, 2,093 of those owned their home, 29%. 1,050 household head were women; 374 of those women owned their home and ten of those women were African American.
2,155 Native Ohioans were heads of households and 30% of those owned their homes. 134 Irish born inhabitants were heads of households with 51% home ownership.
African Americans were 2% of the population, that also included six “mulattos”, two Native Americans and seven Chinese. Women comprised 51% of the Ward’s population.
There were 1,258 lodgers and seventy-seven people who rented rooms in family homes. 405 homes included grandkids and four included grandparents. Nieces and nephews lived in 105 households and there were twenty-six housekeeps and seventeen servants.
Twenty-eight people were listed as “partners”, 18 of those were female, and eleven of the twenty-eight were divorced or widowed. The census does not define that relationship.
The 1940 Census is full of data; a variegated numeric expression of immigration laws and the fascist landscape of eastern Europe. Comparisons to the previous censuses demonstrate the evolution of the city, the change in spatial interpretation and the territorial shifts of the urban populace.
As Cleveland expanded, so did the means of transportation. The adjustment of residential loci and the expansion of the concept of neighborhood began as soon as the walking city was deemed antiquated with the advent of mass transport and the succeeding innovation in passenger transportation.
The 1940 Census illustrates that process as many earlier ethnic enclaves were incorporated into the modern city. That did not simultaneously erode ethnic affinity nor does that assume Ward 24 was harmonious. Irish Clubs were started on both sides of the river in the 1930s for a reason(s). The census data begins to provide the causality.
*Francis McGarry holds undergraduate degrees from Indiana University in Anthropology, Education and History and a Masters in Social Science from the University of Chicago. He is the founder of Bluestone Hibernian Charities. Francis is a past president of the Irish American Club East Side. He is the founder and past president of the Bluestone Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.