Cleveland Irish: Trading Places

Cleveland Irish: Trading Places
By Francis McGarry 

John Jameson was a lawyer before he got into the whiskey. He and his wife Margaret parented eight daughters and eight sons. John Jr. and his son John Jr. helped build the business John started on Bow Street. John and Margaret had three other sons who also entered the whiskey business. Their oldest son followed his father in the legal profession. Pick your poison.

A Reason to Make Whiskey
My whole family got into the whiskey except me Ma, not a competition. We didn’t make it, but we were part of the reason they had a reason to make it. My Uncle had two favorite pastimes. The first was to drink a lot of whiskey and get drunk. The second was to drink a lot of whiskey and not get drunk.

In the first scenario, after things went south, he would always blame the drink, as he would say, “It’s the juice.” Juice was Jamo, not Justin, and he always had his juice with his breakfast. Never made sense to me because juice was how Louis and Billy Ray made their money and the Dukes lost theirs. Aunt Irene never let me blame the orange juice, the injustice of my youth. 

My uncle broke it down for me. “Francis, you have had algebra? Right? Well, it comes from Arabic, Persia to be precise, but that is not my point. X plus Y=180. X is your Uncle and Y is Jameson, or why not one could say. Y is 80, proof that is, I say, I say. Which means I am 100 (my uncle always kept it 100); I get in trouble when I get to 180.” Truer words never spoken. 

My first algebra class was in 8th grade. The class was independent study while Mr. Meyer listened to Paul Harvey. I learned much more from my uncle. He also taught me the circumjacent area of a circle, infinity minus πr2. The area outside the circle was my Uncle. 

St. Al’s Neighborhood
The area circumjacent to St. Al’s was comprised of three city wards. In previous months, we have discussed the demographics of those wards in the 1940 census and the number of Irish born and those with Irish surnames. Those combined numbers indicate a significant number of our brethren in the St. Aloysius area. There are also numerous oral histories that denote the Irish presence at the parish. 

It must be taken into consideration when we discuss Irish neighborhoods in 1840, that it is different than a discussion on Irish neighborhoods in 1940. Anyone who settled near St. Aloysius in 1940 had to negotiate a set of variables that were not present in 1840. The population of Cleveland was 6,071 in 1840 and 878,336 in 1940.

Cleveland was the 7th largest city in the US in 1950, its populace apex. More people were occupying more space and now there were suburban options, like Cleveland Heights, if you can adjust to the altitude.  

The spatial distribution and the spatial density of the population had shifted to a more modern context. Transportation and the ability to access it altered the distance paradigm from previous generations. People could traverse faster and farther in the Cleveland metropolitan area. 

Parishioners did not have to be able to walk to Mass and parishes could encompass a larger area. In later years this would lead to the elimination of parishes.

The evolution of spatial understanding was affected by advances in communication. Telephones allowed Clevelanders to maintain contact devoid of direct physical proximity. Aunt Irene could be ten blocks away but she was in the same kitchen with a phone call. 

Born in Ireland
DahTah, DahTah. That’s how Fitz says it and he taught me pivot tables. If we focus on those who are listed in the census as born in Ireland in Ward’s 24, 25 and 27, and then analyze the data of those denoted as the head of household, we begin to understand the general demographic of that population.

In Ward 24, 275 individuals were born in Ireland in a ward that had 314 different places of birth. In Ward 25, seventy-seven individuals were born in Ireland in a ward that had 261 different places of birth. In Ward 27, seven individuals were born in Ireland in a ward that had 158 different places of birth.

That is consistent with previous discussions on the ethnic diversity and density in those wards. The native Irish did live closer in a relative sense to St. Aloysius, the major industrial center and the railroad, which were one and the same.

Irish Head of House
There were 17,643 head of households in the three wards. 5,700 were homeowners, including two homes owned by native born Chinese, seventy-one homes owned by individuals of African descent and 5,627 homes owned by individuals of European descent.

The native Irish owned 153 homesteads. Irish men owned 122 homes and Irish women owned thirty-one homes. Rentals amongst the native Irish were almost 40% female compared to the 25% of female home ownership. 

Mean, Median, Mode, Michael Byrne
The mean is the arithmetic average of a data set, add the numbers and divide by the number of items in the set. Median is found by ordering the set from lowest to highest and finding the middle number. Mode is the most common number in the data set; bimodal is having two such numbers. Standard deviation is a measure of variation in a data set; typically, the mean is set as the central tendency to measure that dispersion. Now the Cathedral Latin men are with us.

The median age of native Irish homeowners was 59.5, the mean was 51.2 and the data set was bimodal, ages 48 and 65. The age data for all the native Irish in the wards had a 55.5 median, a mean of 56.5 and a mode of 42. If we utilize the median of the data sets as the central tendency, the standard deviation elucidates some variances that prognosticate internal migrations. 

In the total population there is slight positive deviation in the median and mean, yet the mode has a significant negative deviation. Homeowner’s deviation in median and mean is eight times juxtaposed to the total population.

The bimodal ages of 65 and 42 are also potential indicators of migration. Nearly half of the native Irish were homeowners, assuming that decreased transience. However, they were younger and as the negative deviation of the mean and one of the modes (48) indicates collectively there was considerable polarity in age. The total population of native Irish was also younger, with a mode of 42, and it had slight positive deviation in median and mode, a minimal polarity in age.

Collectively the data displays a population that could be mobile and migratory. Those wards were also overpopulated, and Cleveland history shows that they would become even more overpopulated in the coming decade. The movement of the Irish to the Heights and Euclid is in the data. The narrative is about pigmentation, but the data states there were multiple variables in the migration of the Eastside Irish. 

*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.   

On this day in Irish History

Cleveland Irish Column


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