The Irish in Cincinnati

March 09, 2021

The Irish in Cincinnati

 Cincinnati is widely known for its German heritage, but over the years many other groups, including the Irish, have helped make the city what it is today.

When folks think of cities with a large population of Irish ancestry, a city like Boston comes to mind. However, Pittsburgh has the most people of Irish descent (per capita), with Boston a close second. Cincinnati comes in at No. 12, ahead of Chicago at No. 15.

The first Irishman to arrive in the Tristate was Francis Kennedy. He started the first ferry service from the Ohio side of the river to the Licking River on the Kentucky side in 1788. In 1791, fellow Irishman Joseph Lloyd became the first teacher in Cincinnati after he established a log cabin school near Sycamore Street.

Another notable Irish immigrant was Alexander Norris who moved his family from Ireland to Cincinnati in 1819. That same year, the first Catholic congregation in the city was formed. The impact of that is felt to this day in the many parishes around the Tristate. Norris’ daughters, by the way, Elizabeth and Olivia, later went on to marry William Procter and James Gamble off of P&G. 

The Irish Potato Famine of the late 1840s was the biggest driver of emigration from the Emerald Island to the United States. Cincinnati was an attractive location for the new arrivals due to the number and variety of jobs available in factories and along the bustling riverfront.

Just a few years before that, in the 1830s, Germans started showing up in Cincinnati in large numbers. However, it wasn’t until the 1880s that the biggest number of Germans made their way to the area. Indeed,by 1890, 57% of the city’s population was either first or second-generation German. From that point on, it’s folks of German descent that make up the largest percent of the area’s population, and that continues to this day.

In the 21st century, about 10 percent of area residents claim Irish heritage, while German ancestry runs from around 19 percent in the city of Cincinnati to upwards of 50 percent in communities like Cheviot and Harrison. Of course, the city is one big melting pot now with families tracing their roots back to places all over the world, as well as other parts of the U.S. And whether it’s Oktoberfest, Celtic Fest, or any other ethnically inspired gathering, everyone in the Tristate is always up for a good time. Shop our collection of St. Patrick's Day tees online here

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