Migration and Memorials: Irish Cultural Identity in Early Nineteenth-Century Lowell, Massachusetts

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Lowell is considered as the birthplace of the industrial revolution in the early nineteenth-century United States. Originating in 1822, the new textile factories harnessed the waters of the Merrimack River using a system of canals, dug and maintained by labourers. While this work employed many local Yankees, it also attracted groups of emigrant Irish workers. Grave memorials are a valuable source of information concerning religious and ethnic identify and an analysis of the slate headstones contained within Yard One of St Patrick’s Cemetery, opened in 1832, provides insight into the mindset of this migrant community. The headstones evolved from contemporary Yankee memorials but incorporated Roman Catholic imagery, while the inclusion of shamrocks and details of place of origin on certain memorials attests to a strong sense of Irish identity. The blatant display of such features at a time of ethnic and religious sectarian tensions in Massachusetts demonstrates the confidence that the Irish had of their place in the new industrial town.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318-341
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Historical Archaeology
Early online date18 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2020


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