Ireland and North America have had an unending connection since the first Euro-American settlements. Many Irish were builders of roads, canals and bridges, including the Erie Canal. In mid-1840s potato famine prompted waves of emigration to the United States. In their home country the Irish had been prohibited from voting, owning land or holding public office. In the USA they faced discrimination due to their religion (Roman Catholic), language (Gaelic) and limited work experience. Despite this, over 150,000 fought in the Civil War (1861–1865) and 8,000-10,000 labored on the transcontinental railroad. Seeking a better life, the Irish offered theirs skills and their strength, serving as engineers, managers, masons and laborers on both the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific railroads. The Irish helped build the nation we know today.
Courtesy of the Utah State Historical Society
Union Pacific workers, predominantly Irish Americans, graded and laid 425 miles of track in the year 1868, Andrew J. Russell, photographer.