Failte Irish American Hall of Fame

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Birth of a Nation

Revolutionary War Heroes

Commodore John BarryIrish influence was also found in the military.  Perhaps one of the most important, but often overlooked, military figures was Commodore John Barry.  Known as the father of the American Navy, Barry was born in 1745 in County Wexford, Ireland.  Barry made many significant contributions to the war for America’s independence.  He was the first to capture a British war vessel on the high seas.  He fought on land at the Battle of Trenton and Princeton and he fought the last naval battle of the American Revolution on the frigate Alliance in 1783. 
As a new country was born, the Irish along with fellow immigrants from many European countries put their mark on the idea of America.  While only a few are mentioned here, many more fought in the American Revolution, created new families, built businesses and sought new opportunities as the push for westward expansion began.   Check back often for more information on the influence of the Irish on the formation of the United States of America. 
Do you have a favorite Irish-American that made a mark on the birth of the U.S.?  Send us an e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  We might select your favorite Irish-American for a feature story.

The Declaration of Independence

Charles CarrollEight signers of the Declaration of Independence could claim Irish roots, including three born in Ireland.  James Smith was born in Ulster in 1719 and died in the U.S. in 1806.  He was a lawyer and a member of the Continental Congress from 1776-1778.  Matthew Thornton was born in Ireland 1714.  He was a member of the Continental Congress in 1776 and a colonel in the New Hampshire Militia.  George Taylor was born in Ireland in 1716.  He operated an iron manufacturing business in Pennsylvania and was a member of the Continental Congress from 1776 to 1777.  Other signers of Irish ancestry included George Read of Delaware, Charles Carroll of Maryland, Thomas Lynch, Jr. of South Carolina, Thomas McKean of Pennsylvania, and Edward Rutledge of South Carolina.

Influence in Colonial Governent

James LoganThe influence of the Irish on America is next noted in the years leading up to the revolutionary war.  Like other immigrants to America, the Irish were fleeing persecution and seeking religious freedom.  Known as Scotch-Irish, many were skilled workers who financed their immigration by becoming indentured servants. 
James Logan, born in Lurgan, County Armagh, Ireland sailed with William Penn (founder of the Pennsylvania colony) on his second voyage to America in 1699.  After Penn’s return to England in 1701, Logan was appointed commissioner of property.  He served as the Mayor of Philadelphia (1723) and as chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court from 1731 to 1739.  Thomas Dongan, the second Earl of Limerick (b. 1634) was selected by the Duke of York to govern the New York Province in 1682.
As the new colonies began to assert their independence from England, the Irish continued to play a role in government.  This was perhaps a foreshadowing of their influence for many decades into the future of the new country.

Who Discovered America?

St. Brendan & Company set sailModern researchers, historians, and anthropologists will no doubt continue to debate the question of who discovered America well into the 21st century.  The Irish will participate in that debate with the legend of St. Brendan.  Brendan of Arnfort and Clonfort (also known as Brendan the Voyager) was born in 484 A.D.  near Tralee in County Kerry.  St. Brendan was among the first Christian missionaries of the newly converted Ireland.  Although no historical proof exists, the legends of St. Brendan describe his voyage in search of “paradise” westward from Ireland.   In 530 A.D., Brendan arrived on an island of lush vegetation believed by some to be North America.


The story of the Irish in America is one that is the subject of great research, scholarship and of course, myth and legend.    We hope, in these few pages, to give you a small taste of that story.   And, we certainly do not expect to be the final word on a story that will continue.

The vision statement of the Irish American Hall of Fame says it best:

“The Irish American Hall of Fame will preserve and promote the “story” of Irish culture by recognizing the contributions of individuals to the Irish-American experience.  Telling their story preserves our story.  The Irish American Hall of Fame will be a place where the shared story of the Irish in America will be available to all with an interest in the bond between Ireland and America.”

Check back with us often.  We will update these pages with more information and articles on the Irish in America and we look forward to sharing the story of those elected to the Irish American Hall of Fame.

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