The Irish profile, from the earliest days of their arrival until the turn of the century, was not one, which would lure Yankees to ballot boxes in their behalf. It must be remembered that all through the latter decades of the 19th Century, the Irish of Cleveland were blamed for every major and minor ill that afflicted the city. It was estimated by police officials and trumpeted loudly in all Cleveland newspapers, especially Edwin Cowles' anti-Irish Cleveland Leader, that 90% of all crimes committed within the city's boundaries were perpetrations of the Irish.

       While that percentage seems exhorbitant, it must be acknowledged that there was a criminal element in Irish society that was an everyday grim reality of life. Since the Irish of the West Side were very much ghettoized, as the result of their own doing as well as that of others, the law-abiding Irish were the principal victims of personal crimes, while the Yankees were the victims of offenses against property. The latter received far more notice from the press than the former, but then, that was to be expected.

       Newspaper accounts of the day and the oral history of the Irish community handed down through the generations are in general agreement that most of the crimes would fit into the categories known today as robbery and assault. Groups of thugs would roam the bawdier areas of Irishtown and waylay the careless souls they would come upon. The most notorious of those groups were the McCart and Triangle gangs, whose members plied their nefarious .....




ways in the darkness of night, mostly pilfering goods from the docks and nearby warehouses. There were occasional murders of night watchmen and police, but crimes with attendant fatalities were not the usual occurrence.

       The Irish community had a very strange attitude toward the criminal element that lived within it. Some historians have likened it to the "omerta" or silence of the Sicilian immigrants of the early 20th Century, but that really wasn't the case. The Irish, with their heads full of fantasies, firmly believed there was such a thing as bad blood and those who robbed and mugged were the victims of that affliction. It goes without saying that they also thought that the bastards who preyed on the innocent would go to hell in a handbasket and be tormented for an eternity, so why should they get exercised about such wrongdoing?

       A newspaper item of the early 1870's revealed that however patient the Irish might have been with the criminals who lived within their ranks, they appreciated any discomfort that might come the evildoers way. One day just such a reward came when two gangs (unidentified) settled a territorial dispute by warfare in broad daylight. In no time, a large crowd of Irishmen gathered to watch the head bashing and cheered like mad when the going proved all but fatal to both gangs. The crowd also booed lustily when the police moved in to prevent what appeared to be certain mass murder among Cleveland's citizenry.




       The collective blood-thirstiness on the part of the lawabiding Irish who watched that and other melees usually dissipated by the time the brawls were over and known "bad bloods" were allowed to roam the streets unmolested. There were no vigilante groups in Irishtown, but that is not to say that individual acts of revenge were not carried out, for they were, sometimes in spectacular fashion. One "bad blood" was beaten to a pulp in front of St. Malachi's Church as Mass was letting out one Sunday morning by an Iron Ore Terrier who had been waylayed by same outside a saloon the night before. Another bad blood was beaten, tarred and feathered and then heaved into the Cuyahoga by three staunch sons of a tugboat captain who had suffered a mugging at the hands of that culprit.

       The crime in Irishtown, while real enough in itself, was, as mentioned, exaggerated by the city's daily newspapers to the point where it seemed no one other than an Irishman ever committed a crime in Cleveland. At first, the anti-Irish publishers were content to detail the squalor of the Irish, but that soon became old hat, not to mention slightly embarrassing, when it was pointed out that not a single Yankee organization had ever offerred the struggling souls on the banks of the Cuyahoga so much as a drop of water to soothe their fevered brows. Dives was calling Lazarus a filthy pig.

       Squalor didn't make for interesting copy, so when the crime reports started being issued, the newspapers quickly jumped on .....




the bandwagon of Yellow Journalism. Cowles of the Cleveland Leader was a standout in the category of bias. His loathing of the Irish stemmed from the fact that he could not abide Papists, seeing in them a threat to this cradle of liberty. He was a strange man, for he had in his employ a number of Catholics whom he treated fairly in all regards. Individually, he could deal with them, but the thought of masses of Papists with the right to vote unnerved him to no end. He wrote violently anti-Catholic editorials in the Leader, in which he urged, among other things antiCatholic in nature, that laws should be enacted to prevent Papists from holding public office in America. Of course, Cowles' railings were to be expected, for at the time he was President of the Order of the American Union, an organization that had its roots in Know-Nothingism and was dedicated to the suppression of American Catholic civil rights.

       The Irish had the book on Cowles, as they did on many another local newspaper publisher. They came to regard the press as just another tool of continuing oppression, a case of more numbers being done on their hard, flinty heads. The attacks on them only served to solidify their ranks and develop an "us against them" mentality that lasted well into this century. It also served to sharpen their collective sense of humor in regards to the local establishment. They were quick to seize upon and enshrine any putdown of the English-Yankee types who ran this or any other city or country.

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