Irish American Heritage Museum

Irish American Heritage Museum The Mission of the Irish American Heritage Museum is to preserve and tell the story of the Irish people and their culture in America, inspiring indviduals to examine the importance of their own heritage as part of the American fabric.

On this day in 2012 the Irish American Heritage Museum opened the doors of our current location at 370 Broadway. What an...

On this day in 2012 the Irish American Heritage Museum opened the doors of our current location at 370 Broadway. What an amazing eight years we have had. And the best is yet to come! Stay tuned for exciting news in the next few weeks!

On this day, January 17, in 1920, the US officially "went dry" as Prohibition became the law of the land. Prohibition im...

On this day, January 17, in 1920, the US officially "went dry" as Prohibition became the law of the land.

Prohibition impacted immigrant communities particularly hard as millions of people – mostly from Ireland, Germany, Italy, and other European countries – crowded into the nation's burgeoning cities. They worked hard to assimilate while simultaneously retaining cherished habits and customs from their homelands. The brewing business boomed as German-American entrepreneurs scaled up production to provide the new immigrants with millions of gallons of beer. The saloon remained an intrinsic part of Irish life in the tenements of America's cities with apartments too small to socialize in. Men and women often gathered in saloons to share news from home and the city, learn about jobs, and vote! Many city politicians started life as a saloon keeper and it was really the hub of Irish immigrant life.

In the 1870s, inspired by the rising indignation of Methodist and Baptist clergymen, and by distraught wives and mothers whose lives had been ruined by the excesses of the saloon, thousands of women began to protest and organize politically for the cause of temperance. Their organization, the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), became a force to be reckoned with, their cause enhanced by alliance with Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and other women battling for the vote.

As anti-German fervor rose to a near frenzy with the American entry into the First World War, ASL propaganda effectively connected beer and brewers with Germans and treason in the public mind. Most politicians dared not defy the ASL and in 1917 the 18th amendment sailed through both houses of Congress; it was ratified by the states in just 13 months.

At 12:01 A.M. on January 17, 1920, the amendment went into effect and Prohibitionists rejoiced that at long last, America had become officially, and (they hoped) irrevocably, dry. But just a few minutes later, six masked bandits with pistols emptied two freight cars full of whiskey from a rail yard in Chicago, another gang stole four casks of grain alcohol from a government bonded warehouse, and still another hijacked a truck carrying whiskey.

Americans were about to discover that making Prohibition the law of the land had been one thing; enforcing it would be another. Irish Americans were involved in criminal activities, from owning and frequenting speakeasies, to being members of the various bootlegging gangs that sprang up to sell alcohol. One of the most famous became a victim of Al Capone's. Dion O'Banion (1892-1926) was a safecracker and sometime florist whose Irish North Side Chicago gang specialized in smuggling liquor down from Canada. In 1926 O'Banion became worried that the Italians, including Al Capone and Johnny Torrio, were conspiring against the Irish, and decided to double cross them.

When O'Banion learned that the police were planning to raid his biggest illegal brewery, he kept it to himself, and told Torrio and Capone he wanted out of the business – and was willing to sell it to them for half a million dollars. When Torrio arrived to take possession, the police descended and arrested him and a number of his men. A few months later, as O'Banion was working in his flower shop, two gunmen shot him dead. Capone denied any connection to the crime and sent a huge bouquet to the funeral.

Another man whose fortune was tied to Prohibition was Al Smith. Alfred Emanuel Smith was born in a tenement building on New York's Lower East Side, the son of a freight handler. Three time Governor of New York, Smith unsuccessfully sought the 1924 Democratic nomination for president. Smith was everything the Drys despised: Catholic, citified, and wet. "Wouldn't you like to have your foot on the rail and blow the foam off some suds?" he'd once asked a reporter when he thought he was talking off-the-record.

Four years later Smith accepted the Democratic nomination for president. The contrast between Smith and his opponent in the 1928 presidential election could not have been clearer. Herbert Hoover, the Republican nominee, favored Prohibition, at least in public. It was "a great social and economic experiment, noble in motive and far-reaching in purpose," he said, but in a nod to swing voters disillusioned with the Volstead Act, Hoover also conceded that problems with the law "must be worked out constructively."

The country may have been changing but the Drys were not. They had rejected every proposal to revise the Volstead Act, insisting that stronger enforcement was the answer. Once again big cities found themselves pitted against small towns. As the Presidential campaign began, Hoover preferred to remain above its bitterness. But his surrogates fanned out across the country, intent on doing all they could to preserve the Eighteenth Amendment and destroy Al Smith.

Wayne Wheeler, the master tactician of the Anti-Saloon League for more than thirty years, had recently died. His successor as League spokesman was James Cannon, Jr., the Virginia political boss and Methodist bishop, whose self-righteous zeal equaled that of his predecessor – and whose xenophobia far exceeded it.

Cannon concentrated his fire on the South, flooding the region with tracts and pamphlets falsely charging that Smith was a drunk, the "cocktail president;" denouncing his Catholic faith as "the Mother of ignorance, superstition, intolerance and sin;" dismissing his most ardent supporters as the "kind of dirty people that you find today on the sidewalks of New York."

In September, Mabel Walker Willebrandt herself took to the campaign trail, travelling to Springfield, Ohio to address a gathering of Methodist ministers. Herbert Hoover would enforce Prohibition with "consecrated leadership," she promised them, while Smith was the captive of Tammany Hall and the liquor interests, and could not be trusted to be faithful to the Constitution.

Smith's cause had probably always been hopeless; the economy was still booming and no one saw a way that the Republicans could lose. Smith's candidacy did bring thousands of big-city working-class voters to the polls for the first time, but his religion and his opposition to Prohibition cut deeply into the supposedly solid Democratic South. Hoover won by six million votes. Smith was stunned at the size of his defeat and the viciousness of the campaign against him. "I do not expect to run for office again," he told reporters. "I have had all I can stand of it."

One of the most profound effects of Prohibition was on government tax revenues. Before Prohibition, many states relied heavily on excise taxes in liquor sales to fund their budgets. In New York, almost 75% of the state's revenue was derived from liquor taxes. With Prohibition in effect, that revenue was immediately lost. At the national level, Prohibition cost the federal government a total of $11 billion in lost tax revenue, while costing over $300 million to enforce. The most lasting consequence was that many states and the federal government would come to rely on income tax revenue to fund their budgets going forward.

On the whole, the initial economic effects of Prohibition were largely negative. The closing of breweries, distilleries and saloons led to the elimination of thousands of jobs, and in turn thousands more jobs were eliminated for barrel makers, truckers, waiters, and other related trades.

With a wink and a nod, the American grape industry began selling kits of juice concentrate with warnings not to leave them sitting too long or else they could ferment and turn into wine. Home stills were technically illegal, but Americans found they could purchase them at many hardware stores, while instructions for distilling could be found in public libraries in pamphlets issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The law that was meant to stop Americans from drinking was instead turning many of them into experts on how to make it.

The trade in unregulated alcohol had serious consequences for public health. As the trade in illegal alcohol became more lucrative, the quality of alcohol on the black market declined. On average, 1000 Americans died every year during the Prohibition from the effects of drinking tainted liquor.

The greatest unintended consequence of Prohibition however, was the plainest to see. For over a decade, the law that was meant to foster temperance instead fostered intemperance and excess. The solution the United States had devised to address the problem of alcohol abuse had instead made the problem even worse. The statistics of the period are notoriously unreliable, but it is very clear that in many parts of the United States more people were drinking, and people were drinking more.

Forgotten Ireland

This is footage of the Fleadh Cheoil in Listowel Co. Kerry in 1973. The song was written by John B. Keane and sung here by Dr. Louis O' Carroll. The Fleadhs were very popular in Listowel for years. Come to the Irish American Heritage Museum tonight for some live, traditional Irish music! 7pm - all welcome.

On this day in 1861 - Young Irelander Terence MacManus died in San Francisco.MacManus was born in 1811 in Tempo, County ...

On this day in 1861 - Young Irelander Terence MacManus died in San Francisco.

MacManus was born in 1811 in Tempo, County Fermanagh, Ireland, and was educated in parochial schools. As a young man he moved to the major port of Liverpool, where he became a successful shipping agent. In 1848 he returned to Ireland, where he became active in the Repeal Association, which sought to overturn the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland. After joining the Irish Confederation, he was among those who took part with William Smith O’Brien and John Blake Dillon in the July 1848 Young Irelander Rebellion in Ballingarry, County Tipperary, where the only substantial armed action occurred. MacManus and the other leaders were charged and convicted of treason, and sentenced to death for their actions.

Due to public outcry for clemency, the men’s sentences were commuted to deportation for life. MacManus, along with O’Brien, Thomas Francis Meagher, and Patrick O’Donoghue, was transported to Van Diemen’s Land in Tasmania, Australia in 1849. They were assigned to different settlements to reduce their collaboration in the new land, however, the Irish men continued to meet secretly.

In 1852 MacManus and Meagher escaped from Australia and made their way to San Francisco, California, where MacManus settled while Meagher went on to New York. Like other immigrants, the Irish revolutionaries carried their issues to the United States. Captain Ellis, of a ship that was supposed to carry O’Brien to freedom, also emigrated to San Francisco. MacManus held a lynch court of Ellis among Irish emigrants for his betrayal of O’Brien in his escape attempt from Van Diemen’s Land. The court martial acquitted Ellis for lack of evidence.

Failing to re-establish his career as a shipping agent, MacManus lived in San Francisco, California and died in poverty in 1861. It was after his death, however, that he performed his most valuable service to the cause of Irish freedom. On learning of his death, American Fenian leaders decided to return his body to Ireland for burial. This foreshadowed the treatment given to Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa at his famous funeral in 1915. His extended funeral procession was the most effective fundraising means imaginable at that time. Any town with a sizable Irish population demanded the funeral pass through on its way to Boston. These stops along the train tracks and dusty roads of rural America fed the Fenian Brotherhood and Clan na Gael with both funds and fresh recruits. The demand to hold memorials for MacManus in every town along the way was so great that it took nearly ten months for his coffin to reach Boston harbor. Arrangements for further processions once the body reached Ireland were made. Crowds of Irish gathered in New York as Archbishop John Hughes, like MacManus born in Ulster, blessed MacManus’ body.

Thousands greeted his body when it arrived in Cork and crowds gathered at rail stations all the way to Dublin. But the church, in the person of Archbishop Cullen, refused permission for his body to lie-in-state at any church in Dublin. Thus, for a week MacManus’ body lay in the Mechanics’ Institute, while thousands passed by paying their respects. Finally, Father Patrick Lavelle, a Fenian supporter, defied Cullen and performed the funeral ceremony on November 10, 1861. A crowd estimated at 50,000 followed the casket to Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery, and hundreds of thousands lined the streets. The MacManus funeral was a seminal moment for the Fenian movement. It invigorated the nationalist movement in Ireland, just as Rossa’s funeral would do 54 years later.

MacManus is notable for his statement in court in October, 1848 where he explained his actions in the rebellion:

... "I say, whatever part I may have taken in the struggle for my country's independence, whatever part I may have acted in my short career, I stand before you, my lords, with a free heart and a light conscience, to abide the issue of your sentence. And now, my lords, this is, perhaps, the fittest time to put a sentence upon record, which is this - that standing in this dock, and called to ascend the scaffold - it may be to-morrow - it may be now - it may be never - whatever the result may be, I wish to put this on record, that in the part I have taken I was not actuated by enmity towards Englishmen - for among them I have passed some of the happiest days of my life, and the most prosperous; and in no part which I have taken was I actuated by enmity towards Englishmen individually, whatever I may have felt of the injustice of English rule in this island; I therefore say, that it is not because I loved England less, but because I loved Ireland more, that I now stand before you".

Very sad news from one of the best Irish bars in Manhattan. McSorley's is an experience and is a mini museum in itself. ...

Very sad news from one of the best Irish bars in Manhattan. McSorley's is an experience and is a mini museum in itself. Ar dheis De go raibh a ainm.

It is with a heavy heart to share with you that our beloved Matty Maher, proprietor of McSorley's Old Ale House for nearly 50 years, passed away yesterday afternoon. He died peacefully with family and friends by his side singing him Irish melodies. He was fond of saying, "It's not what you become in life but what you overcome." He was the light and joy to many. A wake will be held at Gleason's Funeral Home on Northern Blvd @ 149th Street on Tuesday from 2pm-10pm.
Pictures below are of Matt over the years. From a young man who farmed and delivered meat to make ends meet, Matty left Ireland in the early '60s and through hustle and grit became a world-renowned publican. One of his earliest friends in America was an unknown writer named Frank McCourt. When he started working at the bar, McSorley's was still a men-only establishment with dozens of flophouses within blocks from 15 East 7th Street. When they had to let women in by court order on August 11th, 1970, the bar's future was uncertain. And when Matty purchased the place in 1977, the city was near bankrupt and the neighborhood's future uncertain. Landlords were just walking away from their buildings, heroin was rampant, cars had to wait in lines that extended for blocks just to get gas, crime, and grime everywhere. But Matty left poverty back in Ireland and he was determined to leave it behind for good. He saw an opportunity and believed in the American Dream. And he loved history and all things Irish and knew McSorley's and the city could survive when so many others told him he was absolutely nuts. All of us who were lucky enough to have known the man will forever be eternally grateful for his generous spirit, and his compassionate understanding and forgiveness in man's folly.

On January 13th, James Joyce, considered by many to be one of the most important modern authors in English because of hi...

On January 13th, James Joyce, considered by many to be one of the most important modern authors in English because of his revolutionary approach to the novel, died in Zurich.

James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (2 February 1882 – 13 January 1941) was an Irish novelist, short story writer, poet, teacher, and literary critic. He contributed to the modernist avant-garde and is regarded as one of the most influential and important authors of the 20th century. Joyce is best known for Ulysses (1922), a landmark work in which the episodes of Homer's Odyssey are paralleled in a variety of literary styles, most famously stream of consciousness. Other well-known works are the short-story collection Dubliners (1914), and the novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Finnegan's Wake (1939). His other writings include three books of poetry, a play, his published letters and occasional journalism.

Joyce was born in Dublin into a middle-class family. A brilliant student, he briefly attended the Christian Brothers-run O'Connell School before excelling at the Jesuit schools Clongowes and Belvedere, despite the chaotic family life imposed by his father's unpredictable finances. He went on to attend University College Dublin.

In 1904, in his early twenties, Joyce emigrated to continental Europe with his partner (and later wife) Nora Barnacle. They lived in Trieste, Paris, and Zürich. Although most of his adult life was spent abroad, Joyce's fictional universe centers on Dublin and is populated largely by characters who closely resemble family members, enemies and friends from his time there. Ulysses in particular is set with precision in the streets and alleyways of the city. Shortly after the publication of Ulysses, he elucidated this preoccupation somewhat, saying, "For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal."

On 11 January 1941, Joyce underwent surgery in Zürich for a perforated duodenal ulcer. He fell into a coma the following day. He awoke at 2 a.m. on 13 January 1941, and asked a nurse to call his wife and son, before losing consciousness again. They were en route when he died 15 minutes later. Joyce was less than a month short of his 59th birthday.

His body was buried in the Fluntern Cemetery, Zürich. The Swiss tenor Max Meili sang 'Addio terra, addio cielo' from Monteverdi's L'Orfeo at the burial service. Although two senior Irish diplomats were in Switzerland at the time, neither attended Joyce's funeral, and the Irish government later declined Nora's offer to permit the repatriation of Joyce's remains. When Joseph Walshe, secretary at the Department of External Affairs in Dublin, was informed of Joyce's death by Frank Cremins, chargé d'affaires at Bern, Walshe responded "Please wire details of Joyce's death. If possible find out did he die a Catholic? Express sympathy with Mrs Joyce and explain inability to attend funeral". Buried originally in an ordinary grave, Joyce was moved in 1966 to a more prominent "honour grave," with a seated portrait statue by American artist Milton Hebald nearby. Nora, whom he had married in 1931, survived him by 10 years. She is buried by his side, as is their son Giorgio, who died in 1976.

In October 2019 a motion was put to Dublin City Council to plan and budget for the costs of the exhumations and reburials of Joyce and his family somewhere in Dublin, subject to his family's wishes. The proposal immediately became controversial, with the Irish Times commenting: '.. it is hard not to suspect that there is a calculating, even mercantile, aspect to contemporary Ireland’s relationship to its great writers, whom we are often more keen to “celebrate”, and if possible monetise, than read'.

The Guardian newspaper wrote an admiring obituary for him:
"With the death of James Joyce there passes the strangest and most original figure which Ireland gave to Europe in this generation", the article reads. "The ban imposed for years upon his 'Ulysses' gave a notoriety to his name without disclosing his true stature and strength.

That he was a genuine artist, sincere, integrated, and profound is clear from the simplicity of his early short stories 'Dubliners' and from the well-defined autobiographical narrative of 'Portrait of the Artist'

He annihilated the ordinary and the normal and revealed a jungle world of the mental and emotional reactions which may come over men in a single day."


370 Broadway
Albany, NY

Opening Hours

Wednesday 11:00 - 16:00
Thursday 11:00 - 16:00
Friday 11:00 - 16:00
Saturday 12:00 - 16:00
Sunday 12:00 - 16:00




Be the first to know and let us send you an email when Irish American Heritage Museum posts news and promotions. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Contact The Museum

Send a message to Irish American Heritage Museum:



Nearby museums


The castles of Ireland should be rebuilt this way!
I am very pleased with everything about this site. Informative, humorous, emotional! I am proud of my heritage and thank you for the recognition!
Id Love to Experience a Traditional Irish Christmas. What away to Share the Holidays - God Bless Everyone !!
Raised in #2:
I am The Irishman Extraordinaire lol Beadley that's me !! Lok
The Republic of Ireland is one of the most progressive countries in the world
I was very disappointed that on Sunday, July 21, 2019, after I called to verify that the museum would be open, the recording said it will be open on that day from 12 noon until 5pm. We drove one hour and 19 minutes and when we arrived the museum was not open. We got there for 2pm and there was also another couple that walked up and tried to enter. There was no note of any kind on the door and the same hours of business was on the front of the building as what was on the website and the recording. We were very disappointed. Just wanted to post my disappointment and I hope all is well. We then walked around the front of the college and as we walked back around to get in the car yet another couple was trying to visit the museum. I still would like to make the drive and visit one day, but how will I know if you will be opened? Please respect future patrons and maybe have a recording. I always call first before making such a long trip. Thanks and have a nice day.