Mollie Maguires: Movie Compari Essay, Research Paper
On October 27, 1873, a adult male naming himself James McKenna emerged
from a train at the station in Port Clinton, a little community on the
southern boundary line of Pennsylvania & # 8217 ; s Schuylkill County. It was coal-mining
state, a unsmooth portion of the universe enduring from the effects of what one
newspaper had called a & # 8220 ; reign of panic & # 8221 ; orchestrated by a shadowy
organisation dubbed the Molly Maguires. Since 1862 the Mollies had been
blamed for legion slayings, whippings, knifings, armed robberies, and
incidents of incendiarism. The narrative of the Molly Maguires is a good known section
of the history of industrialisation in the United States. In 1970, Sean
Connery starred in a movie called The Molly Maguires, in which he played Jack
Kehoe, the lead Mollie, face-to-face to Richard Harris James McKenna. The
comparing between the movie and the existent existent life events will be the subject
of this paper. Whether or non the movie accurately portrays the Molly
maguires as they truly were, though, is non the cardinal involvement here. Of
primary concern is the ways in which the movie describes the predicament of Irish
immigrants to the coal mines of Pennsylvania ; how accurately does it portray
the narrative behind the Mollies? This terrorist group did non look overnight ;
it was created. Therefore, they must hold been created for a ground, and
this is the focal point of the probe.
In order to understand the factors that led to the formation of the
Molly Maguires, one must understand something about the lives of the
people that comprised the Mollies: Irish immigrants. This is best
accomplished by first taking a expression at the grounds for the monolithic figure of
Irish to immigrates to the U.S. in the 19th century. From 1820 to
1920, over four and a one-fourth million Irish immigrants came to the United
States. One cause for this inordinately heavy out-migration, was the
changeless force per unit area of population on the resources of the Emerald Isle, for in
Ireland the denseness of population was greater than in any other state of
The dominant industry of Ireland was agribusiness. It was under the
control of an nobility, many of whom were absentee landlords who
rented their land to tonss of little husbandmans or cottars ; who, in bend, farmed
with the most antediluvian implements and backward methods. As a consequence,
Ireland witnessed a progressive impairment of its agrarian category, from 1815,
to well past the center of the century. Taxation, finance, and the tribunals were
under the control of the landed nobility. The normal pay in Ireland was
tanner a twenty-four hours, including one repast ; and eightpence a twenty-four hours without nutrient. The
nutrient of the provincial, in his happiest and most comfortable times, consisted of
nil more than murphies, a small milk, and on occasion, fish. Meat was so
scarce that many households ne’er saw it from one twelvemonth to the following. The
peasant s hut, in which he normally reared a big brood of kids, was
filthy, moistness, cold, and smoky. It had but one room to house the whole
household ; which, at least in some cases, included the household hog. 1
Education, even of the most fundamental kind, was impossible for
100s of households. Drinking, and its natural concomitant, rioting,
constituted the prevalent expletive of the Irish people. The slums of Dublin were
ill-famed for poorness, disease, and crud in the early decennaries of the
1 MacManus, Seumas. The Story of the Irish Race: a popular history of Ireland, Rev. ed. , ( Old Greenwich,
Conn. : Devin-Adair, 1992, c1966 ) , 87-145.
19th century. If one adds to these straitening conditions, development
by a foreign power, England ; and the denial of political privileges to the
native Irish ; and the load of paying tithes for the support of a Church
constitution which Irish Catholics hated, it is obvious why Ireland was a
fertile recruiting land for immigrants in the 19th century, and why
the immigrant tide to the United States could non be stopped once it had
begun to flux. 2 Between 1815 and 1830, the more significant husbandmans
constituted the majority of the Irish in-migration to America. After that day of the month, the
inundation Gatess were unfastened to all.
The Irish emigre trade truly began in the old ages 1816 and 1817.
From 6,000 to 9,000 Irish sailed for America in each of these old ages. In
1818, the figure more than doubled. Vessels began to be chartered for the
specific intent of transporting emigres ; although, as a general pattern,
vass that had brought American ladings of cotton or lumber to Ireland,
departed with human ladings for the return ocean trip. In 1827, the Irish
in-migration to America reached 20,000. By 1831 and 1832, it exceeded
65,000. After 1835, with the exclusion of 1838, there were ne’er less than
30,000 Irish traversing the Atlantic in any one twelvemonth. In 1842, the sum reached
2 Ibid. , 147.
3 Bimba, Anthony. The Molly Maguires. 1932: International Publishers, 1950.
Potato dearths had ever meant catastrophe for a population such as
Ireland s, which invariably bordered so near on famishment. There had been
dearths before 1845, but that twelvemonth marked the beginning of a sequence of
cold, moist summers ; with the end point murphy putrefaction ; a works disease which
destroyed practically the whole harvest. Pestilence, febrility, famishment and decease
descended upon the Irish countryside, and about one 4th of the
population succumbed. Relief ships from America provided small assistance. The
figures for the period of the Irish dearth in-migration mounted to galvanizing
sums: 1846= 92,484 ; 1847= 196,224 ; 1848= 173,744 ; 1849= 204,771 ;
1850= 206,041. 4
The nose count of 1850 reported 961,719 Irish in the United States ; by
1860, the sum had reached 1,611,304.5 These were to be found in greatest
Numberss in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Illinois, Ohio, and New
Jersey. An organisation in Philadelphia, in six months, collected $ 48,000 in
hard currency, and $ 20,000 worth of articles ; and sent seven alleviation ships to Ireland.
American Protestant churches appealed for assistance for the afflicted Irish.6 At the
same clip, those interested in advancing in-migration, circulated circulars,
and maintained agents in the chief towns of Ireland. Hope inspired the
voyagers across the Atlantic, but for many, it vanished like the rainbow,
when the existent conditions of life in America had to be faced. Almost all Irish
immigrants had to get down in the United States as unskilled labour, and most
ne’er made it any farther than that.
4 MacManus, 150-2.
5 Bimba, 98.
6 Ibid. , MacManus.
Although 80 % of the immigrating Irish had a background in agriculture,
merely 6 % farmed in America. Alternatively, Irish immigrants sought occupations in the
coal mines, where they found the cultural integrity and feeling of community that
they desired. English and particularly Welsh mineworkers brought a high degree of
accomplishment and experience to the mines. Each of these mineworkers was assigned several
unskilled labourers to assist with motion of supplies and delving. These
unskilled places were the 1s filled by the Irish.7
The proprietor of the mine would about ever own the coal spot,
including the mineworkers & # 8217 ; places and the shops where they bought their
supplies. The mineworkers were forced to populate in the company houses and purchase
from the company shops, where monetary values were at least 20 per centum higher
than in private shops.8 The unskilled mine labourers would, because of
hyperbolic supply costs, complete a wage period in debt to the mine proprietor. This
pattern of blow uping costs and maintaining the mineworkers in debt allowed operators
to maintain the mineworkers from striking or go forthing to fall in another company.
The Irish labourer in the in-between 19th century often found
himself in troubles because of unblushing development and bad working
conditions, and because of the bitterness harbored against him by indigen
Americans who feared his competition ; although seemingly few Americans
had any wish to make the heavy, dirty, unskilled labour that fell to the batch of the
7 Kenny, Kevin. Making Sense of the Molly Maguires. New York: Oxford UP, 1998, 42.
8 Bimba, 98-102.
Irishman with his choice and shovel. Irish stevedores were employed at
the docks in all the taking sea and Lake Ports. They bitterly resented the
invasion of the Negroes, who were frequently brought in expressly to deject the
pay graduated table. Riots between Irish and Negro dock workers were non
infrequent. It is this economic competition that helps to explicate the strong
ill will of the Irish toward the abolitionist motion, and the New York
bill of exchange public violences during the Civil War.9
In the 1840 s and 1850 s, small & # 8220 ; Dublins & # 8221 ; sprang up in the mill
towns of New England and in the Middle Atlantic provinces, for the Irish were
occupying the factory centres. The Irish population of Boston tripled in a decennary.
Frequently, the factory population was the residue from the labour supply that had
delve the canals, or constructed the millrun. In Rhode Island, for illustration,
the first Irish factory workers were recruited from those who had built the
railway between Providence and Boston, and the Woonsocket Irish Catholic
colony was due to the building of the Blackstone Canal. Irishmans
went into the factory towns of Pawtucket and the & # 8220 ; coal pits & # 8221 ; between Fall River
In add-on to the fiscal and societal jobs confronting all unskilled
labourers, the Irish faced farther troubles due to prejudice. Although they
were great subscribers to the industrialisation of America, the Irish Catholic
10 Coleman, James Walter. The Molly Maguire Riots: Industrial Conflict in the Pennsylvania Coal Region.
Capital of virginia: Garrett & A ; Massie, 1936, 17-25.
were treated with contempt by the largely Protestant & # 8220 ; native & # 8221 ; population of
the country. The Irish were called a & # 8220 ; monolithic ball in the community,
undigested, undigestible & # 8221 ; . Riots often broke out between Protestants
and the Catholic fledglings.
Increasingly, it was the Irish in general, non merely the Catholics, who
were persecuted. The Irish received a repute for being drunken and
quick to force, and the newspapers of the center of the last century are
full of in writing histories of their bloody conflicts. After reading the many
histories of brawling and combat among Irish workmans that appear in the
American newspapers, one becomes cognizant of the fact that non all the problem
was due to the Irishman s aggressive disposition, his love for the bottle,
or his belief that quarrelsomeness is the spice of life. Much of this rioting was
the consequence of unbearable labour conditions. The bash were frequently attempts,
nevertheless misguided and unwise, to accomplish an betterment in labour
criterions at a clip when the labour motion had barely begun. There were
work stoppages for higher rewards on internal betterment undertakings, many of which
led to a show of force, peculiarly when contractors subsequently refused to
esteem the understandings they had been forced to accept.
The Anthracite coal parts of Pennsylvania had a mushroom growing in
the 1830 s, with immigrant labour, hapless lodging installations, and all the immoralities of
company towns and company shops as natural accompaniments of this rapid
enlargement. The part suffered from the immoralities of overdevelopment, and
frequent concern slacks, which weighed particularly to a great extent upon the Irish
coal mineworkers. Working conditions in the mines were awful ; with no safety
demands, review, or proper airing. From 1839 to 1848, rewards
were $ 1.00 to $ 1.25 a twenty-four hours for mineworkers, and 82 cents a twenty-four hours for ordinary
labourers. In 1869, a extremum of $ 18.20 a hebdomad was reached, but by 1877, the
pay had declined once more to $ 9.80 a hebdomad. & # 8220 ; Breaker boys & # 8221 ; , aged 7 to 16,
worked like slaves in the surfs under mine foremans whose character left
much to be desired.11
The Irish Catholics were, of class, excluded from benevolent
societies, so they began to organize organisations of their ain to assist
immigrants adjust to America. These organisations were for the most portion
& lt ;< p>populace, since societies necessitating curses of secretiveness were officially forbidden by
the Catholic Church. However, as the persecution grew worse, secretiveness
became necessary and the one time peaceable societies began to contend back. The
form of violent revenge was excessively much a portion of Irish civilization for anything
else to hold happened.
Irish benevolent societies were formed to cover with some of these
jobs. The Ancient Order of Hibernians, a semi-secret organisation,
became the anchor of the mineworkers brotherhoods. In a really long narrative of existent category
war, the duty for force in the Pennsylvania coal Fieldss seems to
be reasonably good divided. By 1860, the Mollie Maguires terrorized the whole
Anthracite part ; elected sheriffs and constables, and resorted to arson,
blackmail, and murder.12 The organisation was non eventually broken up until
1877, when, because of the detective work of James McParlan, 19 were
hanged after tests held in an ambiance of great exhilaration and bias.
11 Ibid. , Bimba.
12 O Dea, John. History of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Ladies Auxiliary. 3 vols. Philadelphia:
Keystone Printing Co. , 1923, vol.2, 866-69.
The incident, for a long clip, blackened the record of Irish-Americans, and
many refused to see the industrial conditions which had provoked such
condemnable action. Furthermore, it must be added that the better elements
among the Irish population denounced the Mollie Maguires, peculiarly the
Church, which threatened the leaders of this organisation with
The anti-Irish sentiments of the community ensuing from Irish
force made them an easy mark for political critics. In 1857, & # 8220 ; Miners & # 8217 ;
Journal & # 8221 ; publisher Bannan accused Irish Catholic organisations of vote in
the 1856 presidential elections as a block. He besides commented on the 55
indictments of voting inspectors in Philadelphia. & # 8220 ; Every one of these
inspectors were Irishmen, belonging no uncertainty to the order of & # 8216 ; Molly
Maguires & # 8217 ; & # 8230 ; . & # 8221 ; This publication marked the first clip the eastern
Pennsylvania coal mines saw the term in print. Sleepers and Bird shots
would go alternate names for this alleged organization.13 The Molly
Maguires he referred to were surely the Ancient Order of Hibernians, a
benevolent association founded by the anomic Irish Catholics.
The anti-conscription public violences of 1872 would besides be attributed to the
Molly Maguires. The Irish coal mineworkers felt, possibly right, that the Civil
War was a & # 8220 ; rich adult male & # 8217 ; s war and a hapless adult male & # 8217 ; s fight. & # 8221 ; Adding to their expostulation
to the war was the belief that the rich work forces of the North were trusting to convey
Blacks to the coal mines where they would work for lower rewards. Already
viing with other immigrants and against bias, it is apprehensible
13 Kenny, 88.
that the Irish coal mineworkers would non be eager to give their lives for a cause
that could merely ache them.14
Benjamin Bannan, the muster officer in Schuylkill County, was
able to register work forces for the bill of exchange without much problem, but when it was clip
for the draftees to go, a rabble of 5,000 work forces formed to halt them and
offered to protect the work forces that did non wish to go forth. President Lincoln was
tidal bore to hold the jurisprudence & # 8220 ; at least to look to hold been executed & # 8221 ; , so Bannan
forged documents that would do it look as if the county & # 8217 ; s quota had been
filled by enrollment in other subdivisions of the county. The drafting of military personnels
would once more be halted by mineworkers in 1863, when a federal muster act
was passed. Following lay waste toing public violences in New York City, functionaries were
uneasy about enforcement of the bill of exchange in Schuylkill County. It was reported
that an ground forces of 2,000 to 3,000 mineworkers, drilled daily, fixing to defy the
bill of exchange. This organisation threatened to fire houses and coal mines owned by
Republicans and gave & # 8220 ; prophylactic & # 8221 ; notices to prominent work forces including
Benjamin Bannan. This incident was one of hapless work forces forming as a political
protest, and although their methods were in no manner peaceful, and the work forces
should hold been punished, the public violences were non the work of a secret terrorist
society as Bannan alleged.15
During and after the Civil War the Molly Maguires became a more
normally used term in the & # 8220 ; Miners & # 8217 ; Journal & # 8221 ; to mention to retaliatory offenses by
the Irish. Later on, historiographers would impute 12 or more violent deaths between
14 Kenny, 81-4.
15 Coleman, 43-5.
1860 and 1862 to the Mollies, but the first violent death that would play a function in
the coming tests took topographic point in June of 1862. A 4th of July jubilation was
being planned in Carbon County when Irish mineworker Jack Kehoe tongue on the
American Flag. F. W. Langdon, a chief who was responsible for accepting
or rejecting a mineworker s coal, was speedy to trade name the adult male a treasonist. Kehoe was
heard to state the words, You son of a bitch, I ll kill you. Subsequently, the mine
chief was badly beaten and died the following day.i6 There were no apprehensions
made at the clip and the slaying would be one of many unresolved instances
attributed to the Molly Maguires. Langdon was murdered, probably by Kehoe
and his friends, but it was a simple act of revenge by mineworkers who felt the
chief had cheated them.17
The violent death of George K. Smith, a mine proprietor reasonably popular with the
skilled labourers, would besides be attributed to the Mollies. Smith was a just
operator, but worked the work forces hard. His aggressors were most likely angered
by the fact that Smith had invited bill of exchange enforcement officers to his place.
Work force with blackened faces forced their manner into his place on November 5,
1863. There they rapidly ended his life with a shooting to the caput. Several of
the alleged aggressors were arrested, but subsequently freed by a rabble. They would
non be tried for 14 old ages. With all the force in the country at the clip, it was
unlikely that a proper constabulary probe took topographic point even then.18
16 Ibid. , 40.
17 Kenny, 85.
18 Ibid. , 85-6.
After the Civil War, force in the coal countries rose to even higher
rates. The combination of increased anthracite demand and the scarceness of
labour due to war service inflated the coal mineworkers & # 8217 ; rewards to possibly the best
in the state. The decision of the war caused a crisp ruin in demand
for all concerns, and affected the coal mines with lay waste toing force. Monetary values
dropped at a arresting rate and mineworkers & # 8217 ; rewards followed suit. Miners who had
been let travel during this clip were joined by war veterans returning place.
Unemployment and hence force climbed to pre-war levels.19
The concern caused by the increased force, particularly against coal
excavation functionaries prompted the constitution of the Coal and Iron Police in
1866. Permission for the establishment of this particular constabulary force was granted
by the province legislative assembly with the purpose that the force would protect
private belongings from hooliganism and sabotage. The & # 8220 ; police officers & # 8221 ; were hired,
paid, and hence wholly controlled by the coal companies. This private
force would be the 1 that made many of the apprehensions that would take to the
Molly Maguire executings. The coal companies were given the power to
arrest the work forces that troubled them, and used this power to its fullest
The autumn in coal monetary values confronted the mine proprietors with a really existent deficiency
of financess. The Eagle Colliery attempted to put to death a 10 per centum wage cut but,
in January, 1868, the mineworkers struck. The mine proprietors could non afford to
19 Ibid. , 96-102.
20 Ibid. , 107-9.
allow the other mines to go on working while the Eagle was non in
operation, so the operators were forced to follow with the mineworkers & # 8217 ; wants.
The work stoppage itself was non of import, but it led to the formation of the
Workingman & # 8217 ; s Benevolent Association under the leading of John Siney.
The new brotherhood was plagued by jobs. The northern mineworkers and southern
workers of the Schuylkill country were viing for concern. Although leaders
from both countries agreed on paper to back up each other & # 8217 ; s work stoppages, misgiving
and personal greed prevented the integrity so desperately needed. In 1871 the
southern and northern Fieldss eventually agreed to strike together. The operators
were unable to transport out any coal and thirstily accepted the mineworkers & # 8217 ; footings.
Franklin B. Gowen, nevertheless, ensured that the mineworkers & # 8217 ; minute of victory
was a short one.21
Gowen had been elected Attorney General during the period of
force in the early 1860s. He failed to prosecute many of the offenses
because the Irish had been major protagonists of the Democratic ballot he was
elected on. He retired from political relations in 1864 and became the legal manager of
the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, shortly to lift in rank and caput the
Gowen tried for many old ages to steal a clause leting his railway to
purchase coal lands into unrelated statute law, but the clauses were spotted
and stricken by the anti-monopoly senators of the clip. A measure was eventually
passed to let Gowen to keep the lands but under questionable
21 Ibid. , 116-17.
22 Ibid. , 137-49.
fortunes. The clause Gowen had placed within the measure was removed in
a forenoon ballot by a ballot of 17 to 15. Another ballot was called in the
afternoon and three of the senators opposed to the measure were absent while
another had reversed his ballot. The measure so necessary to Gowen & # 8217 ; s programs
passed under conditions that strongly suggest that Gowen worked this
miracle himself, with payoffs. The program succeeded and while the increased
conveyance monetary values devastated mine operators, Gowen bought land at an
incredible rate. By 1875, he owned 150 square stat mis of hard coal excavation
land, which amounted to 80 per centum of the Schuylkill and 1/3 of the full
coal field. The Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company was born.
His fright of the Molly Maguires perchance interrupting his coal monopoly spread
to his investors, who were besides powerful in the community.23
Franklin Gowen approached detective Allan Pinkerton during October of
1873. The Pinkerton Agency was already celebrated for their work towards
capturing criminal in the West. Pinkerton recorded in his journal that Gowen
told him: & # 8220 ; & # 8230 ; we want people to kip unthreatened, unmolested, in their
beds, & # 8230 ; we want the laboring-men & # 8230 ; protected in their right to procure
nutriment for their married womans and small 1s & # 8230 ; & # 8221 ; 24 The records of the Ancient
Order of Hibernians, an established Irish secret society, frequently accused of
being Molly Maguires, quoted Gowen rather otherwise.
I want you to direct a adult male & # 8230 ; to fall in the Mollie Maguires and go its
leader. & # 8230 ; I want him to precipitate work stoppages & # 8230 ; and do the lives of the
24 Ibid. , 154.
mine directors a load. I want him to take sets against the
English, Welsh and German mineworkers and mine foremans, round and kill
them off, until the pits will be unable to run for privation of competent
Although neither quotation mark likely records the exact words of Gowen, the
latter records feelings more appropriate to his anterior actions.
The Molly Maguires were created out of necessity. It was non the
unruly, bibulous Irishmen that created them though, it was people like
Gowen and Bannon with their political relations and greed. With the laissez-faire
economic system that allowed people like Gowen to go boundlessly affluent in the
absence of authorities intercession, came the demand for a societal remedy. As
far as the movie goes, it was reasonably accurate in its portraiture of the adversities
that coal mineworkers endured every twenty-four hours, and it provided a glance of the
dictatorial ambiance that plagued 19th century industry. Although
the movie portrayed the Mollies every bit guilty as snake pit, it did carry through the undertaking of
relaying the message of the remarkably rough lifestyle Irish immigrants were
forced to digest. 26 Even though it did non cover excessively much with the history
behind the formation of the Mollies, it intimated that a distinguishable history was
decidedly at that place.
25 Ibid. , O Drug Enforcement Administration.
26 Zaniello, Tom. Workers, Stiffs, Union Maids, Reds and Riffraff: An organized usher to shoot about labour.
Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1996, 165.