American Irish Historical Society

The American Irish Historical Society (AIHS) is a historical society devoted to Irish American history, founded in Boston in the late 19th century. Non-partisan and non-sectarian since its inception in 1897,[1] it maintains the most complete private collection of Irish and Irish-American literature and history in the United States[2] and publishes a journal entitled The Recorder.[3] It also holds various cultural events[4] at the society headquarters at 991 Fifth Avenue in New York City.[5]

American Irish Historical Society
Headquarters in Manhattan
Established1897 (1897)
Legal statusprivate, non-profit
Purposeeducational and cultural
Headquarters991 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, New York City
James Normile
Brian McCabe
PublicationThe Recorder


First locations

Founded in Boston, Massachusetts in the late 19th century[1] and in continuous operation since 1897, the society has been non-partisan and non-sectarian since its inception. The society was founded as a response to the establishment of the Scotch-Irish Society which was founded in 1889.[1]

AIHS was relocated to New York City in 1904 by T. H. Murray, then serving as society's Secretary-General.[6] Perhaps the most notable member of AIHS at the time was President Theodore Roosevelt. The society's formal purpose is "to place permanently on record the story of the Irish in America from the earliest settlement to the present day, justly, impartially, fully, and sympathetically correcting neglect and misrepresentation by certain historians of the part taken in the founding, upbuilding and safeguarding of the Nation by persons of Irish birth and descent." Notable members through the years have included politician William Bourke Cockran, tenor John McCormack, New York Governor Hugh Carey, and performer/composer George M. Cohan. In 1940, the Society moved to a Beaux-Arts townhouse on Fifth Avenue in New York City, which it still occupies.

Recent events

As of 2011, members included "prominent doctors, writers, lawyers and even some boldface names like Liam Neeson." It continued to hold a "vast collection of rare books" and hold various cultural events such as poetry readings and concerts.[4] In early 2011, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg apologized publicly after joking at a dinner that he's seen a bunch of people "totally inebriated” hanging from the society's balcony on St. Patrick's Day. The comment spurred complaints about Irish stereotyping. The New York Times published an article stating Bloomberg "could hardly have picked a more unlikely [stereotyping] target," with locals feeling "surprise and puzzlement that the carefully preserved building and its staid crowd had been singled out as an emblem for, of all things, rowdiness."[4]

Kevin M. Cahill is president-general emeritus of the American-Irish Historical Society.[7] The society headquarters is at 991 Fifth Avenue, opposite the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[5] With around 10,000 volumes, it "maintains the most complete private collection of Irish-American and Irish literature and history in the United States."[2] The society publishes a journal entitled The Recorder[3] and hosts cultural and historical events.

During the holiday seasons of 2016 and 2017, AIHS was home to the Irish Repertory Theatre's production of The Dead, 1904.[8] The show was an adaptation of James Joyce's The Dead, adapted by novelist Jean Hanff Korelitz and her husband, Irish poet, Paul Muldoon. For The Dead, 1904, the building had 57 guests at a time, who for part of the performance joined the cast for a holiday feast drawn from the original novella.[9]

AIHS Gold Medal

The American Irish Historical Society annually awards the AIHS Gold Medal to an Irish-American or Irish national of significant accomplishment. Past honorees have included Bono, George J. Mitchell, Mary Higgins Clark, Wilbur Ross, Michael J. Dowling, and Robert McCann.[10]


  1. Casey, Marion; Lee, J. J. (2007-03-01). Making the Irish American: History and Heritage of the Irish in the United States. NYU Press. ISBN 9780814752180.
  2. "5 Great Places To Find Irish Culture In NYC", CBS New York, March 16, 2015
  3. The Recorder : bulletin of the American-Irish Historical Society. Recorder (New York, N.Y. : 1985); New York, N.Y. : The Society, 1901-
  4. "Mayor Aimed Drunken Irish Joke at an Unusually Sober Place", Sam Dolnick, The New York Times, February 11, 2011
  5. "American Irish Historical Society". American Irish Historical Society. Archived from the original on 2 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-01.
  6. Appel, John J. (1960-01-01). "The New England Origins of the American Irish Historical Society". The New England Quarterly. 33 (4): 462–475. doi:10.2307/362675. JSTOR 362675.
  7. "The diaspora ‘one of Ireland’s strengths’, President says", Patsy McGarry, The Irish Times, October 30, 2014
  8. Kis, Eva (29 November 2017). "Theater Review: Learn how to live from The Dead 1904". Metro US. Metro New York. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
  9. "Irish Rep Brings James Joyce’s “The Dead” to Life", Hilton Als, The New Yorker, December 4, 2017
  10. AIHS Gold Medal Awardees

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