"The Foreigner"

March 17, 1888

Charles G. Bush

"The Foreigner"

Holidays, St. Patrick’s Day; Irish Americans; New York City, Celebrations/Honors;

No 'People' indexed for this cartoon.

New York City;

"An' ye've lift the pirade, Tim?'

"Oi have that."

"Phwat fur?"

"Oi've just been towld as Sint Patrick was a Frinchman, an' the idee of traipsin' roun' the sthraits an' carryin' the American flag fur a furriner is not to me taste, at all at all."

This Harper’s Weekly cartoon by C. G. Bush presents a scene at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City. In Irish dialect, the woman inquires why the man has dropped out of the parade, to which he answers that it is because he has learned that St. Patrick was French, not Irish. The ex-marcher is a foreign-born American, yet he rejects honoring a foreign-born Irishman. The joke needles the exclusivity of Irish-Americans (though the message is more universal) who denigrate other immigrant or ethnic groups.

St. Patrick was actually born in fifth-century Britain, not France, to a Romanized family. He is credited with converting the Irish to Christianity and, according to legend, with driving the snakes from the island and explaining the Christian doctrine of the Trinity by using a shamrock. A parade celebrating St. Patrick in New York City dates to 1766, when it featured an Irish unit of the British army serving in the colony. The tradition of a militia-sponsored event was continued until 1812 when Irish-American fraternal and benevolent societies assumed organizational responsibility, although soldiers continued to lead the march.

The annual parade was a small affair until the late 1840s when its increased size and significance coincided with the massive influx of immigrants from famine-ravaged Ireland. By the early 1850s, the parade was so important that the mayor and other city notables were obliged to review it, and the number of participants was so large that it brought business in the area of the march to a virtual standstill. Mayor Abraham Oakey Hall (1868-1872) attended the festivities dressed in emerald-green coat and shirt, and facetiously insisted that his initials were short for "Ancient Order of Hibernians." In 1887, newly-elected mayor Abram Hewitt broke tradition by refusing to review the parade or fly the shamrock flag at City Hall, lecturing the city that "America should be governed by Americans." He was not reelected.

Today, over 150,000 people march in the parade, and enjoyment of the event has transcended its ethnic origins.

Robert C. Kennedy

"The Foreigner"
December 5, 2023

Home | About | Contact || Access | Features 

Website design © 2001-2008 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2008 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to