Irish Americans have many reasons to be a proud people

Thursday, March 17, 2016

"If I hear one more Irish stereotype, I'm going to put down this beer and beat somebody up!"

St. Patrick's Day is a day we put any prejudice aside and all become Irish, not just the 10 percent of Americans who claim Irish ancestry.

We don't blame them for being proud, the Irish have made a long list of contributions to modern society.

James O'Shea at Irish Central lists a few you may recognize:

* Henry Ford created the first affordable, mass-produced automobile.

* John Philip Holland invented the modern submarine in 1900.

* Harry Ferguson invented the modern tractor and the first four-wheel-drive Formula One racing car.

* Walter Gordon Wilson responded to Winston Churchill's call for a machine capable of withstanding rifle fire, flattening barbed wire fences and rolling over no man's land, by inventing the tank in 1915.

* John Joly invented an early form of color photography in 1894.

* Louis Brennan patented a monorail for military use in 1903.

* Dr. James J. Drumm developed the nickel zinc battery for railroads.

* Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton split the atom in experiments as early as the 1920s.

* Sir Hans Sloan first mixed chocolate with milk in the 1700s.

The U.S. Census Bureau points out, on a broader scale, it was Irish laborers who built the Brooklyn Bridge, most of the transcontinental railroads and the Erie Canal.

Not surprisingly, they led the labor movement in the late 1800s and early 1900s, including early activists fighting for better working conditions for women.

Irish Americans have been prominent in politics, from Richard Daley to the Kennedys to Tip O'Neill and Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Literature had its Eugene O'Neill and F.Scott Fitzgerald and Edgar Allen Poe.

Nellie Bly invented investigative journalism at Joseph Pulitzer's New York World, competing for readers with fellow Irishman William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal.

Football has the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, boxing has Max Baer and baseball Mark McGwire.

Tennis has John McEnroe and Ben Hogan won the U.S. Open four times and won 63 tour victories by the time he retired in 1970.

First-generation Irish American documented the Civil War in photography and Georgia O'Keefe was one of the most famous painters of the 20th century.

Entertainment wouldn't be the same without Irish descendants such as Helen Hayes, director John Huston and Marion Morissey -- you remember him as John Wayne -- who filmed "The Quiet Man" in Ireland with Maureen O'Hara. Gene Kelly, Grace Kelly, Jimmy Cagney, Spencer Tracy and Bing Crosby were all Irish Americans as well.

Irish contributions to American entertainment continue today through comedians like Rosie O'Donnell, Conan O'Brien and Drew Carey, Celtic dance phenomenon Michael Flatley's Riverdance and Lord of the Dance, and big box-office draws include George Clooney, Matthew McConaughey, Joan and John Cusack, Pierce Brosnan, Roma Downey and Drew Barrymore.

And the list goes on. Irish or not, we all have something to celebrate on St. Patrick's Day.

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