Real Lace: America's Irish Rich

Real Lace: America's Irish Rich

by Stephen Birmingham


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Real Lace: America's Irish Rich by Stephen Birmingham

America’s Irish Catholic rich have long enjoyed the designation of F.I.F., or First Irish Family or “Real Lace”, as it delineates their place in the “Irishtocracy”, where names such as Cuddihy, Murray, Doheny, and McDonnell inspire respect and awe. Yet, in almost every case, their origins in this country were humble. Fleeing the Irish potato famine in the 1840s, they found themselves penniless in the slums of New York and Boston where they were regarded as “invaders” and a curse, humiliated by signs that said ‘No Irish Need Apply’ and forced to accept jobs too degrading to be accepted by native and other immigrant populations. Nonetheless, they possessed one important advantage over other immigrants: they spoke the language. They were also, by nature and tradition, political. And they had ambition, courage, a fighting spirit, and—perhaps most important—Irish charm.

Here, in this engrossing and often hilarious book, we read of how the Irish elite emerged—frequently in less than a generation’s time—out of poverty into positions of both social and business prominence. One of the F.I.F., Robert J. Cuddihy, was behind one of the great publishing stories of the twentieth century, the rise and fall of the Literary Digest. Another, Thomas E. Murray, though little schooled, possessed an engineering genius that led to his control of a number of electrical and other patents, second only to Thomas Edison. Still another, Edward Doheny, was a key figure in the great Teapot Dome scandal of the Harding years. We read of the F.I.F.’s struggles to cling to their faith, and their determination to cope with the “Irish curse”: alcohol. In Real Lace Stephen Birmingham recounts the ultimate rags-to-riches story of the American Irish in a social history as entertaining as it is important.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780815605096
Publisher: Syracuse University Press
Publication date: 09/28/1997
Series: Irish Studies Series
Pages: 322
Sales rank: 1,278,426
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Stephen Birmingham (1929–2015) was an American author of more than thirty books. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, he graduated from Williams College in 1953 and taught writing at the University of Cincinnati. Birmingham’s work focuses on the upper class in America. He’s written about the African American elite in Certain People and prominent Jewish society in Our Crowd: The Great Jewish Families of New York, The Grandees: The Story of America’s Sephardic Elite, and The Rest of Us: The Rise of America’s Eastern European Jews. His work also encompasses several novels including The Auerbach Will, The LeBaron Secret, Shades of Fortune, and The Rothman Scandal, and other non-fiction titles such as California Rich, The Grandes Dames, and Life at the Dakota: New York’s Most Unusual Address.

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