The middle of the 19th century was a particularly lawless and turbulent time for American cities, and Philadelphia with its very diverse population was one of the most violent. Irish immigrants were the victims of a great deal of bigoted stereotyping, usually portrayed as ignorant, brawling drunkards. Worse, they were a "foreign" element not to be trusted. Their loyalty was not to their new nation but to a "Papist" church, its "evil priests" and "despotic Pope." Inflammatory anti-Catholic pamphlets proclaimed that once the Irish population was large enough, they would take over America. Riots were commonplace, but the bloodiest riots of the era, without question, exploded in the summer of 1844 when Protestant "Native Americans" battled Irish Catholics in a two-part street war that left about 25 dead and more than 100 wounded and injured. Two large Catholic churches, a rectory and a seminary were burned to the ground and scores of houses set on fire.
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