Moloney Collection

Mick Moloney Collection of Irish-American Music and Popular Culture (AIA 31) Part IV: Irish Americana

The Mick Moloney Collection of Irish-American Music and Popular Culture is the largest collection in the Archives of Irish America at New York University and constitutes an aurally and visually rich resource for scholars and students of the Irish-American experience. Part IV is the largest known and most comprehensive collection of Irish Americana. It documents the Irish image in American popular culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, providing an important alternative source for the history of the Irish in the United States, especially the origins of ethnic perceptions and representations. The 53 boxes in Part IV: Irish Americana contain positive and negative stereotypes, as depicted on sheet music, postcards, and other commercial printed materials such as songsters, joke books, advertisements, and cartoons. Thirteen hundred pieces of sheet music are richest for the period between the Civil War and World War I, focusing on songs about Ireland and the Irish published primarily in the United States. More than 800 postcards are, with a few exceptions, St. Patrick’s Day greetings produced between 1900 and 1915. Part IV is organized into six series as follows:

  1. Series A: Sheet Music (Irish), 1817–1995 (1,312 titles)
  2. Series B: Songsters and Song Albums, 1863–1960 (58 folders)
  3. Series C: Sheet Music (Non-Irish), 1847–1946 (67 titles)
  4. Series D: Jokebooks, 1883–1928 (21 folders)
  5. Series E: Postcards, 1900–1915 (820 sleeves)
  6. Series F: Ephemera, 1856–1960 (47 items)

Part IV is open for research without restrictions. Reproduction may be subject to copyright restrictions. To consult with the archivist about your specific Part IV research needs and to make an appointment, please send an e-mail to:

  1. Series A: Sheet Music (Irish), 1817–1995

    Forty-three boxes of sheet music focus on songs about Ireland and the Irish published in the United States, particularly in New York City. Ranging in date from 1817 to 1964, the vast majority of the 1,300 pieces of sheet music in Series A were printed between 1860 and 1930, although there are a significant number of undated pieces as well. This is the largest body of such material in any research library in the world. A variety of genres (from comic to sentimental) are documented, as well as a recurring cast of composers, lyricists, and publishers who were behind the production of this sheet music. Together, they offer a comprehensive look at what was an extremely lucrative business between the American Civil War and the Second World War. Database available to facilitate research.

  2. Series B: Songsters and Song Albums, 1863–1960

    Nearly sixty songsters and song albums, both those containing Irish as well as Irish-American content, comprise Series B. In addition to “The Irish Washerwoman,” which all appear to have in common, these collections of songs – published for a variety of price ranges – include many stereotyped depictions about the Irish and other ethnic groups in nineteenth century America.

  3. Series C: Sheet Music (Non-Irish), 1847–1946

    Series C includes nearly seventy pieces of non-Irish sheetmusic, composed of songs which do not specifically pertain to Irish America but are nonetheless significant examples from the vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley era and thus are valuable for comparative purposes. Of particular interest are those songs from the minstrelsy tradition, many with extremely offensive representations of African-Americans on their covers; and non-Irish songs produced by some of the major songwriting teams represented in Series A.

  4. Series D: Jokebooks, 1883–1928

    Twenty-one jokebooks, or comedic material, make up Series D. In addition to Irish-American subject matter, these contain hackneyed stereotypes about Jewish, African-American, and German immigrants such as Jew Jokes and Job Lots (Box 1, Folder 8)and The Comical Sayings of Paddy from Cork (Box 1, Folder 15). Of note is Cooper’s Irish Dialect Readings and Recitations (1891), which contains the text of a scene from Dion Boucicault’s The Shaughraun, a popular play that debuted in New York City in 1874 and helped perpetuate the figure of the stage Irishman for audiences in the United States; The Surprising Life and Adventures of the Gentleman-Robber Redmond O’Hanlon (Box 1, Folder 20), a Robin Hood-type character; and The Irish Assassin, or the Misfortunes of the Family of O’Donnel (n.d.), a novella set in County Donegal, with an illustration of an Arab on the cover.

  5. Series E: Postcards, 1900–1915

    Penny postcards produced for both the St. Patrick’s Day market and tourism to Ireland comprise Series E. There are 820 postcards (plus many duplicates) from the Golden Age of this medium, which Mick Moloney arranged by theme in eleven categories: St. Patrick’s Day, Colleens, Dance, Holiday (Irish, but not March 17th), Humor, Irish-America, Irish Scenes, Irish (general), Music, Pipes, and Miscellaneous. This is the largest known collection of its kind in the world, and includes examples from German, English, and American manufacturers such as Raphael Tuck & Sons, Ellen H. Clapsaddle, and the International Art Publishing Co. Of particular interest are those postcards which depict dual loyalties to Ireland as well as the United States and those that incorporate specific locations in Ireland such as Blarney Castle or the Lakes of Killarney. Digital scans of the postcards have been made to facilitate research.

  6. Series F: Ephemera, 1856–1960

    Series F contains 47 examples of Irish-American imagery from journalism and marketing. Of particular interest are lithographs published in Harper’s Weekly (9) and Puck (8) from the 1860s and 1870s, as well as cigar box art from the late nineteenth century, and print advertisements for Irish International Airlines, Jameson’s Irish American Whiskey, and Coca-Cola published in the middle of the twentieth century. Digital scans of the ephemera have been made to facilitate research.