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A photograph of the Emmet obelisk, including the eagle and harp sign, with St. Paul's Chapel in the background.

The Archives of Irish America has adopted as its logo a carving on the Thomas Addis Emmet obelisk in the graveyard of St. Paul’s Chapel on Broadway at Fulton Street in New York City. The combination of the American eagle with the Irish harp was the earliest iconography used by the Irish in America to represent themselves. Emmet (1764–1827) was a member of the United Irishmen who emigrated to New York City in 1804, where he quickly became one of the state’s outstanding attorneys.

As a mark of the esteem with which he was generally held, the obelisk was erected in a central and fashionable location near City Hall – even though Emmet’s body was actually buried in St. Mark’s-in-the-Bowery. There was some native-born resistance to this decision. Philip Hone entered the following passage in his diary for Wednesday, November 9, 1831:

“A marble obelisk thirty feet in height and weighing 27 tons has been brought from Westchester and now encumbers the street opposite St. Paul’s Church, in the yard of which it is to be erected, on the south side of the church. This monument to the memory of the eloquent and amiable Thomas Addis Emmett [sic] is to be paid for by his fellow-countrymen and other citizens. I have not had an opportunity of seeing it, as it is boxed up and secured with iron clamps, but I fear it is not appropriate to its location.”

Quote from Allan Nevins, ed., The Diary of Philip Hone, 1828–1851 (NY: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1927), Vol. 1, pp. 51–52