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IRISH AMERICAN ATHLETIC CLUB

Formed in New York City in 1897, the Irish American Athletic Club promoted track and field events, bicycle and handball tournaments, and Irish football and hurling games. It trained at Celtic Park, a nine acre athletic field on the Long Island City/Woodside border in Queens. The Club was active until the First World War when Celtic Park was sold to a developer for apartments.

Many IAAC members were champions or record-holders of the period. Martin Sheridan (b. Bohola, Co. Mayo, 1881-d. New York City, 1918), for example, won five Olympic, twelve national and more than thirty Canadian and Metropolitan championships, setting sixteen world records in a variety of field sports, including free and Greek style discus throw, pole vault, standing broad and high jumps, and javelin throw.

Perhaps the peak national visibility for the IAAC came at the 1908 Olympic Games in London, where eight of the thirteen American victories in track and field events were won by members of the IAAC .

 

The Irish American Athletic Club: Redefining Americanism at the 1908 Olympic Games
© John Schaefer, New York University

Hayes, American, Marathon Winner
The New York Times
25 July 1908, 1:3

Hayes A Real New York Boy
The New York Sun
25 July 1908, 3:7

How the Yankees Beat the World
by E.P. McKenna
Gaelic American (New York)
25 July 1908, p. 5

Melvin Sheppard
postcard, 1908
Archives of Irish America, NYU
Acc. No. 2000-0003
Purchased through the generosity of James T. Higgins, in memory of John P. Higgins (1915-1997)

The message on this postcard refers to the New York City parade to welcome home the members of the 1908 American Olympic Team, including Mel Sheppard of the Irish American Athletic Club.

Irish American Athletic Club Monster Athletic Carnival

Madison Square Garden, New York City
program, 5 February 1910
Archives of Irish America, NYU
Acc. No. 2000-0007
Purchased through the generosity of James T. Higgins, in memory of John P. Higgins (1915-1997)

The Irish American Athletic Club uniform bore the emblem of a winged fist and a motto in Gaelic ("Strong Hands Forever!"). Here it is embellished with shamrocks and the stars and stripes on the program of their 1910 track-and-field event at Madison Square Garden.

James P. Sullivan ("4.22 Jim")
cigarette card, circa 1910
Archives of Irish America, NYU
Acc. No. 2000-0002
Purchased through the generosity of James T. Higgins, in memory of John P. Higgins (1915-1997)

Jim Sullivan's card appeared as part of the Champion Athlete & Prizefighter Series #2 produced by the Hassan cigarette company.

Listen to the Interview:

Paul O'Dwyer speaks about the IAAC
11 April 1991
Jane Conlon Muller Oral History Collection
Archives of Irish America, NYU


  AIA Dig. ID 0002PR01