100 Years Ago: New Hampshire’s Irish Celebration of 1917

Nashua Telegraph advertisement from 16 March 1917 by Speare Dry Goods.

On March 17, 1917 New Hampshire, along with many other places in the United States, celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. No one knew that 20 days later, this country would be at war [announced April 6, 1917].

In New Hampshire where there were many of Irish descent to celebrate the day, but most of the celebrations were in private homes.   The Portsmouth Herald of 17 March 1917 announced: “Preparations are being made for the celebration of ‘St. Patrick’s day in the morning’ in New York City on the usual elaborate scale, and there will be exceptional interest in the event this year owing to the world conditions and conditions in the ‘fair green isle’ from which the followers of good St Patrick come.”

An appeal to parents. Navy recruitment advertisement in Portsmouth Herald 15 March 1917.

A hint of things to come could be found on page four where an entire story was focused on U.S. Navy recruitment. The next day on 16 March, the same newspaper noted that the “Sunshine Club was very pleasantly entertained” at the home of Charlotte Clarke of Lutts avenue, decorated in honor of St. Patrick’s day. “Refreshments of ice cream, cake, candy, and peanuts were served.” On the same page a story noted that “The Girl Scouts are busy these days studying first aid treatment and the Morse code of signalling.” [The story continued with information on the location of local recruitment stations for navy and army].

The Nashua Telegraph, Nashua NH, on 16 March 1917 was pretty low key when it came to celebrations, but Speare Dry Goods Co. held an advertisement for St. Patrick’s Day Shoppers [see graphic of advertisement above] that included “Emerald green Silk Hose in the hosiery department at 59c and $1.00 pr; and “Bright green taffeta Ribbon, 5 inch width…25c yd At the ribbon secion.” A boxed advertisement touted a combination St. Patrick Day Basket Ball and Dance, Lowell vs Nashua was planned for O’Donnell Hall. The cost was 25 cents, with dancing after the game 10c extra.

Stirrings of War in the Nashua Telegraph headlines, St. Patrick’s Day, 1917.

That same newspaper reported on “Emperor of Russia Driven from His Throne,” and the Russian Revolution. Other stories in the mix included a visit by former Massachusetts Governor Walsh in Milford NH. A much smaller notice also from Milford briefly mentions that about 80 women gathered at the invitation of Mrs. James J. Howison , Mrs. John McLane and Mrs. Edward Ellenwood to lay plans for the formation of a local chapter of the Red Cross. 50 women signed as charter members.

On St. Patrick’s Day itself, 17 March 1917 the Gaelic celebration was downplayed for news of unrest in the world. Stories of interest included welcoming soldiers of the Signal Corps home from the Mexican Border. Page 5 did include a notice that Sacred Heart School pupils had held at St. Patrick Concert, with the hall being filled to capacity (600 people) the evening before. The children wore costumes and the event began with an overture of “Killarney My Home.” The clothing was described as “boys in the front row of the chorus wore pink swallow tail coats, white trousers, vests of the Irish flag and pink stockings. The coats were trimmed with shamrock. The boys in the rear wore green trousers and white shirts.”

The list of names from New Hampshire of men and women who died during this Great War (WWI) include many Irish born and of Irish origin including Bradley, Burke, Collins, Doherty, Flynn, Murphy, and others.  [see the entire New Hampshire list].

*Additional Research Reading*

Relax in your Shamrock PJs: The Best Websites for Irish Genealogy

Genealogy Projects in Ireland

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8 Responses to 100 Years Ago: New Hampshire’s Irish Celebration of 1917

  1. Amy says:

    No one may have known we’d enter the war so soon, but from your post it’s clear they were expecting it. It must have been a bittersweet St Patrick’s Day for those with draft age sons.

    And even then, NYC had an elaborate celebration! I am surprised Boston wasn’t mentioned in that article as well.

    Great post!

    • Janice Brown says:

      Amy, I have access to Boston newspapers, however, my main focus is how New Hampshire specifically was affected 100 years ago 🙂 Thank you as always for reading and commenting.

      • Amy says:

        I was only referring to the quote from the Portsmouth paper that mentioned NYC, but not Boston. Perhaps Boston didn’t have a big St Patrick’s celebration back then, though that seems odd.

        • Janice Brown says:

          Well, since you asked here is more information about Boston and New York too.

          Hartford Courant (Hartford CT) 18 March 1917 Sunday
          St. Patrick’s Day Parade Off. New York, March 17.–New York’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, in which 30,000 men were to have marched, was called off on account of rainy weather. It is said this is the first time in twenty-five years that this celebration was not held.

          Boston Post (Boston MA) 18 March 1917
          Weather Conditions and Other Difficulties Make South Boston Demonstration Poorest in Years — Governor and Mayor Review Marchers
          Fifty thousand spectators watched South Boston’s 18th annual Evacuation Day parade yesterday, when 3000 marched three miles through streets filled with mud and water. Marchers and spectators alike were soaked first by a thick, wet snow and then by pelting rain. The entire district was in gala attired. Homes, business blocks, club houses and even the spectators were decorated with flags and bunting of the national colors, intermingled with the Irish flag or a bit of green in honor of St. Patricks Day.
          Parade Small
          The weather and other difficulties made the marching observance of the 141st anniversary of the evacuation of Boston by Lord Howe’s British forces one of the smallest that has ever featured March 17 in the peninsular district….”

          Boston Post (Boston MA) 25 March 1917
          Hospitalties Mark Observance of Festival
          Since the festival of St. Patrick’s Day fell on Saturday, it was quite generally observed on the following day and was the occasion of many homes hospitality….One… given by Mr. and Mrs. Edward Seasley at their home in Arlington…dinner was served in the billiard room, where the billiard table was transformed with a mirrored surface on which appeared in miniature the Lakes of Killarney; in the middle was placed a boat bearing a dainty little colleen to her lad awaiting on the opposite shore. For the place cards each guest was designated in the term of endearment of the Irish language…”

          • Amy says:

            Ah, yes, Evacuation Day in Boston—I’d forgotten that that’s how they managed to make St Patrick’s Day a work holiday—by creating a holiday to remember the day the British evacuated Boston during the Revolutionary War. 🙂

            Thanks—sounds like it was a rainy March 17 a hundred years ago unlike the snow we got this year!

          • Janice Brown says:

            Yes Amy. Plus we forget that in 1917 the roads were still dirt packed down, so when it rained hard you slogged through the streets, not marched.

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