The First Word: The Might Green

By Patricia Harty, Editor-in-Chief
August / September 2007

“The Irish courage, spirit and humor so clearly shown by our immigrant forebears are going to be even more crucial to meet the challenges of the financial markets of the 21st century.”
– Donald Donahue, Chairman-elect and CEO, The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation.

Who knew that the Irish would be so good with money?

It’s not as if we have had a lot of practice!

Ireland’s booming economy is a Johnny-come-lately kind of guy. Pennies rattling, not bulging pockets, were more the norm until a few years ago. But good the Irish are, as evidenced by those on this year’s Wall Street 50 list.

I say it every year at this time – surely our ancestors could not have imagined such success. But we did have our financial “stars” even back in 1868.

When I read about Rupert Murdoch buying the Dow Jones Company (and I’m rooting against him and his anti-Irish media), I think about John J. Kiernan who gave Charles Henry Dow and William David Jones their first jobs. (I believe Kiernan would be rooting against Murdoch too.)

Kiernan, the son of Irish immigrants,  began his career at age 12 as a messenger boy for Magnetic Telegraph Company. In 1868 he started his own financial news-gathering business. Daily he rowed out to ships newly arrived from London and other distant ports to scavenge days-old newspapers. The information he gathered was distilled into news items, then relayed by Kiernan and his messengers to subscribers who paid for late-breaking news items. (Bell Telephone would not be created until 1877.)

Kiernan’s office, known as Kiernan’s Corner, was at Wall and Broad Streets, where the New York Stock Exchange is located today. Once his financial news service was a success, he turned to politics, serving two terms as a state senator, and authoring bills to improve New York harbor and its ferry service.

He also sought to improve conditions in Ireland and, in 1880, introduced Charles Stewart Parnell, leader of the struggle for Irish Home Rule, to the financial movers and shakers on Wall Street, with a plea for “subscriptions” to improve living conditions among Ireland’s distressed tenant farmers.

Of course, there is a sad end to the tale. While Kiernan was involved in politics, Dow and Jones launched their own financial news sheet in 1882. The upshot was that Kiernan lost his agency, and died of pneumonia at 48.

Kiernan’s story first appeared in the pages of Irish America back in 1995, written by Paul McCarthy who found
a one-page, 252-word account of Kiernan’s death a century after he passed. I bring it to you again, because too often we forget the contributions of those who went before; those immigrants who took that first step into the unknown, and the children born of those immigrants.

They faced down anti-Catholic, anti-Irish, and anti-immigrant sentiment. They ploughed the hard fallow, and they left their mark on every institution, every movement, every war memorial.

And now, alas, after so many centuries, and family ties that stretch back generations, the defeat of the Immigration Reform Bill may have sounded the death knoll on Irish America.

Unless something can be done, those Irish-born on our Wall Street 50 list will be the last of their kind.
If you believe, as Donald Donahue does, that “the Irish courage, spirit and humor so clearly shown by our immigrant forebears are going to be even more crucial to meet the challenges of the financial markets of the 21st century,” support the Irish Lobby for Irish Immigration and make your voices heard.

www.irishlobbyusa.org ♦

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