Materiality & Spectacle


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Welcome to the "Gaelic Games in America." This multimedia exhibit will examine the symbolism and spectacle of Irish sports in the United States throughout the nineteenth century.

The establishment of a Gaelic Athletic Associations across America in the late nineteenth century demonstrated the reclamation of Irish culture and identity for generations of immigrants. By participating in and spectating hurling and Gaelic football games, Irish Americans found a way to display their cultural identity and promote nationalist sentiment. 

GAA players and administrators in New York

Anti-Irish Riots of 1844 in Kensington, Philadelphia

Immigrants of the nineteenth century Irish Diaspora brought traditions, music, dance, and games with them to America. Their presence was not embraced immediately, as was evident in the anti-Irish riots of 1844 that took place in Philadelphia. In response to this animosity, Irish Americans began to form cultural clubs and paramilitary groups. 

These groups promoted Gaelic games as both a display of Irish culture and a method of training for potential uprisings. Hurling and Gaelic Football became complex sporting spectacles that displayed both a cultural reclamation and preparation for future threats to the Irish identity.


Anti-Irish Riots of 1844 in Kensington, Philadelphia

John B. Perry's report on the Anti-Irish Riots of 1844

Oral Histories:

Click below to hear stories of Irish Americans regarding the Irish Diaspora, the GAA, and hurling teams. This content is provided by Boston College's © GAA Oral History Project.