For years, indeed decades, the precise date of the first issue of the Irish Echo was a mystery.

The paper’s year of birth was known: It was 1928.

But what month of that year, what week of that month?

The mystery would eventually be solved by the coming to light of an issue from late 1929, and an unusual numbering formula attached to it.

Charles F. Connolly launched the Echo the same year that the Oscars came into being.

But either no first edition survived, or if it did it had never come to light.

For as long as anyone can remember, the sense among those working at the Echo was that the paper first hit the streets of New York in the fall of that year.

This was really just a hunch.

The fall was, and is, a time of year for many events in the Irish community such as county association dinners, dances and socials.

It would seem logical to plan the new paper in the earlier months of the year and launch it as the days grew shorter, and people’s minds became more focused after somnolent summer.

That was the guess at any rate.

As it turned out, the guess was spot on.

And it was confirmed by the surfacing of an issue from 1929.

The 1929 issue was in the possession of John Feighery, brother of the late Frank, who for some years was editor of the Hibernian Digest.

It is now in the care of Professor Marion Casey at the Archives of Irish America at New York University.

The issue is dated November 30, 1929.

That was a Saturday.

The Echo was published in mid-week as it is today, but in those days, and indeed up until relatively recent years, it would be dated for the following Saturday.

The front page of the 1929 paper, with an amazingly ornate masthead - more work of art than typical newspaper banner - carried the volume number, in this case two, denoting the second year of publication, and a separate number for the issue.

Ordinarily – and this is true today – issues are numbered sequentially for the specific year denoted by the volume number.

So this November 30 edition might have been number 48 or so for that year.

Only it isn’t.

It is actually listed as number 60 and what this reveals is that Charlie Connolly had continued the issue number sequence that had started in 1928 through the turning of the year and into 1929.

Why he did this is a mystery.

It might have been that he was trying to create the impression of the paper being around for longer than it was.

The higher the number, the greater the appearance and impression of longevity and stability.

Regardless, going back 60 weeks from Nov. 30 has us landing on Saturday, October 6, 1929.

Go back an additional three days to the Wednesday publication day and we get to the precise point of the calendar that the Irish Echo was born: October 3, 1928.

This was less than a week after the death of the great Fenian, John Devoy.

No copy of that first issue has yet been unearthed, but it would be a fair bet that Devoy’s passing made the inaugural front page, a journalistic kick start for a newborn paper if ever there was one.


This article first appeared in the Irish Echo. For more of their stories, visit their website here.