Now that Washington, DC high-schooler Rebecca Fried has re-established the historic prevalence of “No Irish Need Apply” signs and ads, we at IrishCentral are wondering just how many more examples of NINA might be out there.
Some IrishCentral readers and staff conducted their own research and found further examples to support Rebecca’s article.
John Fay brought our attention to an ad mentioning “No Irish Need Apply” that’s on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
Reader Rhonda Anderson Morris shared that a quick search through the Newspapers.com database yielded over 1,400 mentions of “No Irish Need Apply” in newspapers from around the US.
A further look confirmed that the site did indeed offer 1,418 instances where “No Irish Need Apply” was mentioned in newspapers dating from 1828 – 2012. Not all of the mentions are classified ads or direct references to NINA signs, but the majority of them are.
The peak years were 1873 – 1887, with over 400 examples. The states where NINA mentions were the most prevalent included Pennsylvania (203), Illinois (187), New York (161), Kansas (105), and California (91). But there were even examples as far spread as Hawaii (2), and Alaska (1).
The earliest example on the database comes from the July 24, 1828 issue of the New York Evening Post, in a classified ad for “a woman to cook, wash, and iron for a small private family.”
An article by fourteen-year-old Fried published in the Summer edition of the Oxford Journal of Social History recently caught the attention of IrishCentral and then the national media.
The piece, titled “No Irish Need Deny: Evidence for the Historicity of NINA Restrictions in Advertisements and Signs,” offers a wealth of evidence to refute the claims Professor Richard Jensen of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign made in a 2002 article in the same journal, that “No Irish Need Apply” signs rarely existed and were largely an invention of the Irish American historic imagination.
Fried, with the benefit of an expanded Internet, more accessible databases and search engines – not to mention her own intelligence and curiosity – managed to find 69 examples of “No Irish Need Apply” signs and advertisements dating all the way back to 1842.
In the comment section of the first article IrishCentral published about Fried’s findings, she and Jensen shared a spirited exchange, with the now retired professor challenging the importance of the rising high school freshman’s findings.
“It's a matter of whether the glass is half full or half empty. I think you have a very big glass, with a couple of drops of water at the bottom, and you call it half-full,” he wrote, noting that she had found “69 newspaper items from 22 cities over a 90 year period.” Judging by our new research it seems when it comes to NINA it was overflowing.
Have you been able to find any other examples of “No Irish Need Apply”? If so, we want to hear about it. Leave a note in the comment section, below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your discoveries.