Mining the American West Series
Winner of the 2023 McGowan Prize
“Noonan’s work shines as an analysis of Irish mining networks in the American West, and as a call to better understand the important ethnic history littered across the ghost towns of this region that once churned out gold and silver.”
—James Walsh, University of Colorado Denver
“This book is a valuable, new contribution to the history of the Irish diaspora.”
—The Western Historical Quarterly
"Noonan has fashioned a complex and persuasive analysis, built on a truly remarkable array of sources, that will be welcomed by historians of Irish migration, western community building, and the American mining industry."
—Pacific Historical Review
Mining Irish-American Lives focuses on the importance and influence of the Irish within the mining frontier of the American West. Scholarship of the West has largely ignored the complicated lives of the Irish people in mining towns, whose life details are often kept to a bare minimum. This book uses individual stories and the histories of different communities—Randsburg, California; Virginia City, Nevada; Leadville, Colorado; Butte, Montana; Idaho’s Silver Valley; and the Comstock Lode, for example—to explore Irish and Irish-American lives.
Historian Alan J. M. Noonan uses a range of previously overlooked sources, including collections of emigrant letters, hospital logbooks, private detective reports, and internment records, to tell the stories of Irish men and women who emigrated to mining towns to search for opportunity. Noonan details the periods, the places, and the experiences over multiple generations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He carefully examines their encounters with nativists, other ethnic groups, and mining companies to highlight the contested emergence of a hyphenated Irish-American identity.
Unearthing personal details along with the histories of different communities, the book investigates Irish immigrants and Irish-Americans through the prism of their own experiences, significantly enriching the history of the period.