Professor Richard Jensen is the by-now notorious author of a 2002 article claiming that No Irish Need Apply signs and ads were practically non-existent. Since the publication of 14 year old Rebecca Fried’s debunking of his article, Jensen has been striking out at Fried and at historians and bloggers who have publicized her essay.
This has been nowhere more apparent than exchanges he has had with other writers on-line. For example, when historian Phil Magness of George Mason University questioned some of Jensen’s writing, Jensen responded “Fried got it wrong. do you still believe her????”
A number of academics have told me that they expected Jensen to praise the work of a young student of history, acknowledge that because of the inadequacies of 2002 era search engines his research was skewed, and then move on.
I cannot look into the heart or the head of Dr. Jensen to explain the motive for his angry and over the top assault on Rebecca Fried’s work, but part of his resentment may have been disclosed in his response to one commenter on-line. The commenter praised Fried and said that had Jensen simply moved on no one would have taken much note of his earlier error. Jensen replied caustically that the commenter “thinks a kid is more reliable than a professor.”
To understand how irresponsible Professor Jensen has been, in his August 11 attack on bloggers who had covered Fried’s research, Jensen wrote that “Not a single one of these bloggers actually read her essay; they are all commenting on a misleading press release.” Since Jensen later singled me out as the blogger many others took their lead on the story from, I had to respond.
I had, of course, read Fried’s entire article. I cited hundreds of words from Fried’s article in my own July 19 blog post that appeared nowhere else, except in her original article. I was not working off a press release, but from her article in the Journal of Social History. It was only after being taken to task over the course of two days that Jensen finally gave up and admitted; “ok I believe that Pat Young read the Fried article.”
Jensen’s error may have been grounded in the fact that Fried’s article was slated to appear in the September issue of the scholarly journal. He seemed unaware that the journal posts articles long before they appear in print on its online platform. In fact, the article was published online, behind an academic paywall on, of all days, July 4, 2015.
Not only did I read the Fried article, but I and other bloggers linked to it. Professor Jensen’s internet skills appear not to have improved since 2002 since he obviously either did not follow the links provided or did not even read the blogs he was so quick to criticize. In fact, at the end of my blog post I wrote: “I encourage those with academic journal access to read Rebecca Fried’s entire article. It is compact, elegant, and well-researched. We can expect great things from this teenaged historian. She has already made a great contribution. Source: No Irish Need Deny: Evidence for the Historicity of NINA Restrictions in Advertisements and Signs by Rebecca Fried” I then gave the link.
The universality of Dr. Jensen’s claim that not a single one of the authors on the 4,000 web sites he claims retold the Fried story actually read her article parallels his claims that there were no, or almost no, signs or ads announcing No Irish Need Apply. Without bothering to do the research, Professor Jensen seems ever ready to make broad categorical conclusions.
Perhaps because Jensen was so wrong on Fried’s work as well as on whether bloggers had read her article, he decided to claim that in “his blog posting Young makes dozens of blunders large & small.” He does not actually offer “dozens of blunders” committed by me, but let’s examine the Top 2 of my “blunders.” Dr. Jensen quotes my statement that “Jensen’s article appeared in the Oxford Journal of Social History, and now the same journal has an article definitively debunking the Jensen Thesis that NINA signs did not exist. Incredibly, the new article was authored by a teenaged high schooler.” Jensen charged that I was discredited because I had “1) Wrong title for journal. 2) she enter high school next month.” I am not sure that even if I was wrong on these two things if you, gentle reader, would lose all faith in me, but I was not wrong.
Dr. Jensen identifies the first of my “errors” as the title of the journal he and Fried published in. The journal is Journal of Social History which is published by Oxford. If his attack on me is based on my referring to it in a blog as the Oxford Journal of Social History, then his defense of his flawed research through the discrediting of others is based on thin gruel indeed.
My next supposed error is my claim that Ms. Fried, who is 14, is a high school student. Dr. Jensen writes, and I quote verbatim, “2) she enter high school next month.” The article by Rebecca Fried was published on July 4, after Ms. Fried completed middle school. Here in New York we would refer to her as a high schooler at that point, even though, I suppose, something might happen that could prevent her from actually going to classes in September. However, in deference to Professor Jensen, and to lay this issue to rest, I concede that she was not yet finished with middle school when she submitted her essay to the Journal of Social History, even though she had finished when it was published. Accordingly, it can be argued that Professor Jensen was debunked by an 8th grader, as he points out, and not by a high schooler.
I do note that when the Journal itself is actually published in print in September she will be taking her 9th grade classes.
Jensen flings similarly extraneous charges of error at other writers on the controversy. He seems to hope that if he throws enough dirt, something will stick.
Meanwhile, Jensen’s nastiness apparently has inspired many researchers to look for additional examples of No Irish Need Apply in the U.S.
Researcher Liam Hogan has posted a list of 269 No Irish Need Apply ads from newspapers alone. While Dr. Jensen claimed, for example, that there were only a few such ads in Chicago, Hogan has identified 97 from that city alone.
I found several previously unrecognized references to the ads. The Leisure Hour Monthly from 1871 said that it is “common in advertisements for servants in New York, as in London, to append “No Irish Need Apply.” These words grate rather harshly on the ear, in a land where all are supposed to be ‘free and equal.’ ” Barry Popik found another use of the phrase in The New Monthly Magazine from 1836 describing a visit to New York; “Advertisements frequently run in these terms: ‘Wanted, so and so.—No Irish need apply.’”
Even one of our greatest 19th Century authors cites to No Irish Need Apply. In Mark Twain’s book Roughing It, he describes a character as being “down on” Catholics; “His word was, No Irish need apply,” Twain wrote.
A newspaper essay by the author of Little Women came to light through Dr. Jensen himself; “The Servant-Girl Problem: How Louisa M. Alcott Solves It.” In the article, Alcott says she fired her Irish maid because of “the faults of her race.” She instead writes that “for a month I did do the work myself, looking about meantime for help. “No Irish need apply,” was my answer to the halfdozen girls who…did come to take the place.”
In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, Jensen still says loudly and abusively that the memory of discrimination against the Irish in the 19th Century through No Irish Need Apply signs and ads is a myth. He insists that we need to listen to the professor and not the 8th grader or the evidence that she has brought to light.
The Immigrants’ Civil War is a series that examines the role of immigrants in our bloodiest war. Articles will appear twice monthly between 2011 and 2017. Here are the articles we have published so far:
1. Immigrant America on the Eve of the Civil War – Take a swing around the United States and see where immigrants were coming from and where they were living in 1861.
2. 1848: The Year that Created Immigrant America – Revolutions in Europe, famine and oppression in Ireland, and the end of the Mexican War made 1848 a key year in American immigration history.
3. Carl Schurz: From German Radical to American Abolitionist– A teenaged revolutionary of 1848, Carl Schurz brought his passion for equality with him to America.
5. …And the War Came to Immigrant America -The impact of the firing on Fort Sumter on America’s immigrants
10. Immigrant Day Laborers Help Build the First Fort to Protect Washington-The Fighting 69th use their construction skills.
12. Immigrants Rush to Join the Union Army-Why?– The reasons immigrants gave for enlisting early in the war.
17. Immigrant Regiments on Opposite Banks of Bull Run -The Fighting 69th and the Louisiana Tigers
39. A German Regiment Fights for “Freedom and Justice” at Shiloh-The 32nd Indiana under Col. August Willich.
40. The Know Nothing Colonel and the Irish Soldier Confronting slavery and bigotry.
43. Union Leader Ben Butler Seeks Support in New Orleans-When General Ben Butler took command in New Orleans in 1862, it was a Union outpost surrounded by Confederates. Butler drew on his experience as a pro-immigrant politician to win over the city’s Irish and Germans.
49. The Irish Brigade Moves Towards Richmond-The Irish brigade in the Peninsula Campaign from March 17 to June 2, 1862.
50. Peninsula Emancipation: Irish Soldiers Take Steps on the Road to Freedom-The Irish Brigade and Irish soldiers from Boston free slaves along the march to Richmond.
54. Making Immigrant Soldiers into Citizens-Congress changed the immigration laws to meet the needs of a nation at war.
60. Emancipation 150: “All men are created equal, black and white”– A German immigrant reacts to the Emancipation Proclamation
106. The Draft Riots End in a Sea of Blood-July 14-15, 1863.
157. A Scottish Socialist and a German General Work to Help Slaves Become Freedpeople-Robert Dale Owen, Carl Schurz and the founding of the Freedmen’s Bureau.