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Probing the Past

Festschrift in Honor of Leo Schelbert

Edited By Wendy Everham and Virginia Schelbert

This Festschrift acknowledges the scholarly work of Leo Schelbert and his mentorship of graduate students in the Department of History at the University of Illinois at Chicago where for 33 years he taught American history. Professor Schelbert has specialized in the story of European migrations and especially of immigration to the United States. His courses offered not only pertinent data, but they also raised theoretical issues to which historical work is tied inescapably.
The varied essays included in this book reflect the range of themes former students, who now are scholars in their own right, have been pursuing. The topics of three essays center on North American Indians facing white intruders, another on émigré Hungarians living in Scotland, and one (contributed to this volume by a most esteemed colleague with whom Leo Schelbert shared many a student) on striking women straw workers in Tuscany. Another essay concerns matters relating to those grappling with mental health issues, while others deal with African newcomers in Chicago, Jewish immigrants to America who first worked as peddlers, contemporary Polish American politics in Chicago, and also with a nineteenth-century Swiss American theologian. Two of the last three essays honor Leo Schelbert’s work as a colleague and historian apart from the university setting, whereas the final one honors Leo Schelbert as a teacher as well as the Department of History at UIC in which its Swiss-born member worked from 1971 to 2003.
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The Gaelic American and the Shaping of Irish-American Opinion, 1903–1914



Traditionally, newspapers offer the historian snapshots in time, in contrast with other sources which may be contaminated by the received wisdom of later years. In this context, the ethnic newspaper is a useful tool in reflecting the concerns of a particular minority group within a host society during a precise period in that group’s history. An analysis of the contents of such newspapers can reveal an interesting mix of news from the homeland and news about the ethnic group’s situation in its adopted land. Clearly, the balance between these two sources of news can vary over time. Coverage of developments in the immigrant’s country of origin may well be heightened by dramatic events such as war or revolution. At other times, the newspaper will focus on developments that impact a representative ethnic group’s quest for recognition and acceptance within the host society. Finally and most importantly, an analysis of how ethnic newspapers interpret events can reveal how editors and owners seek to mould the opinions of their ethnic readership according to a particular ideology.

To illustrate the dynamics of this process, this essay will focus on one example of an Irish-American ethnic newspaper, the Gaelic American, which was founded in New York in 1903. As its name suggests, the Gaelic American was a weekly newspaper targeted at a mainly Irish-American readership. The full title of the publication is itself revealing of what the newspaper saw as its main mission: The Gaelic American:...

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