About This Collection
The Fenians were established in Ireland and the United States in 1858 with the avowed purpose of overthrowing British rule in Ireland and establishing an Irish Republic. (In Ireland the Fenians were also known as the Irish Republican Brotherhood.) The Fenians in the United States grew to include over 50,000 members and hundreds of thousands of sympathizers by the end of the Civil War, but, rocked by internal factionalism and opposed by the formidable military power of the British Empire, they never came close to achieving their aims. The American wing mounted two short-lived invasions of Canada in 1866 and 1870 and the Irish Fenians launched a small rebellion in Ireland in 1867. The American Fenians faded out of prominence after the last unsuccessful assault on Canada. Many Irish and Irish American nationalists, first recruited to the cause as Fenians, continued to fight for Ireland's independence after the order's decline.
The full manuscript collection at the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives (ACUA) consists of letters to and from John O'Mahony, James Stephens, John Mitchel, O'Donovan Rossa, and other Fenian leaders, speeches; pamphlets; newspapers; chromolithographs; cartes de visit photographs; tickets; and legal records. Roster books, ledgers, subscription lists to the United Irishmen and Proceedings of Fenian Conventions document the membership and the general activities of the movement. The bulk of the collection is concentrated in the 1860s through 1880s, but it also includes assorted newspapers and pamphlets from the 1850s to the early 1900s that address a wide range of topics in Irish history and nationalism.