The Ghosts of Duffy's Cut: The Irish Who Died Building America's Most Dangerous Stretch of Railroad

The Ghosts of Duffy's Cut: The Irish Who Died Building America's Most Dangerous Stretch of Railroad


By (author) William E. Watson, By (author) J. Francis Watson, By (author) John H. Ahtes, By (author) Earl H. Schandelmeier

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  • Publisher: Praeger Publishers Inc
  • Format: Hardback | 240 pages
  • Dimensions: 163mm x 236mm x 31mm | 499g
  • Publication date: 30 July 2006
  • Publication City/Country: Westport
  • ISBN 10: 0275987272
  • ISBN 13: 9780275987275
  • Illustrations note: 1, black & white illustrations
  • Sales rank: 1,339,360

Product description

In 1832, 57 Irish Catholic workers were brought to the United States to lay one of the most difficult miles of American railway, Duffy's Cut of the Pennsylvania Railroad. These men were chosen because, in the eyes of the railroad company that hired them, they were expendable. Deaths were common during the building of the railway but this stretch was worse than most. When cholera swept the camp basic medical attention and community support was denied to them. In the end all 57 men-the entire work crew-died and were buried in a mass unmarked grave. Their families in Ireland were never notified about what happened to them. The company did its best to cover up the incident, which was certainly one of the worst labor tragedies in U.S. history. Set against the backdrop of a rapidly industrializing America, this book tells the story of these men, the sacrifices they made, and the mistreatment that claimed their lives. The saga of Duffy's Cut focuses particularly on the Irish laborers who built the railroads. Who were these men? Who hired them? Why did they come? Perhaps most important, why did they die? Based on archaeological digs at the site and meticulous historical research, the authors argue that the annihilation of the work crew came about because of the extreme conditions of their employment, the prejudice of the surrounding community, and the vigilante violence that kept them isolated. In shedding light on this tragic chapter in American labor history, The Ghosts of Duffy's Cut also illuminates a dark side of America's rise to greatness.

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Author information

WILLIAM E. WATSON is Associate Professor and Chair of History at Immaculata College in Pennsylvania. J. FRANCIS WATSON has a Ph.D. in historical theology. His articles on religious history have appeared in various journals. JOHN H. AHTES is Assistant Professor of History at Immaculata College. He has published in Irish Review. EARL H. SCHANDELMEIER is a research assistant at the Immaculata College History department.

Review quote

"In the summer of 1832, Irish immigrant Philip Duffy contracted 57 of his newly arrived countrymen to lay a stretch of railroad some 30 miles west of Philadelphia. Within two months, all were dead, struck down in the global cholera pandemic that hit Philadelphia the same time they did. Four historians, three at Immaculata College in Pennsylvania, tell the story, putting into the context of immigration, industrialization, and epidemiology. They draw on surviving archival and archaeological evidence." - Reference & Research Book News

Table of contents

Preface and Acknowledgments; The Genesis of the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad; The Kingdom of Ireland in 1832; America in 1832; The Irish in Penn's Woods; The Story of Duffy's Cut; "A Chastisement for the Sins of the People": Cholera in Pennsylvania, 1832; Duffy's Cut Project: A Chronicle; A Virtual Tour of Duffy's Cut; Bibliography; Appendix; Index.