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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Mathew Carey, Irish American Publisher & Economist

Mathew Carey, Irish-born American publisher and economist who lives and works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is born into a middle-class Catholic family in Dublin on January 28, 1760. He is the father of economist Henry Charles Carey.

Carey enters the bookselling and printing business in 1775 and, at the age of seventeen, publishes a pamphlet criticizing dueling. He follows this with a work criticizing the severity of the Irish penal code, and another criticizing Parliament. As a result, the British House of Commons threatens him with prosecution. In 1781 he flees to Paris as a political refugee. There he meets Benjamin Franklin, the ambassador representing the American Revolutionary forces, which achieves independence that year. Franklin takes Carey to work in his printing office.

Carey works for Franklin for a year before returning to Ireland, where he edits two Irish nationalist newspapers, the Freeman’s Journal and The Volunteer’s Journal. He gains passage on a ship to emigrate to the newly independent United States in September 1784.

Upon Carey’s arrival in Philadelphia, he finds that Franklin has recommended him to Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, who gives him a $400 check to establish himself. He uses this money to set up a new publishing business and a book shop. He founds The Pennsylvania Herald (1785), Columbian Magazine (1786), and The American Museum (1787). None of these ventures proves very profitable. The American Museum is the first American periodical to treat American culture as rich and original, instead of a poor imitation of Great Britain’s. He prints the first American version of the Douay–Rheims Bible in 48 weekly installments, this Roman Catholic edition popularly known as the Carey Bible. It is the first Roman Catholic version of the Bible printed in the United States. He also prints numerous editions of the King James Version, fundamental to English-speaking peoples.

In 1794–96, Carey publishes America’s first atlases. His 1802 map of Washington, D.C. is the first to name the stretch of land west of the United States Capitol as the “Mall.”

Carey frequently writes articles on various social topics, including events during the 1793 Philadelphia Yellow Fever Epidemic, which proves a crisis for the city. He reports on debates in the state legislature as well as providing political commentary in his essays. He is a Catholic and a founding member of the American Sunday-School Society, along with Quaker merchant Thomas P. Cope, Dr. Benjamin Rush and Episcopal bishop William White.

In 1822 Carey publishes Essays on Political Economy; or, The Most Certain Means of Promoting the Wealth, Power, Resources, and Happiness of Nations, Applied Particularly to the United States. This is one of the first treatises favoring Alexander Hamilton‘s protectionist economic policy.

During Carey’s lifetime, the publishing firm evolves to M. Carey & Son (1817–21), M. Carey & Sons (1821–24), and then to Carey & Lea (1824). He retires in 1825, leaving the publishing business to his son, Henry Charles Carey and son-in-law Isaac Lea. Lea and Henry Carey make the business economically successful and, for a time, it is one of the most prominent publishers in the country.

In 1821, Carey is elected as a member to the American Philosophical Society (APS) in Philadelphia.

Upon arriving in America, Carey quickly develops political connections in the developing country. One of his most important supporters is John Adams, still a leading figure of the Federalist Party at the time. His passionate support for the establishment of an American Navy contributes significantly to his alliance with the Federalists.

Throughout his political career in America, Carey supports the development and maintenance of American naval strength, even after joining Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans in 1796. His political realignment occurs shortly before the American ratification of the Jay Treaty, primarily intended to ensure peace with Britain, while distancing America from France. His publishing in America channels his energy toward productive political objectives. His published works are credited with swaying public opinion toward the establishment of a powerful American navy.

Carey’s book Naval History of the United States, is meant to influence the public. Its conspicuous omission of naval activity during the American Quasi-War with France shows his political intentions. It helps direct political energy against the British, with which the U.S. is at war at the time of the book’s publication on May 6, 1813.

Focus on the British, known around the world for their naval power, makes an influential case for extending the reach of the American navy. Along with his publication of Naval History, Carey writes Olive Branch, published in 1814. He tries to eliminate competition between the two American political parties to create unity during the War of 1812. To many people, these efforts, and his early relationship with Franklin, make him the logical choice as Franklin’s political successor. Scholars believe that he contributed significantly by his books and publications to the establishment of the United States Whig Party.

Carey is elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) in 1815. A significant portion of his business papers, as well as a very large number of original copies of works printed and/or published by him reside in the collections of the AAS.

Carey dies on September 16, 1839, and is buried in St. Mary’s Catholic Churchyard in Philadelphia.

In 1943, Publishers Weekly creates the Carey-Thomas Award for creative publishing, naming it in honor of Mathew Carey and Isaiah Thomas.

(Pictured: Portrait of Mathew Carey by John Neagle, 1825, The Library Company of Philadelphia)


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Death of Elizabeth Corbet Yeats, Educator & Publisher

Elizabeth Corbet Yeats, known as Lolly, Anglo-Irish educator and publisher, dies on January 16, 1940. She works as an art teacher and publishes several books on art and is a founder of Dun Emer Press which publishes several works by her brother, W. B. Yeats. She is the first commercial printer in Ireland to work exclusively with hand presses.

Yeats is born at 23 Fitzroy Road, London, on March 11, 1868. She is the daughter of the Irish artist John Butler Yeats and Susan Yeats (née Pollexfen). She is sister to W. B., Jack and Susan Mary “Lily” Yeats. From the age of four she lives in Merville, Sligo, at the home of her grandfather William Pollexfen. In November 1874 her family moves to 14 Edith Villas, West Kensington, London. Her governess is Martha Jowitt from 1876 until 1879 before the family moves to Bedford Park, Chiswick, in 1878.

Yeats returns to Howth, County Dublin, in 1881. She enrolls, with her sister Susan, in the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art in 1883 and takes classes at the Royal Dublin Society.

The family moves to Eardley Crescent, South Kensington, London, in 1886. While there Yeats starts to write fiction and publishes a homemade magazine, The Pleiades, with six friends, contributing “Story without a plot” to the Christmas 1888 issue. In addition, she publishes “Scamp and three friends” in The Vegetarian.

Yeats also attends the Chiswick School of Art with her sister Susan and brother Jack Butler Yeats, learning “Freehand drawing in all its branches, practical Geometry and perspective, pottery and tile painting, design for decorative purposes.”

In the 1890s Yeats lives at 3 Blenheim Road, Bedford Park, London, and trains as a kindergarten teacher at the Froebel College in Bedford, Bedfordshire. She undertakes her teaching practice at the Bedford Park High School. In 1892, when her training is completed, she teaches as a visiting art mistress at the Froebel Society, Chiswick High School and the Central Foundation School.

Yeats earns a good income from lecturing and publication of four popular painting manuals: Brushwork (1896), Brushwork Studies of Flowers, Fruits and Animals (1898), Brushwork Copy Book (1899), and Elementary Brushwork Studies (1900).

Yeats trains and works as an art teacher and is a member of William Morris‘s circle in London before her family returns to Dublin in 1900. She writes and creates the artwork for Elementary Brush-Work Studies (1900), an educational book that teaches young children the technique of painting flowers and plants using her simple method. At the suggestion of Emery Walker, who works with Morris on the Kelmscott Press, she studies printing with the Women’s Printing Society in London.

In Dublin, Yeats accepts the invitation to join Evelyn Gleeson to form the Dun Emer Guild along with Lily, who is an embroiderer. She manages the Dun Emer Press from 1902 with a printing press acquired from a provincial newspaper. The Press is located at Runnymede, the house of Evelyn Gleeson. This is set up with the intention of training young women in bookbinding and printing as well as embroidery and weaving. In 1903 she starts printing and Dun Emer’s first book is W. B. Yeats’s In the Seven Woods (1903).

Despite being a gifted printer, the costings exceed the quality of work that Yeats produces with the result that the press is often at risk financially. Eleven books, decorated with pastels by George William Russell, appear under the Dun Emer imprint produced from a first-floor room. She has several disagreements with her brother William over his directions as literary editor. She also dislikes Evelyn Gleeson. In October 1906 she travels to New York to advertise her products but publishes Dun Emer’s last book, William’s Discoveries (1907), in late November when she returns to Dublin.

After many years of strained relations between the Yeats sisters and Evelyn Gleeson, their business relationship is finally ended. Subsequently, in 1908, Lolly and her brother William start the Cuala Press, publishing over 70 books including 48 by the poet. Yeats manages the press while her sister Lily controls the embroidery section. Cuala continues to be a family strain. Their father, John Butler Yeats, has to castigate his son William for sending overtly critical letters to his sisters about the press. However, Cuala produces magnificent books: W. B. Yeats’ The Green Helmet and Other Poems (1910) and a series of Broadsides (published 1908–15, with illustrations from Jack Yeats).

Yeats works with Cuala Press until just before her death in Dublin on January 16, 1940, after a diagnosis of high blood pressure and heart trouble.

(Pictured: “Elizabeth Corbet Yeats” by Jack Butler Yeats, oil on canvas, circa 1899, National Gallery of Ireland)


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Death of William O’Brien, Journalist & Politician

William O’Brien, Irish nationalist, journalist, agrarian agitator, social revolutionary, politician, party leader, newspaper publisher, author and Member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, dies suddenly on February 25, 1928 at the age of 75 while on a visit to London with his wife.

O’Brien, who is for several years second only to Charles Stewart Parnell among Irish Nationalist leaders, is born on October 2, 1852 in Mallow, County Cork. He is perhaps most important for his Plan of Campaign (1886), by which Irish tenant farmers withhold all rent payments from landlords who refuse to lower their rents and instead pay the money into a mutual defense fund on which evicted tenants can draw.

O’Brien shares his primary education with a townsman with whom he is later to have a close political connection, Canon Patrick Augustine Sheehan of Doneraile. He enjoys his secondary education at the Cloyne diocesan college, which results in his being brought up in an environment noted for its religious tolerance. He greatly values having had this experience from an early age, which strongly influences his later views for the need of such tolerance in Irish national life.

A journalist from 1869, O’Brien is appointed editor of the Irish Land League’s weekly United Ireland by Parnell in 1881. In October of that year the British authorities suppress the paper and put O’Brien in Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, along with Parnell and others. There he draws up a No Rent Manifesto, which, when read at a Land League meeting, results in the outlawing of the League. Released from prison in 1882, he resumes the editorship of United Ireland, and in 1883 he is elected to the British House of Commons, remaining there until 1895. His “plan of campaign” is disavowed by Parnell but nonetheless stirs up fierce agitation. To suppress the movement, the British government passes the Criminal Law and Procedure (Ireland) Act 1887, under which O’Brien is jailed again.

For some time following the Katherine O’Shea divorce case (1889–90), in which Parnell is correspondent, O’Brien attempts to mediate between the Parnellites and their opponents, although he sides with the majority in rejecting Parnell’s continued leadership of the Irish Home Rule struggle. In 1902 he supports the Land Conference, which secures agreement between landlords and tenants’ representatives and results in George Wyndham‘s Land Purchase Act (1903), which is designed to turn Irish tenant farmers into occupying owners.

In 1898 O’Brien founds the United Irish League, and in 1910, after control of that group passes to the Parnellite John Redmond, he establishes the All-for-Ireland League in opposition to the older organization. Most of his personal following, however, join Arthur Griffith’s Sinn Féin party by the end of World War I.

Retiring from political life, O’Brien contents himself with writing and declines Éamon de Valera‘s offer to stand for Fianna Fáil in the 1927 general election. He dies suddenly at the age of 75 on February 25, 1928 while on a visit to London with his wife. His remains rest in Mallow, and one of the principal streets in the town bears his name to this day. His head-bust overlooks the town Council’s Chamber Room and one of his finest portraits hangs in University College Cork.


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Death of John Robert Gregg, Inventor of Gregg Shorthand

John Robert Gregg, educator, publisher, humanitarian, and the inventor of the eponymous shorthand system Gregg shorthand, dies in Cannondale, Connecticut on February 23, 1948.

Gregg is born on June 17, 1867 in Shantonagh, County Westmeath, as the youngest child of Robert and Margaret Gregg, where they remain until 1872, when they move to Rockcorry, County Monaghan. He enters the village school in Rockcorry in 1872. On his second day of class, he is caught whispering to a schoolmate, which prompts the schoolmaster to hit the two children’s heads together. This incident profoundly damages his hearing for the rest of his life, rendering him unable to participate fully in school, unable to understand his teacher. This ultimately leads to him being unnecessarily perceived as dull or mentally challenged by his peers, teachers, and family.

In 1877, after seeing a friend use Pitman shorthand to take verbatim notes of a preacher’s sermon, Robert Gregg sees the shorthand skill as a powerful asset, so he makes it mandatory for his children to learn Pitman shorthand, with the exception of John, who is considered by his family too “simple” to learn it. None of the children succeed in fully learning the system. On his own, John learns the shorthand system of Samuel Taylor. He teaches himself the system fully, since he does not require the ability to hear in order to learn from the book.

Gregg says he initially set out to improve the English adaptation by John Matthew Sloan of the French Duployan shorthand, while working with one of Sloan’s sales agents, Thomas Malone. Malone publishes a system called Script Phonography, of which Gregg asserts a share in authorship is owed to him. Angered by Malone, he resigns from working with him and, encouraged by his older brother Samuel, publishes and copyrights his own system of shorthand in 1888. It is put forth in a brochure entitled Light-Line Phonography: The Phonetic Handwriting which he publishes in Liverpool, England.

In 1893, Gregg emigrates to the United States. That year he publishes Gregg shorthand with great success. He settles in Chicago in 1895 and by 1896 dozens of American public schools are teaching Gregg shorthand. The first Gregg Shorthand Association is formed in Chicago that year with 40 members. In 1897 the Gregg Publishing Company is formed to publish shorthand textbooks.

By 1907 Gregg is so successful that he opens an office in New York and then moves there. The popularity of his shorthand system continues to grow with it being taught in 533 school systems by 1912. In 1914 the New York City Board of Education approves the experimental introduction of Gregg shorthand into its high schools, where the Pitman system had long held sway. That same year the system is admitted to Columbia University (New York) and the University of California, Berkeley.

After World War I, Gregg travels extensively throughout Great Britain, hoping to popularize his system there. He is not quite as successful in this endeavor as he had been in America, but he sees Gregg shorthand become wildly popular in France, Germany, Poland, Spain, and especially Latin America, where for years Gregg’s birthday is a national holiday.

Following his wife’s death in 1928 Gregg returns to New York. He throws himself into volunteer work and continues to perfect the Gregg system. Over the next several years he is the recipient of several honorary degrees from American educational institutions. At one such ceremony in June 1930 he renews his acquaintance with Janet Kinley, daughter of the president of the University of Illinois. The two are married in October of that year. They purchase a home in Cannondale, a historic section of Wilton, Connecticut.

In the 1930s Gregg begins writing a history of shorthand, the subject that had been his lifelong obsession. The first chapter is printed in 1933 and successive chapters follow at intervals until 1936. He devotes time to charitable work and institutes scholarships in the arts and in court reporting at his Chicago school. His voluntary work on behalf of Allied soldiers and British civilians during World War II wins recognition from King George VI, who awards him a medal for “Service in the Cause of Freedom” in 1947.

In December 1947 Gregg undergoes surgery from which he seems to recover well. However, on February 23, 1948, he suffers a heart attack and dies in Cannondale, Connecticut at the age of eighty.