Irish in Chicago | St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago | Mr. Dooley
There is, in Chicago, a street of endless dreariness, a street curiously uninteresting to the casual glance and more and more uninteresting to the lengthening look. Yet the touch of genius made this street seem one of the most fascinating streets of the world, in humanity, in humor, in tragedy and kindness. It is Archer Avenue, in earlier days Archer Road, made by Finley Peter Dunne into “Archey Road.” It was one of the earliest streets of the city, stretching away from the center and far out toward the wilderness. Finley Peter Dunne originated “Mr. Dooley,” and placed him on “Archey Road,” and proceeded to fascinate all America.—Robert Shackleton, “The Book of Chicago,” 1910
Chicago Tribune, January 2, 1955
On a December day in 1892, when bowler-hatted Chicagoans were talking more of their forth-coming World’s Columbian Exposition than they were of the near approach Christmas, the chief editorial writer of the Chicago Evening Post, a gifted young Irish-American named Finley Peter Dunne, dropped into his favorite saloon, McGarry’s on Dearborn street, and heard witty, white-vested old Jim McGarry make a few caustic remarks on the then recently deceased financier, Jay Gould.
What McGarry said seemed to be funny, and yet so full of common sense to the youthful Peter Dunne that he went back to the gas-lit office of the Post, dashed off a piece about a wise-cracking Celtic saloonkeeper, and thereby brought into being what was to become America’s most famous nonexistent Irishman.
That Irishman is, as almost every American of the older generation knows, the celebrated barkeeper-philosopher, “Mr. Dooley.”
Altho the Chicago-born Finley Peter Dunne is long since dead, and altho “Mr. Dooley in the Hearts of his Countrymen” and other once best-selling volumes have all but disappeared from the bookshops of the nation, it would be a mistake to assume from the great Windy City beer barrel philosopher is forgotten; that he now belongs to the buried past. He is as much alive in the hearts of his countrymen as ever.
Just as in days gone by the sharp sayings, the down-to-earth pronouncements of the shrewd Mr. Dooley were quoted by Presidents and unbiversity heads, by congressmen and editors, so at present is he quoted frequently in legislative halls, editorial sanctums, and business offices, altho a bit shorn of his rich, racy Irish brogue.
In particular, what this immortal bartender had to say about war and rumors of war in “Mr. Dooley in Peace and in War,” which dealt with the Spanish-American conflict in 1896, is, according to contemporary authorities, just as pointed and pungent today as in the time of President McKinley and Admiral Dewey.
The truth is, the fictitious Mr. Dooley did not quite spring quite so suddenly out of real life, out of the portly person of the living Mr. McGarry of Dearborn street, as we indicated in the beginning. Altho, as is now generally agreed, Jim McGarry did provide the original spark of inspiration, our legendary philosopher actually was Finley Peter Dunne himself.
In a sense, Mr. Dooley had his inception in St. Patrick’s parish, for it was in that one Irish parish on the near west side that Finley Peter Dunne was born, grew to manhood, and learned (as well as inherited) the with and wisdom of the Gaelic race—qualities that are fundamental in the character of his renowned literary hero.
An indication of how closely Peter Dunne was linked to St. Patrick’s church may be gained from a number of facts:
- He was born (July 10, 1867) in a house on Adams street, almost across the church.
He was baptized by his cousin, the Rev. P. W. Riordan (afterward archbishop of San Francisco).
And, at the time of his haptism, his uncle, the Rev. Dennis Dunne, was serving as vicar general of the archdiocese of Chicago. Previously, Father Dunne had been pastor of St. Patrick’s church.
Son of a serious, devout Irish carpenter and of a somewhat intellectual Irish mother who loved books, young Finley Peter Dunne was given his education in the Scammon school and his secondary education in the old West Division High school. In 1894, when he was 17 years old, Finley Peter Dunne entered Chicago journalism as a copy boy on the Chicago Telegram. In a month or two he was promoted to police reporter.
After a few months, Dunne was invited to join the staff of the Chicago Daily News as a reporter and assistant editorial writer, and there he met and was much influenced by Eugene Field, now famed in American literature as “The Children’s Poet.”
Dunne remained on the News until 1888, at which time he became political reporter on the Chicago Times. Not long afterward, he was promoted to city editor—the youngest such editor in Chicago, if not in America—and, in this capacity, helped to solve the sensational Dr. Cronin murder of 1889, an event heralded as “the crime of the century.”
When the Times was sold a few months later, its 22-year-old, worldly, cigar-smoking city editor lost his job. A few days later he was on the staff of the Chicago Tribune.
In 1892 he joined the staff of the Chicago Evening Post, as editor of its editorial page.
It was in this position that Finley Peter Dunne, on the fateful December day in 1892, dropped into McGarry’s saloon on Dearborn street and heard Jim McGarry orate on the subject of Jay Gould. In the Irish dialect piece that Dunne wrote the next day, however, the saloonkeeper of the article was not named “Mr. Dooley.” He appeared as “Colonel McNeery.”
For some nine months afterward, a period which included the exciting and glamorous World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, the funny “McNeery” essays appeared each week on the editorial page of the Post. Altho the Irish saloonkeeper of these amusing pieces was named “McNeery” (and sometimes “McNeary”), almost everybody in downtown Chicago recognized him as a projection of the unique personality of Jim McGarry of Dearborn street.
If McGarry was given a fictitious name in these early Dunne writings, this was not the case with another important character of the writings—McNeery’s listener. From the very beginning of the series, this listener, this one-man audience of the great taproom proprietor, was John J. McKenna (not to be confused with his famed contemporary, Michael “Hinky Dink” Kenna), and it is under this name that he appears in the McNeery pieces.
A popular minor politician of the day whose home was on Archer avenue, “Jawn” McKenna is said to have enjoyed baiting Jim McGaerry, getting the saloonist to “open up.” When Dunne later changed the name of McNeery to “Mr. Dooley” and moved the Dooley thirst emporium to Archer avenue, McKenna thereafter became Mr. Dooley’s celebrated listener, “Mr. Hennessy.”
Why did Dunne make these changes? And why did he move Martin Dooley’s establishment from downtown Dearborn street out to Irish-populated Archer avenue? In answer to the first question we must go back to Jim McGarry. So widely did he become known as the prototype of the humorous McNeery, as the sayer of many witty remarks he never uttered, that McGarry finally became very angry about it; got his Irish up. He decided to do something.
No ordinary saloonkeeper; a likeable, intelligent, dignified host who always wore a neat white vest and whose comments on things, altho a few, were usually witty, maintained a place of high standing. Located on the east side of Dearborn street about 100 feet north of Madison, McGarry’s was much frequented by public officials, judges, lawyers, actors, and newspaper men.
Of all of McGarry’s customers, few were more influential than was the banker-owner of Dunne’s newspaper, John R. Walsh. And so it was with his friend Walsh that Jim McGarry brought up the matter of the McNeery articles.
After McGarry visited Walshe, the name of McNeery was changed to “Martin Dooley,” and thus a new name was added to American folklore. And not only that, but Dunne obliged his friend McGarry further by changing the location of the Dooley saloon to “Archey road” (as Archer avenue was then familiarly called). Thereafter Mr. Dooley of Archey road grew steadily in popularity. His witty sayings, his jibes at fakery, pretense, and mobbery in high places, soon were being quoted all over town.
When Dunne brought Mr. Dooley to the Chicago Journal in 1897, a wider audience than before greeted the barkeeper-philosopher of Archey road. And then came the Spanish-American war of 1896. Commenting weekly on the conflict, Mt. Dooley became a national sensation. By the turn of the century Mr. Dooley was firmly attached in the hearts of his countrymen.
it was not until then, also, that the identity of the writer of the Dooley pieces became known to the American public. Until then, the original McNeery articles, and the Dooley essays that followed, were never signed by Finley Peter Dunne. They merely appeared as anonymous and sprightly contributions to the otherwise dull editorial page of the one time Chicago Evening Post—contributions for which Finley Peter Dunne received $10 extra, no small sum in those days.
Regan’s Tavern at 3459 South Halsted St., Bridgeport, in the 1880s. A shop such as this may have served as the model for Mr. Dooley’s saloon.
Inter Ocean, February 8, 1898
James McGarry, known the city and land over as “Old Jim McGarry,” probably one of the oldest saloon-keepers in Chicago, and a man with as quaint and unique a personality as ever attached itself to a tavern-keeper, will walk out of his famous hostelry on March 1 next, a victim to that modern iconoclast—Chicago hustle.
In the passing of Jim McGarry a notable character is lost to Chicago life. The old gentleman has been ailing some of late, and he has not been able to give his business that attention which rife competition on all sides demands. The death of Pat Casey, too, was a blow to McGarry. On March 1 John Specht and Al Kuhns will take possession of the place, the lease having been transferred through Chapin & Gore by Dibblee & Manierre to Specht & Kuhns.
McGarry has been the owner of the place he is about tyo vacate for nineteen years, buying out “Chesterfield Joe” Mackin after the latter’s conviction for perjury. McGarry first entered the s aloon business in Chicago about ’68, when he opened a place at No. 121 Clark street. Here he remained until the big fire, when he opened the basement at the northeast corner of Madison and Clark streets. He remained there three years. He was then “staked” to a saloon on Clark street by Mike McDonald.1
Literature is fraught with many a good story on Jim McGarry, but probably the best of the lot was printed in the ’80s. It was a bitter cold morning, and Casey was on watch. McGarry was sitting behind a screen at the end of the bar ereading a morning paper. Two Celts entered the basement and, pressing to the bar, called for whisky. Casey placed the bottle and the glasses on the bar, and the pair filled up. Just as they were about to toast each other, Casey noticed the seedy appearance of the twain, and exclaimed:
“Gintlemin, whisky an’ money fur whiskey.”
“We’re friends o’ McGarry,” returned the spokesman; “just tell him that Brennan and Cotten got two drinks” and down they gulped the liquor.
“Jist wait a minit, min,” put in Casey; “Mr. Mac is here. I’ll ask him,” and turning to the screened McGarry, Casey asked “Is Brennan an’ Cotten good fur two drinks?”
“Did they have ’em?” asked McGarry, without looking up.
“They have,” answered Casey.
“They is,” replied McGarry.
An Annotated Chronology of Dunne’s Dialect Pieces in the Chicago Evening Post
December 4—Chicago politician Frank Lawlor visits President Cleveland in Washington.
December 11—The first Colonel McNeery piece: the death of Jay Gould.
December 18—Comparison: American and British actors. An old man looks at Christmas.
January 1—New Year’s visiting in Bridgeport.
January 15—McNeery scorns a charity ball.
January 22—On faddism, especially in public school teaching.
February 5—McNeery’s natural history. O’Connell and Disraeli. March March 19—Officer Steve Rowan discusses local politics with the statue of Columbus.
May 21—Colonel McNeery at the World’s Fair: dazed by the Midway.
June 4—French paintings and the Irish Village at the Fair.
June 11—Infanta Eulalia visits the Fair: on democracy.
June 18—German Day at the Fair: on Chicago’s Germans.
June 25—Derby Day: memories of Irish races in the past.
July 2—McNeery and O’Connor on the Ferris wheel.
July 9 1—The wedding of the Duke of York and Princess Mary.
July 16—The Fair’s Literary Congress.
July 23—Poetry and war. The European situation.
July 30—A fight at the Fair. A fight in the British Parliament.
August 6—Panic in Chicago: failure of Cudahy packing business.
August 13—A meeting of the Fair’s Board of Lady Managers.
August 20—Faction-fighting at Irish freedom picnics. Irish character examined.
August 26—Unemployment parade criticized: real plight of women and children seen.
September 2—Perils of fame: President Cleveland’s toothache.
September 9—Irish politics: Home Rule bill passed in British House of Commons.
September 16—Parliament of Religions at the World’s Fair.
September 23—A great train robbery: anecdotes of heroism.
September 30—Colonel McNeery has returned to Ireland. Steve Rowan and John McKenna discuss Irish Day at the Fair.
October 7—ENTER MR. DOOLEY. Irish Day at the Fair. Bridgeport gossip shared with John McKenna.
October 14—Dooley’s memories of the Chicago Fire. Chicago Day at the Fair.
October 21—The dance of legislation through the city council: Alderman O’Brien vs. Mayor Harrison.
October 28—The World’s Fair closes: a Dooley retrospective look.
November 4—The Irishman abroad. The Irish as emigrants.
November 11—Election results: Chicago and the nation.
November 18—Their excellencies, the police. A crime wave in Chicago.
November 25—The Grady girl rushing the can: a poverty tale.
December 2—Football games and the Democratic city convention.
December 9—The Swift-Hopkins mayoral race.
December 16—Mayoral campaign literature. Political gossip.
December 23—Christmas in Ireland recalled.
January 6—Political appointments by the spoils system.
January 13—Law and lawyers criticized. Dooley in court.
January 20—Boss William Joyce’s career. President Cleveland and Hawaii’s Queen.
January 27—The Corbett-Mitchell fight of 1894.
February 3—A ball at Finucane’s Hall, 1872.
February 10—The advantages of being an alderman.
February 17—A winter night: street-car drivers in the snow.
February 24—Dooley installs a nickel-in-the-slot machine.
March 3—Gladstone and Parnell: Gladstone’s resignation.
March 10—A new verdict in the Cronin murder case. 17 St. Patrick’s Day in old times.
March 24—Not keeping Lent.
April 7—An old style election day in the ward.
April 14—The stealing of Hogan’s goat.
21—Coxey’s Army and the little priest.
28—Coxey and spring fever.
May 5—Love affairs in Ireland and Bridgeport.
May 12—A brand from the burning: a political biography.
May 19—The Dennehy boy back from Notre Dame.
May 26—The “Chicago” dinner and Anglo-Saxon supremacy.
June 2—Bridgeport in the Civil War.
June 9—The ruling class: marriage cures an anarchist.
June 16—The Democratic county convention.
June 23—Controlling and inciting riots: mine strikes in Illinois.
June 30—Memories of a strike on the Illinois and Michigan Canal.
July 7—The Pullman Strike: lemons and liberty.
July 14—The Pullman Strike: the tragedy of the agitator.
July 21—An economical romance: two Bridgeport misers marry.
July 28—War between Japan and China.
August 4—Japan fires on the British flag: Irish-American support for Japan follows.
August 11—Fire Chief Swenie in Bridgeport.
August 18—The annual Irish-freedom picnic.
August 25—The Pullman Strike: “What does he care?”
September 1—A scandal in the Vanderbilt family.
September 8—A scandal in the Astor family.
September 15—A political meeting at Finucane’s Hall for Billy O’Brien.
September 22—The Divided Skirt: Molly Donahue on a bicycle.
October 13—The Russian czar’s unenviable job.
October 20—Molly Donahue tries to vote.
October 27—A victim of the game of politics: a decent man ruined.
November 3—The Cleveland-Hill political dispute.
November 10—The Republican election sweep: Cleveland’s double- cross of the Irish.
November 17—The naming of the Hogan baby.
November 24—Poverty and pride in the Callaghan family.
December 1—College football and dissension in Bridgeport.
December 8—The courtship of Danny Duggan.
December 15—Christmas charity on the road.
December 22—Irish county rivalries and employment in Chicago.
December 29—A parish fair at St. Honoria’s.
January 5—The wave of political reform hits Bridgeport.
January 12—A benefit raffle for an ailing bartender.
January 19—The French character. Political crisis in France.
January 26—Felix’s lost chord: courtship in Bridgeport.
February 2—Dooley reviews Trilby.
February 9—The grip and Irish factionalism.
February 16—The wanderers: death on an immigrant ship.
February 23—The temperance saloon: a failed enterprise.
March 2—A genealogy lecture in the school hall.
March 9—The Gould-Castleanne wedding: American heiresses and European nobility.
March 16—Irishmen at the opera: political gossip.
March 23—The threat of war against Spain: a Bridgeport parable.
March 30—Memories of the O’Reilly-Schultze election.
April 6—Postelection analysis.
April 13—The beef trust and the Connock man’s children.
April 20—The piano in the parlor. Molly Donahue and assimilation.
April 27—A gold-silver coinage dispute in the saloon.
May 4—Molly Donahue as the “new woman.”
May 11—The Nicaragua boundary dispute and the Monroe Doctrine.
May 18—The Woman’s Bible.
May 25—Old age and bicycling.
June 1—The blue and the gray: heroism in Bridgeport.
June 8—The optimist: little Tim Clancy the millworker.
June 15—The Fenian invasion of Canada recalled.
June 22—Hennessy umpires a baseball game.
June 29—The British cabinet crisis of 1895.
July 6—A parochial school graduation.
July 13—Boyne water and bad blood: the Orange parade.
July 20—The Harvey-Horr silver debates in Chicago.
July 27—The naming of schools. The assassination of Stambuloff.
August 3—A fishing trip.
August 10—Mrs. Mulligan and the Illinois Central Railroad.
August 17—The Lutheran flag dispute in Chicago.
August 24—The Dooley family reunion.
August 31—Heresy at a church fair.
September 7—An immigrant millionaire denies his brother.
September 14—The America’s Cup and a race in the old canal.
September 21—The great hot spell: a tall tale.
September 28—The stock-plunge suicide of a Chicago German.
October 5—A Republican primary at Finucane’s Hall.
October 12—The Idle Apprentice: crime in Bridgeport.
October 19—The Venezuela boundary dispute: Monroe vs. Hoolihan doctrine.
October 26—Football on the road.
November 2—A canal-side championship fight.
November 9—The Duke of Marlborough marries a Vanderbilt.
November 16—A school play at St. Patrick’s: “The Doomed Mar- key.”
November 23—The popularity of firemen.
November 30—A blacklisted worker refuses relief.
December 7—The president’s message.
December 14—Dooley on a jury: contempt for the law.
December 21—The Venezuela boundary and the Irish Republic.
December 28—The Dynamite Campaign in the Clan na Gael.
January 4—On charity: a lost child.
January 11—An Irish-German alliance in Bridgeport.
January 18—Ice skating and old age.
January 25—European politics: the possibilities of war.
February 1—Rhetoric in Washington: Sen. Tillman attacks President Cleveland.
February 8—Hennessy calls a reform meeting on Archer Avenue.
February 15—Mr. Dooley attends a city council meeting.
February 22—Molly Donahue’s home vaudeville show.
February 29—Debates in Congress about war against Spain: “the year of the big wind.”
March 7—Keeping Lent in Ireland and Chicago.
March 14—Henry Irving in The Merchant of Venice.
March 21—St. Patrick’s Day on the old West Side.
March 28—Shaughnessy: the quiet man as hero.
April 4—The city council corrupts a decent man.
April 11—A barroom analogy for the U.S.-Cuba problems.
May 2—The state Republican convention: city vs. country politics.
May 8—The quick and the dead: a ghost story.
May 16—A candidate’s pillory: McKinley and Billy O’Brien answer questions.
May 23—The czar’s coronation compared to postelection visiting by aldermen.
May 30—The soft spot in a landlord’s hard heart.
June 6—Hennessy meets McKenna: a debate about coinage.
June 13—On criminals: the story of Petey Scanlan.
June 27—The national conventions.
July 3—American apathy: gold vs. silver.
July 11—The O’Briens forever: Willum J. and William Jennings.
July 18—Oratory in politics: a model campaign for alderman.
July 25—The Populist convention in St. Louis.
August 1—Another debate about currency.
August 8—A great heat wave: Bryan burning up the country.
August 15—Coinage and the forgotten middle class.
August 22—Nansen’s polar expedition.
August 29—The Vanderbilt-Whitney marriage.
September 5—A diplomatic exchange between America and China.
September 12—Dooley on the game of golf.
September 19—The Tynan plot to blow up Buckingham Palace.
September 26—The campaign promises of Bryan and McKinley.
October 3—Election statistics and predictions.
October 10—Political parades for gold and silver.
October 17—Bryan to Chicago: on exposure to the masses.
October 24—Polarizing rhetoric in the presidential campaign.
October 31—The campaign: war rhetoric, but change is unlikely.
November 7—Postelection analysis: prosperity defeats humanity.
November 14—President McKinley chooses a cabinet.
November 21—Complexities of the war in Cuba.
November 28—Pilgrims play the first football game.
December 5—Organized charity and the Galway woman.
December 12—A church play and the supposed death of Cuban rebel leader Maceo.
December 19—The debate about intervention in Cuba.
December 26—Bank failures at Christmas time.
January 2—New Year’s resolutions: keeping a strong enemy.
January 9—Corruption in the city council. Memories of Stephen A. Douglas.
January 16—City politics: the career of Billy Lorimer.
January 23—Charity and education: an immigrant shot for stealing coal.
January 30—Clancy the infidel saved by Father Kelly (from star- vation).
February 6—The necessity of modesty among the rich: a tale of the Famine and the Bradley-Martin ball.
February 13—After the ball.
February 20—Scenes from the Greek-Turkish war.
February 27—A Cuban sympathy meeting in Archey Road.
March 6—The presidential inaugural and the race for mayor of Chicago.
March 13—The opera Lohengrin and the Fitzsimmons-Corbett fight.
March 20—The Fitzsimmons-Corbett fight: the power of love.
March 27—The campaign of 1897: Dooley for mayor.
March 3—The campaign of 1897: the crow in the tree.
April 10—The campaign of 1897: postelection analysis.
April 17—The campaign of 1897: an alderman’s life.
April 24—Complexities of the Greek-Turkish war.
May 1—In the spring a young man’s fancy. . . .
May 8—The decadence of Greece and the tenth precinct.
May 15—A Polacker on the red bridge.
May 22—The flight of the wild geese recalled.
May 29—Suicide as self-delusion.
June 5—Street-car boodle bills in Springfield.
June 12—Popular government and the state legislature.
June 19—Progress in the Victorian Era.
June 26—Changing attitudes toward the press. Remembering Storey’s Times.
July 3—Freedom and the Fourth of July.
July 10—Education in Ireland and Chicago: on corporal punishment.
July 17—Gold-seeking: illusions about America.
July 24—The dedication of the Logan statue.
July 31—Only the poor marry.
August 7—Images of policemen vs. firemen: Pipeman Shay.
September 4—Life in the city: the vacation habit.
September 11—Expert testimony at the Luetgert trial.
September 18—The game of golf in Chicago.
September 25—Anarchist-socialist talk as just talk.
October 2—Hypocritical journalism: jingoes and Irish nationalists.
October 9—Memories of the Chicago Fire.
October 16—City ownership: a question of “who does th’ robbin’.”
October 23—Tammany Hall visits the Chicago Democracy.
October 30—The county Democracy goes to New York.
November 6—Dooley opens a checking account.
November 13—Paternal duty and rackrenting landlord Ahearn.
November 20—Charles Yerkes buys a newspaper: “yellow car journalism.”
November 27—Football in Ireland and Chicago.
December 4—Reading and believing: Father Kelly on books.
December 11—Faro banks and national banks: memories of Boss Mike McDonald.
Christmas gifts in Bridgeport.
December 18—Christmas Eve: the constancy of poverty. Dooley’s New Year greeting.
January 8—Ohio politics and life in a Belfast shipyard.
January 15—The career of Alderman John Powers.
January 22—Mr. Dooley says good-bye: “An’ what’s it come to?”
Mr. Dunne’s essays have been collected into the following books:
- Mr. Dooley in Peace and in War (1898)
Mr. Dooley in the Hearts of His Countrymen (1899)
Mr. Dooley’s Philosophy (1900)
Mr. Dooley’s Opinions (1901)
Observations by Mr. Dooley (1902)
Dissertations by Mr. Dooley (1906)
Mr. Dooley Says (1910)
Mr. Dooley on Making a Will and Other Necessary Evils (1919)
A typical Mr. Dooley “editorial.”
Syndicated to The Chicago Tribune, September 5, 1909.
They were published between 1893 and 1915, and again in 1924 and 1926,
1While this article states that McGarry’s saloon has been located on Clark street, it has been located on Dearborn for the last 25 years of the 19th century. The 1884 Chicago Directory has James McGarry’s saloon located at 129 Dearborn, with his house at 46 Van Buren. The 1876 Chicago Directory at 115 Madison, while residing at 757 Wabash.