Charitable Irish Society St. Patrick’s Day Dinner, March 17, 1953

A January 27, 1953 Western Union Telegram invited the newly elected, Senator John F. Kennedy (D. Massachusetts), to respond to the traditional toast to the United States at the 216th anniversary dinner for the Charitable Irish Society of America. Senator Kennedy responded to Robert H. Montgomery, then President of the Charitable Irish Society, asking for additional information about this tradition.

Image of Telegram

Western Union telegram from the President of the Charitable Irish Society, Robert H. Montgomery, dated January 27, 1953 to Senator John F. Kennedy. The telegram represents a request for the Senator to make a response to the Toast to the United States of America at the Annual St. Patrick’s Dinner planned for March 17, 1953. Box 17, Folder 3, Charitable Irish Society records (MS.1993.012), John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Image of Letter from John F. Kennedy

Typewritten signed letter dated February 25, 1953 from Senator John F. Kennedy in which he asks then President of the Charitable Irish Society, Robert H. Montgomery, for background on what kind of remarks typically make up a response to the toast to the United States of America.Kennedy inquired about any tradition or subject matter around the response. Box 17, Folder 19, Charitable Irish Society records (MS.1993.012), John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

 

While the Burns Library  collections contain no affirmative response to the invitation, we do know  that the future President did participate in the ceremony. How? The archival records of the Society contain a program for every annual St. Patrick’s Dinner (excluding the year 1847 when in acknowledgment of the Great Famine of that year, no dinner took place).

Image of Charitable Irish Program

Inside pages of the invitation to the Annual Meeting of the Charitable Irish Society, March 1, 1953. Nominations for officers of the Society appear as well as the list of speakers for the Annual St. Patrick’s Dinner planned for March 17, 1953. Box 17, Folder 19, Charitable Irish Society records (MS.1993.012), John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

 

The Charitable Irish Society, started in Boston in 1737 , was formed to assist newly arrived Irish immigrants in adapting to a new city and new country. As the oldest Irish society in the Americas, the Society has a rich history, an interesting and diverse membership, and an ongoing commitment to its charitable goals today, to assist new immigrants from any country.

The Massachusetts Historical Society holds the earliest records of the Society. The Burns Library holds additional records of the Society dating from the 1890’s to the present.

Each year the format of the annual St. Patrick’s Day dinner of the Charitable Irish Society was the same, and remains so to this day.  There is a toast to the United States of America, and a response.  Then a toast to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and a response.  Finally, there is a toast to the City Of Boston, and a response.

On the night of March 17, 1953, in the Sheraton Plaza Hotel, three key figures of government appeared and spoke:

For the United States: Senator John F. Kennedy

For the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Governor Christian Herter

For the City of Boston: Mayor John B. Hynes

The remarks of this powerful political trio offer an insight into the ideology, culture, society, and politics of the day in the City of Boston, the state of Massachusetts, the United States and beyond.

 

Image of typewritten letter

Black and white typed copy of a press release dated March 17, 1953 that contains the response to the Toast to the Commonwealth by Governor Christian A. Herter, a new member of the Charitable Irish Society. Box 17, Folder 19, Charitable Irish Society records (MS.1993.012), John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Image of the City Record from March 21, 1953

Page one of “City Record: Official Chronicle of Boston Municipal Affairs,” Volume 45, Number 12 dated March 21, 1953. Mayor John B. Hynes’ response to the Toast to the City at the Annual St. Patrick’s Day Dinner of the Charitable Irish society is included in this publication. Box 17, Folder 12, Charitable Irish Society records (MS.1993.012), John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

While Charitable Irish Society records in the Burns Library do not contain the response to the Toast to the United States,it was not difficult to locate a copy with a bit of thought, and realizing where we sit geographically.  The John. F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is just about 9 miles away from the Burns Library, in the Dorchester section of Boston. A search of the Library’s collections resulted in a copy of Senator Kennedy’s response available in digital format on the website.

JFKSEN-0894-012-p0006

First page of speech. Papers of John F. Kennedy. Pre-Presidential Papers. Senate Files. Speeches and the Press. Speech Files, 1953-1960. Saint Patrick’s Day speeches by various speakers. JFKSEN-0894-012. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

JFKSEN-0894-012-p0011

last page of speech.Papers of John F. Kennedy. Pre-Presidential Papers. Senate Files. Speeches and the Press. Speech Files, 1953-1960. Saint Patrick’s Day speeches by various speakers. JFKSEN-0894-012. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

The greater Boston area, rich in history, monuments to that history, and records of historical value, offers valuable opportunities to anyone who might want to research and write.  As one might glean from this brief article, information abounds in libraries and archives in the area, and what might not be held in one institution might very well be held in another. Knowing what is available and where is key to piecing together the puzzle that history can be. Consult this very helpful Harvard Library Research Guide for Finding Manuscripts and Archival Collections, Boston- Area Repositories.

  • Kathleen Williams,  Senior Reference Librarian, Bibliographer for Irish Studies, John J. Burns Library

Works Consulted:

Works Related to the Charitable Irish Society Records:

About John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College

The University’s special collections, including the University’s Archives, are housed in the Honorable John J. Burns Library, located in the Bapst Library Building, north entrance. Burns Library staff work with students and faculty to support learning and teaching at Boston College, offering access to unique primary sources through instruction sessions, exhibits, and programming. The Burns Library also serves the research needs of external scholars, hosting researchers from around the globe interested in using the collections. The Burns Library is home to more than 200,000 volumes and over 700 manuscript collections, including holdings of music, photographic materials, art and artifacts, and ephemera. Though its collections cover virtually the entire spectrum of human knowledge, the Burns Library has achieved international recognition in several specific areas of research, most notably: Irish studies; British Catholic authors; Jesuitica; Fine printing; Catholic liturgy and life in America, 1925-1975; Boston history; the Caribbean, especially Jamaica; Nursing; and Congressional archives.
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