St. Patrick’s Day Parade to Celebrate 175 Years
Research into old newspapers and archives around Cleveland have revealed that the public celebration of St. Patrick’s Day has a longer history than we once thought. The Cleveland Public Library has scanned and indexed the run of the Plain Dealer since 1845, and 19th century membership rosters have been found for the Ancient Order of Hibernians and minute books for a once prominent group called the Irish Literary and Benevolent Association. William A. Manning, a telegraph operator, kept a diary from 1867-1873 that references events in the Irish community, and also wrote a history of St. Patrick’s Parish on Bridge Avenue in 1903 that describes early St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Diocesan histories also shed some light. A treasure trove for more recent Parade history can be found in the papers of Raymond “Rip” Reilly, a longtime Parade director and publicist, at the WRHS. All of these sources have helped us to recover a rich sense of how St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated in Cleveland for 175 years.
The very first Parade that we know about in Cleveland was organized in 1842 by the city’s third resident Catholic priest, Rev. Peter McLaughlin. Fr. McLaughlin was a proponent of “temperance,” or abstinence from alcohol, and his St. Patrick’s Day celebration began with mass at St. Mary’s on the Flats—the only Catholic church in Cleveland’s city limits at that time—continued with a Parade of the Catholic Temperance Society, and concluded with a banquet attended by friends and family members.
Rev. McLaughlin probably rolls over in his grave every year on St. Patrick’s Day with what the parade has become. A day of endless drinking and partying down town. Let’s keep it responsible people! Dress classy!