Skip to main content

Hibernian Society records

Identifier: MS 2029


This collection contains the records of the Hibernian Society, an organization founded in 1803 to provide charitable relief to Irish emigrants arriving in Baltimore. Included are minutes, correspondence, membership applications, and financial records.


  • 1816-1978


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Historical Note

The Hibernian Society of Baltimore was organized in 1803 and incorporated in 1818 "to do all shall be necessary, for the purpose of affording charitable assistance and advice to such emigrants from, or natives of Ireland arriving at, or residing in any part of the State of Maryland, as may be in want and deemed worthy."

The Society meets annually on St. Patrick's Day, and holds regularly scheduled meetings throughout the year. The St. Patrick's Day meeting has evolved into a lavish Anniversary Dinner to which are invited state, local and national political figures.

In 1823 John Oliver, a former President of the Society, died and bequeathed "$20,000 to the Society for the purpose of establishing a free school in Baltimore... for the education of poor children of both sexes, one at least of whose parents must be Irish... And should it ever happen that said school should not have sufficient number of scholars of Irish parentage as aforesaid, it is my wish that it should be fitted with poor children... and no distinction is ever to be made in the school as to the religious tenets of those that may apply for admission."

In 1824 the Oliver Hibernian Free School opened and in 1827 the school moved into its new building on North Street, which it occupied until 1904 when the property was sold. The advent of the public school and the development of parochial schools caused a decline in the number of pupils and in 1893 day classes were suspended. The school then became a Free Night School at which the rudimentary branches were taught as well as skills such as book-keeping and stenography.

In 1937 the Society changed its educational policy and began a program of awarding scholarships to local students to attend colleges in the Baltimore area. This Scholarship Program continues to the present. The Society's major fund-raising activity for this program is its Annual Deluxe Luncheon usually held in November or December.


8 Linear Feet (19 boxes)

Language of Materials



The collection is arranged into eight series: Series I. Minutes; Series II. Financial Records; Series III. Membership; Series IV. Annual Banquets; Series V. Annual Luncheons; Series VI. Correspondence; Series VII. Hibernian Society vs. Lake Roland Elevated Railway Co.; Series VIII. Scrapbook.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by the Hibernian Society in 1974 with later additions in 1975 and 1978.

Scope and Contents

The history of the Hibernian Society of Baltimore is amply documented in the wide variety of records preserved in this collection. These include minute books, financial ledgers, membership lists, correspondence, invoices and receipts as well as extensive material pertaining to the annual luncheons and banquets held by the Society, a historical scrapbook and a box of papers relative to a court case brought by the Society in 1895.

The records have been grouped by type of document and chronologically ordered but the sections are not mutually exclusive. Information on membership may be found among the financial records, some minutes are located in the materials relating to the annual banquets etc. The correspondence section suffers particularly in this regard. Virtually all of the material in Boxes 11-14 could be apportioned to the other sections but its chronological sequence should make it possible for readers to easily locate the records they are seeking. In Box 16 there is some overlap between dates as the files are left in the order in which they were created by various officers of the Society.

The collection contains the Society's two original minute books, the first of which predates the incorporation of the Society. In 1944 the officers of the Society ordered transcriptions of these first two minute books and a carbon copy of this transcription has also been deposited (Box 2). This transcript is an enormously useful tool for quickly scanning the official records of the first 109 years of the Society's history.

Numerous financial records have been preserved in Boxes 4, 5 and 6. The material has been left in its original ordering as deposited by the Society and thus there is some overlap between envelopes, ledgers and folders. The correspondence file for 1904 (Box 11) contains a letter from Stuart Kearney, Treasurer of the Society, reporting that an old cash book and some vouchers had been destroyed in the great fire. His letter continues with the reassurance that he had begun a new cash book and had copied all data of importance pertaining to the working of the School. It is not clear whether this new cash book has been preserved as none of the items in Boxes 4-6 entirely corresponds with his description and dating.

Boxes 8-10 contain material pertaining to the Society's Annual Anniversary Dinners and Luncheons. Both of these are large affairs requiring much organization and paperwork on the part of the Society's members. Box 8 contains memorabilia (programs, menus etc.) relating to the Annual Banquets 1902-1974 as well as numerous momentoes of similar commemorative dinners held by fraternal societies in Baltimore and elsewhere.

The scrapbook (Box 18) and early correspondence files (Boxes 11-14) contain many replies to invitations extended to state, local and national government officials to these affairs. The scrapbook also contains many press clippings re the Society's meetings and extensive accounts of speeches, toasts etc. at its Annual Banquets.

In 1895 the Hibernian Society filed suit against the Lake Roland Elevated Railway Co. for damages to the Oliver Hibernian Free School Building on North Street by the erection of a stone abutment for the railway. The City Court awarded the Society $5,000. This verdict was appealed by the Lake Roland Co. and the case was taken to the Maryland Court of Appeals in April 1896. Records relative to this episode in the Society's history may be found in Box 17.

Guide to the Hibernian Society records
Under Revision
Harriot Weiskittel
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Revision Statements

  • 2020-01-09: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Sandra Glascock .

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States