Guiding Questions:

  • How did Protestants react to the arrival of Irish Catholics in Boston?
  • What are the similarities and differences in beliefs, values and attitudes of Boston Protestants and Catholics?
  • What are the similarities and differences in native Bostonians and immigrants?
  • What were the long term positive and negative effects of Catholic immigration in Boston?


Map of the city of Boston,

Map of the City of Boston, 1838
Courtesy of Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public Library


The United States was founded as a nation of Protestants. Today it is the quintessential melting pot of varying religious faiths as well as races and ethnicities. The transition from one to the other was not a smooth one. Throughout our nation's history, there have been numerous instances of conflict between people of different religious affiliations. These conflicts have come in different sizes but always serve to highlight the tensions that have and continue to exist as America defines its notion of “we the people.”

Your assignment is to discover the details of an event that occurred on Broad Street in Boston on June 11, 1837, when a Irish funeral process and Yankee fire engine company collided. This event, which later became known as the Broad Street Riot, helps to reveal the attitudes and values of the native-born Protestant Bostonians as well as the newly arrived Irish Catholic immigrants. By examining news articles and written literature of the era, you will be able to determine what caused the riot to erupt and what consequences resulted. You will embrace these ideas as you take on the roles of actual riot participants and witnesses in a mock trial of the people arrested on that night.


Next Page