Molly Maguires

From Academic Kids

The Molly Maguires were a clandestine society of Irish miners who engaged in a violent confrontation with Pennsylvania mining companies in the 19th century.

The organization was formed in 1843 in Ireland and continued its activity in America. Although a legitimate self-help organization for Irish immigrants existed in the form of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Molly Maguires existed as a secret organization behind this front. Both groups fought discrimination against Irish and Catholics. In the case of the Mollies, the fight took the form of violence and destruction, mimicking the attacks against English landlords in Ireland. The group's name came from a widow named Molly Maguire, who had led anti-landlord agitators in the 1840s. She may, however, only be a legendary figure.

They were forced to disband in 1877 after being in existence for about thirty years because, in an effort commissioned by Reading Railroad president Franklin B. Gowen (who was also at the time the most influential mine owner in the area), Pinkerton National Detective Agency agents infiltrated the organization and informed on the activities of the members. One agent, James McParlan, using the alias of James McKenna, became a trusted member of the organization. About twenty members of the group were hanged after being convicted of complicity in the murders of about twenty-four mine managers.

Four members of the Molly Maguires, Alexander Campbell, John "Yellow Jack" Donohue, Michael Doyle and Edward Kelly, were hanged on June 21 1871 at a Carbon County, Pennsylvania prison in Mauch Chunk (renamed Jim Thorpe in 1953), for the murder of mine bosses John P. Jones and Morgan Powell, following a trial that was later described by Carbon County judge, John P. Lavelle, as follows:

"The Molly Maguire trials were a surrender of state sovereignty. A private corporation initiated the investigation through a private detective agency. A private police force arrested the alleged defenders, and private attorneys for the coal companies prosecuted them. The state provided only the courtroom and the gallows."

A movie based on these events called The Molly Maguires, starring Sean Connery and Richard Harris (actor), was released in 1970. The movie was filmed in Eckley, Pennsylvania in 1968, and resulted in the town being saved from demolition. Eckley was later turned into a museum under the control of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

The Sherlock Holmes novel The Valley of Fear is partly based on the Molly Maguires.

Irish folk band The Dubliners refer to the Molly Maguires in one of their songs, "Molly Maguires". The Irish folk music/ska band Molly from Sweden was originally called "Molly Maguire".

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