The theme of the conference is Ireland: Memory and Monument. My presentation is about the potential meaning behind three monuments commissioned by James A. Murray, an Irish immigrant; a Celtic cross, a theater stage, and a pick and shovel.
Murray built a fortune in the American West with discipline, ruthless determination, deception, and colorful shenanigans that made him a favorite of the press. Murray’s accentuated personality included a remarkable radical streak unmatched by other Western millionaires. His radicalism first surfaced during the Irish Land League protests of 1883, and reached a zenith when Irish-American nationalism surged following the Easter Rising in 1916. Estranged nephew, NYU-trained lawyer, and future U.S. Senator James E. Murray served as elder Murray’s main political operative following The Rising. Elder’s money and younger’s ambition formed a powerful combination that rattled military agencies tasked with protecting wartime industries and filled coffers for Ireland’s revolution.
My paper explores the motivation behind Murray’s remarkable actions to support radical Irish organizations and labor unions, using three unusual monuments he commissioned over 100 years ago.