A collection of rarely-seen items charting Ulster emigration to the US from 1722 to 1848 will go on show in Belfast.
On Monday 13 September the Linen Hall Library will launch ‘Transatlantic Links’,
The exhibition, which opens on Monday September 13 at the Linen Hall Library, charts the five great waves of migration from Ulster to America during the eighteenth century, and illustrates the desire for religious freedom, personal and political liberty and the better life that seemed to beckon from the other side of the Atlantic.
Featured in the exhibition are a book of letters written by Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the US; the first printing of the Declaration of Independence in the Irish press; and letters from an American farmer describing the harsh circumstances of the British Colonies in North America in 1783. Also included will be journals, maps, books and other fascinating ephemera.
One memorable excerpt from the Emigrant’s Directory (1819), written as a guide for anyone looking to make the journey West, comments about an Indian, “finding one of his tribe drunk, and asleep, deliberately cut off his head with his tomahawk and kicked it along the street for several rods. The cause of his displeasure was jealousy.” Tough times indeed!!!
John Killen, Linen Hall Librarian, said: “Ulster emigration to the United States had a massive impact on the history of both countries forging close personal, political and cultural links which still reverberate today. Our archive of material here in the Library reveals the reasons for migration, and the hopes, dreams and, in some cases, disasters of those who packed up and sailed away from the Emerald Isle.”
The exhibition was produced as a centerpiece of the recent New Belfast New York conference held to strengthen relations between these two vibrant cities. It will be displayed in the Library’s Vertical Gallery and will run until Friday 24 December.