Irish Travelers - History and Cultural Relations

According to oral history, Irish Travelers believe that eight families emigrated separately from Ireland or England to the United States in the mid-1800s. Traveler families spread throughout the urban areas of the Northeast, practicing itinerant occupations such as tinsmithing and peddling various goods, but gradually entered the mule trading business. Many Irish itinerants in Ireland were horse and mule traders, so the occupation was not new to those in the United States. Irish Travelers increased their numbers by marrying other Irish itinerants in the mule business, and more rarely, Romany Gypsies they encountered in their travels. Before the Civil War, Irish Travelers began trading in the southern states Because of heavy use of horse and mule power on southern farms. Irish Travelers would spend winters in the South, trading horses and mules, and return to the North for the warmer months. As the need for horse and mule power decreased in the North but continued in the South, Irish Travelers began to set up their home bases in Nashville, Tennessee, and later Atlanta, Georgia, where the Irish Travelers began using the label "Georgia Travelers." Once in Georgia, Irish Travelers began to migrate to other areas of the South. A group of Families moved to Mississippi for economic reasons and were then called "Mississippi Travelers." The two groups, Georgia Travelers and Mississippi Travelers, consisted of families who worked different stock centers. Communication and interaction between the two groups was and is still constant. A third group, Texas Travelers, has since emerged and is composed of both Georgia Traveler and Mississippi Traveler families who became interested in asphalting. Moving to Texas allowed them to conduct business in the growing urban areas affected by the oil boom of the 1970s.

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