Feldberg Secondary Source

Publication Year: 1975

Feldberg, Michael. The Philadelphia Riots of 1844: a Study of Ethnic Conflict. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1975. 
PHS call number: F 158.44 .F44 1975

Reading suggestions

See especially Chapter 4, which includes a discussion of the School Bible controversy (pp. 85-96), and Chapter 5 on the Kensington riots. See also Feldberg's discussion (p. 93) of Walter Colton's pamphlet, "The Bible in Public Schools." Please note: The American Republican Party, established in 1843, is unrelated to the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln. The party’s name was changed to the Native American Party in 1845. This small and short-lived political party promoted nativist, anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant policies such as introducing barriers to immigration and naturalization.

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Source note

Michael Feldberg earned his Ph.D. in history from the University of Rochester, and turned his dissertation into his first book, The Philadelphia Riots of 1844: a Study of Ethnic Conflict. Feldberg went on to become executive director of the American Jewish Historical Society and is currently executive director of the George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom.

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Reading questions

Reading questions for Chapter 4: 

  1. Who is the author of this source? Do you think it is a reliable source?
  2. In what ways did the violence of 1844 in Philadelphia erupt out of cultural, rather than economic, conflict between Protestants and Irish Catholics (page 78)?
  3. What is Lee Benson’s theory on cultural conflict in the United States, and how does he use nativism in the 1840s as an example of this theory (pages 80-82)?
  4. Why does conflict due to cultural differences turn so easily into mass movements in the United States (page 85)? How does this manifest in the violence of 1844 in Philadelphia?
  5. How did Philadelphia produce “one of the nation’s strongest local crusades against Catholics” (page 87)?
  6. To what education policies did Catholic Bishop Kenrick publicly object from 1834-1842 (page 89)? What was the broader significance of these objections?
  7. Why did Walter Colton’s reply to Bishop Kenrick’s letter have such a large impact on the Bibles-in-schools question (page 93)?

Reading questions for Chapter 5: 

  1. Why did the largely nativist Native American Party (in 1844 known as theAmerican Republican Party) choose to hold their May 3rd meeting in the Third Ward, which was “clearly Irish territory” according to Feldberg (page 100)?
  2. Describe the law enforcement and military response to the outbreak of rioting on May 6th, 1844 (page 105).
  3. What new technique did the nativists use to gain an advantage over the Irish on the second day of the Kensington riots (page 110)?
  4. What was the turning point of the riots, as explained by Feldberg (page 114)?
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Source type
Scholarly book
History Topics
19th Century Social Reform
American Nativism
American Religious History
Time Period
Slavery, Sectionalism, and Social Reform (1815-1861)