On Know Nothings and Secret Societies – 5

Flag of the Know Nothing Party
Flag of the Know Nothing Party

Historian James McPherson points out that the membership in the Know Nothings was “drawn primarily from young men in white-collar and skilled blue-collar occupations. A good many of them were new voters. One analysis showed that men in their twenties were twice as likely to vote Know Nothing as men over thirty.”  (1)

Their leaders were also “new men” in politics who reflected the social backgrounds of their constituency. In Pittsburg, more than half of the Know-Nothing leaders were under thirty-five and nearly half were artisans and clerks. Know Nothings elected to the Massachusetts legislature in 1854 consisted mainly of skilled workers, rural clergymen, and clerks in various enterprises. Maryland’s leaders were younger and less affluent than their Democratic counterparts.” (1)

For more information on the Know Nothing Party in Massachusetts, see the Massachusetts Historical Society here.

(1)battlecryoffreedom Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States), (New York: Oxford Press, 1988), 135-136.

3 Replies to “On Know Nothings and Secret Societies – 5”

  1. Rene,

    When you get it, Tyler Anbinder’s book will give you a detailed analysis of the makeup of the KN lodges and voters, as well as the candidates for whom they voted. I don’t have the book with me, but as I recall, the KN candidates were slightly (like two years) younger than those of the major parties, but on average they were not neophytes. Again, highly recommended.

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