Many American cities established ship lines going either directly to Ireland or to England, and Philadelphia was no exception. According to Frederic Miller, two new sailing ship lines in addition to the originals were established between Philadelphia and Liverpool (“Philadelphia”). Another line was established between Philadelphia and Londonderry, which gave the immigrants a direct line to the United States. Throughout the famine years, there were trading ships going across the Atlantic from Philadelphia, “and captains would pick up whatever cargo was available for the return journey” (Laxton 27). Therefore, it was easy to find a ship that was leaving Ireland that could take them to Pennsylvania.
Since Pennsylvania was such a big supporter of Irish famine relief, Governor Francis Shunk told the state legislature on February 22nd 1847: “Every arrival from abroad adds horror to the story of the suffering of the people of Ireland” (Strum, “Pennsylvania” 277). They were appalled by the treatment of the Irish, and opened up their state to any Irish in need and made supplies available for ships traveling to Ireland. In the years from 1847 to 1854, there were 124,583 arrivals of immigrants to the port of Philadelphia, according to Frederic Miller (“Philadelphia”). Some of these were German immigrants, but most of them were Irish emigrants who had chosen to make the long journey away from the famine.
Philadelphia became a viable option due to their quick gathering of relief supplies and money, in addition to the many trading ship lines. It was a large enough city to have the space for immigrants, and had a large port able to admit them into their state. According to Kerby A. Miller, Irish immigrants constituted of at least 15 % of the Philadelphia population, and 20 % of Pittsburgh. They became a large part of the Pennsylvania population in the years during and after the famine, and were able to find a safe place.
Laxton, Edward. The Famine Ships: The Irish Exodus to America. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996. Print.
Miller, Frederic. “Philadelphia: Immigrant City.” Balch Online Resources. Web.
Miller, Kerby A. “Emigration to North America in the Era of the Great Famine, 1845-55.” Atlas of the Great Irish Famine. Ed. John Crowley, William J. Smyth, and Mike Murphy. New York: New York University Press, 2012. Print.
Strum, Harvey. “Pennsylvania and Irish Famine Relief, 1846-1846.” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studied 81.3 (2014): 277-299. Web.