NEW YORK: Getting Trimmed

In the years after the Great Potato Famine, a dozen tight-knit Irish families—the McDonoughs, the Sullivans, the Cosgroves, the Flahertys—emigrated to New York, where they did very well for themselves in a unique trade demanding great skill and courage. The menfolk became "grain trimmers," i.e., longshoremen who, using shovels and wooden scoops, level out grain after it is poured or blown into the holds of ships. It is a difficult trade because the grain raises huge clouds of choking dust, and dangerous because the dust has been known to explode. It is also well paid. On the docks of New...

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