On June 11th 1837, the Broad Street Riot broke out in Boston, Massachusetts, between Irish immigrants and existing American citizens known as Yankees.
Due to its large seaport, Boston was a key location for immigrant arrivals to America. It was a particular focal point for Irish immigrants, who began arriving in large numbers from the second part of the 18th Century. Tensions between the new Catholic immigrants and the existing Protestant American citizens grew during this time.
The violence began when a company of firefighters returning to their firestation from a blaze in another part of the city met a large group of Irish people making their way to a funeral procession. The firefighters had spent some time in a nearby saloon, and one of them – a nineteen year old called George Fay – either insulted or pushed some of the mourners. The two sides began to fight in the street, but being outnumbered the firemen were ordered to return to their station. It was there that their foreman, W. W. Miller, issued an emergency alarm that called all Boston firefighters to come and help. The violence grew to involve around 1000 people on both sides who also broke into houses and destroyed property. Fortunately, despite the fierce street-fighting, nobody was killed before the military arrived to put an end to the carnage three hours after it began.
Despite the evident underlying racial tensions, immigrants continued to arrive in Boston after the riot, with the number of Irish arrivals reaching a peak during the catastrophic Potato Famine of 1845 to 1852.