Presented by: Robert Ullrich and John Kleber
Bloody Monday: Causes and Aftermath examines the 1855 election riots in
Louisville from three aspects. First, the causes of the Bloody Monday riots
are . These include the unprecedented wave of immigrants, principally the
Germans and the Irish, who came to Louisville in the nineteenth century.
Half of them were Roman Catholics coming to a largely Protestant city
suspicious of their religion.
The German Forty-Eighters came to the United States following the failed
1848 revolution in Germany. Some of them were radical newspaper editors
who published the Louisville Platform in 1854. The controversial points of
the Louisville Platform caused tensions between the immigrants and
The American Party (the Know-Nothings) rose to prominence after the
collapse of the Whig Party in the early 1850s. Their platform was largely
anti-foreigner and anti-Catholic. The editor of the Louisville Journal,
George Prentice, took up the American Party cause and further provoked
anti-immigrant bigotry by his fiery editorials.
Second, the Know-Nothings attempted to rig an election in Louisville on
August 6, 1855. At first, there were scuffles at the polls as naturalized
immigrants were refused the right to vote.
When shots were fired in the German neighborhood late in the morning,
the scuffles quickly escalated into daylong violence against the immigrants
and Catholics. The events of the day culminated with the burning of Quinn’s
Row in the Irish neighborhood. At least twenty-two died in the riots, although
other estimates put the death toll in the hundreds.
Third, as a result of the Bloody Monday riots, properties and businesses in
the German and Irish neighborhoods were destroyed, and thousands of
immigrants left Louisville for more friendly confines. The economy of Louisville
was nearly destroyed by the events of Bloody Monday, and only the Civil War
and the business it brought saved Louisville.
The Bloody Monday riots were memorialized by ceremonies in 2005, and an
historical marker was erected at the former site of Quinn’s Row on the north
side of Main Street between Tenth and Eleventh Streets in 2006.