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Patrick A. Collins from Cork Becomes Boston's Second Irish-Born Mayor in January 1902


Patrick A. Collins, the second Irish-born Mayor of Boston, was inaugurated on January 6, 1902, at Boston City Hall. He beat incumbent Mayor Thomas N. Hart in what the Boston Post described as "the largest vote ever cast for mayor in Boston."Collins, a resident of South Boston, received 52,046 votes to Hart's 33,076, winning by a plurality of 18,970 votes. In an earlier contest in 1899 when the two men faced off, Hart beat Collins by 2,281 votes, according to the Post.

Monsignor Denis O'Callaghan of St. Augustine's Church in South Boston, led the prayer during Collins' swearing-in ceremonies.

In his inaugural address, Collins focused on was the city's financial condition and the public debt. He talked about heavy traffic and promised to build a new avenue "in the Fort Point Channel to the northern terminals and docks." He promised improvements to Boston Harbor, with encouragement from Congress from Washington, "to float at all stages of the tide the largest vessels engaged in the commerce of the world."

After the address, Mayor Collins "was overwhelmed with congratulations and good wishes for an hour. Heads of the city departments and private citizens by the hundreds trooped into the mayor's office to shake his honor's hand," wrote The Boston Globe.

Afterwards, Collins and the City of Boston Aldermen went to dinner at the nearby Parker House at the top of School Street.

A local paper reported that Mayor Collins had initiated an 'open door' policy, like his predecessor Mayor Hart, allowing "citizens who wish to consult the mayor on buniness to approach him without the intermediary of messengers."

Born in 1844 in Ballinafauna, a townland outside of Fermoy, Cork, Collins came to Boston in March 1848, with his widowed mother, part of the mass exodus from Ireland due to the Irish Famine. They settled in Chelsea, where the anti-Irish Know Nothing movement was fully blown in the 1850s. Patrick got a job as an office boy with Robert Morris, an African-American lawyer, and later become a lawyer himself. He entered into an upholstery apprenticeship, where he eventually became foreman. All the while he was attending classes at Harvard University while studying at the Boston Public Library evenings.

Collins made his first foray into American politics when he became a state representative from South Boston in 1868-69, and a state senator in 1870-71. He became the first Irish Catholic from Massachusetts elected as a US Congressman (1883-85). He campaigned for President Grover Cleveland and was appointed as Consul General in London from 1893-97.


A monument to Patrick A. Collins is located on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston's Back Bay and is part of the Boston Irish Heritage Trail.

The City of Boston Archives has papers relating to the Collins Administration at City Hall.

Research + Text, Michael Quinlin


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