AOH History

The AOH is a Catholic, Irish-American fraternal organization founded in New York City in 1836. The Order can trace its roots back to a parent organization, of the same name, which has existed in Ireland for over 300 years. While both share a common thread, the North American AOH is a seperate and much larger organization.

The Order evolved from a need in the early 1600's to protect the lives of priests who risked immediate death to keep the Catholic Faith alive in occupied Ireland after the reign of Henry VIII.  When England implemented its dreaded Penal Laws in Ireland, various secret societies were formed across the country to aid and comfort the people by whatever means available.

Similarly, the AOH in America was founded May 4, 1836 at St. James Church in New York to protect the clergy and Church property from the "Know Nothings" and their followers. Anti-immigrant sentiment was high at that time and the Irish would soon be arriving in peak numbers, escaping the Great Hunger and other persecution in their native land.  Many Irish social societies sprung up and grew during this period, but the largest was, and continues to be, the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

Active across the US, the Order, along with the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, have traditionally been among the first to welcome new Irish immigrants. Here, the Irish culture - art, dance, music, and sport are fostered and preserved. Newcomers can meet some of "their own" and are introduced to the social atmosphere of the Irish American community.  The AOH has been at the political forefront for issues concerning the Irish such as: Immigration Reform; economic incentives - both here and in Ireland; human rights as addressed in the MacBride legislation; Right-To-Life; and a peaceful and just solution to the issues that divide Ireland.

Divisions now come together to better understand who they are as Irish-Americans and to live out the motto of Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity.