Irish History and Culture

The George W. Potter and Alfred M. Williams Memorial Collection on Irish Culture

In 1896 Mr. Alfred M. Williams, editor of the Providence Journal and one of the Library’s trustees, bequeathed his entire estate to the Library. It included his personal library which was strong in Irish, Scottish and Celtic literature and folklore. The books on Irish literature and folklore were kept together as the Alfred M. Williams Collection on Irish Culture. In the 1950s another editor of the Providence Journal, Mr. George W. Potter, helped the Library obtain a number of valuable books, pamphlets and broadsides for the collection including the 1916 Easter Rising broadside Poblacht na h Eireann, a declaration of independence that is one of the most important documents in Irish history. After Mr. Potter’s death, the Irish collection was renamed The George W. Potter and Alfred M. Williams Memorial Collection on Irish Culture. Later, a small endowment was provided for the collection by Dr. Philip Deery.

The collection is particularly strong in Irish poetry of the late 19th century and Irish broadside ballads of the same period. In 1996 the Library published a catalog of the highlights of the collection, The Irish Literary Renaissance in Providence.

Collection Guide for the Potter & Williams manuscripts (pdf)