Cover design by John Grant

Cover design by John Grant


WOLFE’S HISTORY wraps its arms around a single, sprawling Irish and American family. In an opening essay, Wolfe introduces a cast of larger-than-life characters—from an OLD WEST BARKEEP and a GOLD RUSH PHARMACIST to an IRA FUGITIVE and a BRITISH RECRUIT whose loyalties are tested during the Easter Rising. Together these fast-talking, writerly cousins live intricate lives that move quickly between past and present—complete with periodic and sudden outbursts of violence. A man is set ablaze on the prairie. A Jesuit is tortured in Dublin Castle. In the author’s sure hands, their stories are converted into something broader and more searching than just a single family’s journey. He wonders what binds the Wolfes together in the first place and whether the experiences of his own immediate family subvert the connections he feels with his ancestors. A biographical dictionary and fifty pages of family trees complete this impressive volume.




“Many people give credence to the story that a German named Balm was looking for some relatives here in the times when the prairie was unbroken and covered with grass high as a horse, and when asked where he was going, said that he was looking for the ‘lost nation.’” – Patrick B. Wolfe

“The Chemist Woulfe joined as medical officer. His pharmacy once again hosted the type of men who spent a lot of time looking over their shoulders.”

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“How had Irishmen come to fight Irishmen? Who was the real enemy?”

“… to see all of them Indians by the glare of the Camp fires, in their War Paint … and if the ‘Great Spirit’ did not hear all that drumming and yelling, he must be somewhat deaf.”

“The Chicago Tribune, a committed enemy of Wolfe and the Thompson administration more generally, had once mocked the Commissioner’s love of language. ‘Critic of Streets Urges Wolfe to a Life of Poesy,’ read the headline of a story calling for his resignation.”