Scottish Americans or Scots Americans (Scottish Gaelic: Ameireaganaich Albannach; Scots: Scots-American) are Americans whose ancestry originates wholly or partly in Scotland. Scottish Americans are closely related to Scotch-Irish Americans, descendants of Ulster Scots, and communities emphasize and celebrate a common heritage. The majority of Scotch-Irish Americans originally came from Lowland Scotland and Northern England before migrating to the province of Ulster in Ireland (see Plantation of Ulster) and thence, beginning about five generations later, to North America in large numbers during the eighteenth century.
Large-scale emigration from Scotland to America began in the 1700s, accelerating after the Jacobite rising of 1745, the resulting breakup of the clan structures, and the Highland Clearances. Displaced Scots went in search of a better life and settled in the thirteen colonies, initially around South Carolina and Virginia, and then further in successive generations.
|Number of Scottish Americans|
|Year||Ref.||Population||% of the United States population|
|Number of Scotch-Irish Americans|
|Year||Ref.||Population||% of the United States population|
According to the United States Historical Census Data Base (USHCDB), the ethnic populations in the British American Colonies of 1700, 1755 and 1775 were:
|Ethnic composition in the British American Colonies of 1700 • 1755 • 1775 |
|English and Welsh||80.0%||English and Welsh||52.0%||English||48.7%|
The number of Americans of Scottish descent today is estimated to be 20 to 25 million (up to 8.3% of the total US population), and Scotch-Irish 27 to 30 million (up to 10% of the total US population), the subgroups overlapping and not always distinguishable because of their shared ancestral surnames.
The majority of Scotch-Irish Americans originally came from Lowland Scotland and Northern England before migrating to the province of Ulster in Ireland (see Plantation of Ulster) and thence, beginning about five generations later, to North America in large numbers during the eighteenth century.
The table shows the ethnic Scottish population in the United States from 1700 to 2013. In 1700 the total population of the American colonies was 250,888, of whom 223,071 (89%) were white and 3.0% were ethnically Scottish. In the 2000 census, 4.8 million Americans self-reported Scottish ancestry, 1.7% of the total US population. Another 4.3 million self-reported Scotch-Irish ancestry, for a total of 9.2 million Americans self-reporting some kind of Scottish descent.
Self-reported numbers are regarded by demographers as massive under-counts, because Scottish ancestry is known to be disproportionately under-reported among the majority of mixed ancestry, and because areas where people reported "American" ancestry were the places where, historically, Scottish and Scotch-Irish Protestants settled in America (that is: along the North American coast, Appalachia, and the Southeastern United States). Scottish Americans descended from nineteenth-century Scottish emigrants tend to be concentrated in the West, while many in New England are the descendants of emigrants, often Gaelic-speaking, from the Maritime Provinces of Canada, from the 1880s onward. Americans of Scottish descent outnumber the population of Scotland, where 4,459,071 or 88.09% of people identified as ethnic Scottish in the 2001 Census.
|Comparison between the 1790 and 2000 census|
|1790 estimates||2000 Census|
|Ancestry||Number||% of total||Ancestry||Number||% of total|
|Swedish or other||20,000||0.5||Norwegian||4,477,725||1.6|
|British (Total)||2,500,000||62.5||British (Total)
|United States||3,929,326 ||100||United States||281,421,906||100|
The states with the top percentages of Scottish residents:
The first Scots in North America came with the Vikings. A Christian bard from the Hebrides accompanied Bjarni Herjolfsson on his voyage around Greenland in 985/6 which sighted the mainland to the west.
The first Scots recorded as having set foot in the New World were a man named Haki and a woman named Hekja, slaves owned by Leif Eiriksson. The Scottish couple were runners who scouted for Thorfinn Karlsefni's expedition in c. 1010, gathering wheat and the grapes for which Vinland was named.
In the early years of Spanish colonization of the Americas, a Scot named Tam Blake spent 20 years in Colombia and Mexico. He took part in the conquest of New Granada in 1532 with Alonso de Heredia. He arrived in Mexico in 1534-5, and joined Coronado's 1540 expedition to the American Southwest.
Scottish-American naturalist John Muir is perhaps best known for his exploration of California's Sierra Nevada mountains during the 19th century.
After the Union of the Crowns of Scotland and England in 1603, King James VI, a Scot, promoted joint expeditions overseas, and became the founder of English America. The first permanent English settlement in the Americas, Jamestown, was thus named for a Scot.
The earliest Scottish communities in America were formed by traders and planters rather than farmer settlers. The hub of Scottish commercial activity in the colonial period was Virginia. Regular contacts began with the transportation of indentured servants to the colony from Scotland, including prisoners taken in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.
By the 1670s Glasgow was the main outlet for Virginian tobacco, in open defiance of English restrictions on colonial trade; in return the colony received Scottish manufactured goods, emigrants and ideas. In the 1670s and 1680s Presbyterian Dissenters fled persecution by the Royalist privy council in Edinburgh to settle in South Carolina and New Jersey, where they maintained their distinctive religious culture.
Trade between Scotland and the American colonies was finally regularized by the parliamentary Act of Union of Scotland and England in 1707. Population growth and the commercialization of agriculture in Scotland encouraged mass emigration to America after the French and Indian War, a conflict which had also seen the first use of Scottish Highland regiments as Indian fighters.
More than 50,000 Scots, principally from the west coast, settled in the Thirteen Colonies between 1763 and 1776, the majority of these in their own communities in the South, especially North Carolina, although Scottish individuals and families also began to appear as professionals and artisans in every American town. Scots arriving in Florida and the Gulf Coast traded extensively with Native Americans.
American bluegrass and folk music styles have some of their roots in the Appalachian ballad culture of Scotch-Irish Americans (predominantly originating from the "Border Ballad" tradition of southern Scotland and northern England). Fiddle tunes from the Scottish repertoire, as they developed in the eighteenth century, and spread rapidly into British colonies, although sometimes through the medium of print rather than aurally. Outside of Gaelic-speaking communities, however, characteristic Highland musical idioms, such as the “Scotch-snap,” were flattened out and assimilated into anglophone musical styles.
Some African American communities were influenced musically by the Scottish American communities in which they were embedded. Psalm-singing and gospel music have become central musical experiences for African American churchgoers and some elements of these styles were introduced, in these communities, by Scots (although they were also more widespread at this time). psalm-singing, or "precenting the line" as it is technically known, in which the psalms are called out and the congregation sings a response, was a form of musical worship initially developed for non-literate congregations and Africans in America were exposed to this by Scottish Gaelic settlers as well as immigrants of other origins.
The first foreign tongue spoken by some slaves in America was Scottish Gaelic picked up from Gaelic-speaking immigrants from the Scottish Highlands and Western Isles. There are accounts of African Americans singing Gaelic songs and playing Scottish Gaelic music on bagpipes and fiddle.
The civic tradition of the Scottish Enlightenment contributed to the intellectual ferment of the American Revolution. In 1740, the Glasgow philosopher Francis Hutcheson argued for a right of colonial resistance to tyranny. Scotland's leading thinkers of the revolutionary age, David Hume and Adam Smith, opposed the use of force against the rebellious colonies. According to the historian Arthur Herman: "Americans built their world around the principles of Adam Smith and Thomas Reid, of individual interest governed by common sense and a limited need for government."
Nineteen of the fifty-six delegates who signed the Declaration of Independence came from Scotland or Ulster or, like the Scottish-tutored Thomas Jefferson, had ancestors there. Other founding fathers like James Madison had no ancestral connection but were imbued with ideas drawn from Scottish moral philosophy. Scottish Americans who made major contributions to the revolutionary war included Commodore John Paul Jones, the "Father of the American Navy", and Generals Henry Knox and William Alexander. Another person of note was a personal friend of George Washington, General Hugh Mercer, who fought for Charles Edward Stuart at the Battle of Culloden.
The Scotch-Irish, who had already begun to settle beyond the Proclamation Line in the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, were drawn into rebellion as war spread to the frontier. Tobacco plantations and independent farms in the backcountry of Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas had been financed with Scottish credit, and indebtedness was an additional incentive for separation.
Most Scottish Americans had commercial ties with the old country or clan allegiances and stayed true to the Crown. The Scottish Highland communities of upstate New York and the Cape Fear valley of North Carolina were centers of Loyalist resistance. A small force of Loyalist Highlanders fell at the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge in 1776. Scotch-Irish Patriots defeated Scottish American Loyalists in the Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780. Many Scottish American Loyalists emigrated to Canada after the war.
Uncle Sam is the national personification of the United States, and sometimes more specifically of the American government, with the first usage of the term dating from the War of 1812. The American icon Uncle Sam, who embodies the American spirit more than any other figure, was in fact based on a real man. A businessman from Troy, New York, Samuel Wilson, whose parents sailed to America from Greenock, Scotland, has been officially recognized as the original Uncle Sam. He provided the army with beef and pork in barrels during the War of 1812. The barrels were prominently labeled "U.S." for the United States, but it was jokingly said that the letters stood for "Uncle Sam." Soon, Uncle Sam was used as shorthand for the federal government.
Trade with Scotland continued to flourish after independence. The tobacco trade was overtaken in the nineteenth century by the cotton trade, with Glasgow factories exporting the finished textiles back to the United States on an industrial scale.
Emigration from Scotland peaked in the nineteenth century, when more than a million Scots left for the United States, taking advantage of the regular Atlantic steam-age shipping industry which was itself largely a Scottish creation, contributing to a revolution in transatlantic communication.
Scottish emigration to the United States followed, to a lesser extent, during the twentieth century, when Scottish heavy industry declined. This new wave peaked in the first decade of the twentieth century, contributing to a hard life for many who remained behind. Many qualified workers emigrated overseas, a part of which, established in Canada, later went on to the United States.
In the nineteenth century, American authors and educators adopted Scotland as a model for cultural independence. In the world of letters, Scottish literary icons James Macpherson, Robert Burns, Walter Scott, and Thomas Carlyle had a mass following in the United States, and Scottish Romanticism exerted a seminal influence on the development of American literature. The works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne bear its powerful impression. Among the most notable Scottish American writers of the nineteenth century were Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Edgar Allan Poe and Herman Melville.
There have been a number of notable Scottish Gaelic poets active in the United States since the eighteenth century, including Aonghas MacAoidh and Domhnall Aonghas Stiùbhart. One of the few relics of Gaelic literature composed in the United States is a lullaby composed by an anonymous woman in the Carolinas during the American Revolutionary War. It remains popular to this day in Scotland.
More than 160,000 Scottish emigrants migrated to the U.S. American statesmen of Scottish descent in the early Republic included Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of War Henry Knox, and President James Monroe. Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk were what we now call Scotch-Irish presidents and products of the frontier in the period of Westward expansion. Among the most famous Scottish American soldier frontiersmen was Sam Houston, founding father of Texas.
Other Scotch-Irish presidents included James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Chester Alan Arthur, William McKinley and Richard M. Nixon. Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt (through his mother), Woodrow Wilson, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Ronald Reagan were of Scottish descent. By one estimate, 75% of U.S. presidents could claim some Scottish ancestry.
Scottish Americans fought on both sides of the Civil War, and a monument to their memory was erected in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1893. Winfield Scott, Grant, Joseph E. Johnston, Irvin McDowell, James B. McPherson, Jeb Stuart and John B. Gordon were of Scottish descent, George B. McClellan and Stonewall Jackson Scotch-Irish.
Douglas MacArthur and George Marshall upheld the martial tradition in the twentieth century. Grace Murray Hopper, a rear admiral and computer scientist, was the oldest officer and highest-ranking woman in the U.S. armed forces on her retirement at the age of 80 in 1986. Isabella Cannon, the former Mayor of Raleigh, North Carolina, served as the first female mayor of a U.S. state capital.
The Scottish-born Alexander Winton built one of the first American automobiles in 1896, and specialized in motor racing. He broke the world speed record in 1900. In 1903, he became the first man to drive across the United States. David Dunbar Buick, another Scottish emigrant, founded Buick in 1903. The Scottish-born William Blackie transformed the Caterpillar Tractor Company into a multinational corporation.
Harley-Davidson Inc (formerly HDI), often abbreviated "H-D" or "Harley", is an American motorcycle manufacturer. The Davidson brothers were the sons of William C Davidson (1846-1923) who was born and grew up in Angus, Scotland, and Margaret Adams McFarlane (1843-1933) of Scottish descent from the small Scottish settlement of Cambridge, Wisconsin. They raised five children together: Janet May, William A., Walter, Arthur and Elizabeth.
Scottish Americans have made a major contribution to the US aircraft industry. Alexander Graham Bell, in partnership with Samuel Pierpont Langley, built the first machine capable of flight, the Bell-Langley airplane, in 1903. Lockheed was started by two brothers, Allan and Malcolm Loughead, in 1926. Douglas was founded by Donald Wills Douglas, Sr. in 1921; he launched the world's first commercial passenger plane, the DC-3, in 1935. McDonnell Aircraft was founded by James Smith McDonnell, in 1939, and became famous for its military jets. In 1967, McDonnell and Douglas merged and jointly developed jet aircraft, missiles and spacecraft.
Scottish Americans were pioneers in human spaceflight. The Mercury and Gemini capsules were built by McDonnell. The first American in space, Alan Shepard, the first American in orbit, John Glenn, and the first man to fly free in space, Bruce McCandless II, were Scottish Americans.
The first men on the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, were also of Scottish descent; Armstrong wore a kilt in a parade through his ancestral home of Langholm in the Scottish Borders in 1972. Other Scottish American moonwalkers were the fourth, Alan Bean, the fifth, Alan Shepard, the seventh, David Scott (also the first to drive on the moon), and the eighth, James Irwin.
Software giant Microsoft was co-founded in 1975 by Bill Gates, who owed his start in part to his mother, the Scottish American businesswoman Mary Maxwell Gates, who helped her son to get his first software contract with IBM. Glasgow-born Microsoft employee Richard Tait helped develop the Encarta encyclopedia and co-created the popular board game Cranium.
Scottish Americans have helped to define the modern American diet by introducing many distinctive foods.
Fried chicken was introduced into the Southern Colonies by Scottish settlers. Philip Danforth Armour founded Armour Meats in 1867, revolutionizing the American meatpacking industry and becoming famous for hot dogs. Campbell Soups was founded in 1869 by Joseph A. Campbell and rapidly grew into a major manufacturer of canned soups. W. K. Kellogg transformed American eating habits from 1906 by popularizing breakfast cereal. Glen Bell, founder of Taco Bell in 1962, introduced Tex-Mex food to a mainstream audience. Marketing executive Arch West, born to Scottish emigrant parents, developed Doritos.
Some of the following aspects of Scottish culture can still be found in some parts of the US.
National Tartan Day, held each year on April 6 in the United States and Canada, celebrates the historical links between Scotland and North America and the contributions Scottish Americans and Canadians have made to US and Canadian democracy, industry and society. The date of April 6 was chosen as "the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320—the inspirational document, according to U.S. Senate Resolution 155, 1999, upon which the American Declaration of Independence was modeled".
The Annual Tartan Week celebrations come to life every April with the largest celebration taking place in New York City. Thousands descend onto the streets of the Big Apple to celebrate their heritage, culture and the impact of the Scottish Americans in America today.
Hundreds of pipers, drummers, Highland dancers, Scottie Dogs and celebrities march down the streets drowned in their family tartans and Saltire flags whilst interacting with the thousands of onlookers.
NYC is not the only large city to celebrate Tartan Day. Large events also take place in Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, California, Chicago, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Québec, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Australia, and New Zealand.
Scottish Heritage Month is also promoted by community groups around the United States and Canada.
Scottish culture, food, and athletics are celebrated at Highland Games and Scottish festivals throughout North America. The largest of these occurs yearly at Pleasanton, California, Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina and Estes Park, Colorado. There are also other notable Scottish Festivals in cities like Tulsa, Oklahoma, Atlanta, Georgia (at Stone Mountain Park), San Antonio, Texas and St. Louis, Missouri. In addition to traditional Scottish sports such as tossing the caber and the hammer throw, there are whisky tastings, traditional foods such as haggis, Bagpipes and Drums competitions, Celtic rock musical acts and traditional Scottish dance.
Although Scottish Gaelic had been spoken in most of Scotland at one time or another, by the time of large-scale migrations to North America – the eighteenth century – it had only managed to survive in the Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland. Unlike other ethnic groups in Scotland, Scottish Highlanders preferred to migrate in communities, and remaining in larger, denser concentrations aided in the maintenance of their language and culture. The first communities of Scottish Gaels began migrating in the 1730s to Georgia, New York and the Carolinas. Only in the Carolinas were these settlements enduring. Although their numbers were small, the immigrants formed a beach-head for later migrations, which accelerated in the 1760s.
The American Revolutionary War effectively stopped direct migration to the newly-formed United States, most people going instead to British North America (now Canada). The Canadian Maritimes were a favored destination from the 1770s to the 1840s. Sizable concentrations of Gaelic communities existed in Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, with smaller clusters in Newfoundland, Quebec, and New Brunswick. Those who left these communities for opportunities in the United States, especially in New England, were usually fluent Gaelic speakers into the mid-twentieth century.
Of the many communities founded by Scottish Highland immigrants, the language and culture only survives at a community level in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. According to the 2000 census, 1,199 people speak Scottish Gaelic at home.
The direct descendants of Scottish Highlanders were not the only people in the United States to speak the language, however. Gaelic was one of the languages spoken by fur traders in many parts of North America. In some parts of the Carolinas and Alabama, African-American communities spoke Scots Gaelic, particularly (but not solely) due to the influence of Gaelic-speaking slave-owners. According to musicologist Willie Ruff, jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie spoke often of the Gaelic speaking African-Americans.
Several presidents of the United States have had some Scottish or Scotch-Irish ancestry, although the extent of this varies. For example, Donald Trump's mother was Scottish and Woodrow Wilson's maternal grandparents were both Scottish. To a lesser degree Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Chester A. Arthur and William McKinley have less direct Scottish or Scotch-Irish ancestry.
Some Scottish placenames in the US include:
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