O. H. Irish

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Orsamus Hylas Irish
O H Irish.jpg
Born 1830
New York, USA
Died January 27, 1883
Washington, D.C.
Cause of death Heart attack with complications from a respiratory infection.
Resting place Lot: 350 East, Plot: Rock Creek, Oak Hill Cemetery (Washington, D.C.)
Occupation Newspaper editor & owner, lawyer, diplomat, nursery owner, government bureaucrat
Employer U.S. Government, self-employed
Title Chief of the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, Department of the Treasury, USA
Term 1878-1883
Political party Republican
Religion Presbyterian[1]
Spouse(s) Mary J. McCann
Children Anna B., Howard, Mary A.

Orsamus Hylas Irish (1830–1883) was an official in the United States Department of the Treasury who served as Chief of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing from 1878 to 1883.


O. H. Irish was born in 1830 and raised in New York City.[2] He was educated in Erie, Pennsylvania.[2]

In 1857, Irish moved to Nebraska, where later was the owner and editor of a newspaper in Nebraska City, Nebraska.[2] In 1861, he became Indian agent at the Omaha Reservation. Also in 1861 (October 9) he was appointed U.S. Postmaster in Black Bird County, Nebraska Territory.[3] Irish was appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Northwest in the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1864, with offices in Salt Lake City.[2] He returned to Nebraska in 1866 as an internal revenue collector, later resuming his newspaper.[2] In 1869, Irish was appointed U.S. Consul in Dresden, Kingdom of Saxony before the unification of Germany.[2] He was confirmed as U.S. Consul by the U.S. Senate on January 25, 1870.[4] He returned to Nebraska in 1873, entering the nursery business, a business that failed in 1875 when his nursery was wiped out by grasshoppers.[2] He then moved to Washington, D.C. to practice law.[2]

Active in the Republican Party, he was a delegate to at least one of the Republican Conventions that nominated Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States.[5] As chairman of a fund raising sub-committee (Departments of Treasury and Justice), Irish also participated in the planning activities for ceremonies surrounding the inauguration of James A. Garfield, 20th President of the United States.[6] He attended Garfield's inaugural ball on March 5, 1881.[7]

Career at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing[edit]

Irish joined the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in 1877 becoming Assistant Chief of the Bureau, and Chief of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in 1878.[2] During his tenure as Chief, a new building was authorized and constructed on the southwest corner of 14th and B (Independence Avenue today) streets.[8] Construction started in September 1878 and was completed in 1880.[9]

On July 17, 1861, Congress authorized the Federal Government to print currency. Prior to that time, currency was issued by banks. At first the printing was accomplished with private printing companies with some final processing done at the U.S. Treasury. It was during Irish's tenure that the Treasury Department became the sole printer of U.S. currency.

Irish held the office of Chief until his sudden death in 1883.[2] His funeral was on January 30, 1883 at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, Washington D.C. with his burial at the Oak Hill Cemetery (Washington, D.C.).[1]


  1. ^ a b The Late Col. Irish, Bangor Daily Whig and Courier (Bangor, Maine), January 31, 1883, p. 3 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Profile from Bureau of Engraving and Printing". Moneyfactory.gov. Retrieved January 24, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832-1971". Washington, D.C.: National Archives. NARA Microfilm Publication, M841, 145 rolls. Records of the Post Office Department, Record Group Number 28. (subscription required (help)). 
  4. ^ Confirmations by the Senate, The New York Times, January 25, 1870, p. 1 
  5. ^ Obituary, The New York Times, January 28, 1883, p. 7 
  6. ^ The Coming Gala Day, National Republican (Washington D.C.), January 13, 1881 
  7. ^ Who Were There, Some of the People at the Inaugural Ball, National Republican (Washington, D.C.), March 5, 1881 
  8. ^ Building today, Google street view 
  9. ^ BEP History, Historical Resource Center, Bureau of Engraving & Printing (Washington, D.C.), p. 6 
Government offices
Preceded by
Edward McPherson
Chief of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Succeeded by
Truman N. Burrill