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.
Up to 8.3% of the U.S. population
Up to 10% of the U.S. population
5,310,285 (2013 ACS) Scottish
|Regions with significant populations|
Delaware Valley, The Dakotas, New England
Southern United States
Plurality in New-York, Arkansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Utah and Maine
|Scottish Gaelic and Scots speaking minorities|
|Christianity (including Presbyterianism, Baptist, Pentecostalism, Methodist, Protestantism and Roman Catholicism), other religions (including deism)|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Scotch-Irish Americans, English Americans, Irish Americans, Welsh Americans, British Americans, Scottish Canadians, Scotch-Irish Canadians, Scottish Australians|
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, mainly around South Carolina and Virginia.
Number of Scottish AmericansEdit
|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|
Colonies from 1700 - 1775Edit
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 others in New England are the descendants of emigrants from the Maritime Provinces of Canada, especially in the 1920s. 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.
Scottish Americans by stateEdit
|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|
- California - 519,955 (1.4% of state population)
- Texas - 369,161 (1.5%)
- Florida - 296,667 (1.6%)
- North Carolina - 245,021 (2.6%)
- Michigan - 227,372 (2.3%)
- New York - 215,898 (1.1%)
- Ohio - 214,649 (1.9%)
- Washington - 200,085 (3.0%)
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.
Folk and gospel musicEdit
American bluegrass and folk music styles have roots in the Appalachian ballad culture of the Scotch-Irish Americans (predominantly originating from the "Border Ballad" tradition of southern Scotland and northern England).
There has also been a long tradition of influences between Scottish American and African American communities. Psalm-singing and gospel music are a mainstay of African American churchgoers. The great influx of Scots Presbyterians into the Carolinas introduced African slaves to this form of worship. The style of gospel-singing was also influenced by Scottish Gaelic-speaking settlers from the Western Isles, particularly North Uist. Scottish Gaelic 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 the earliest form of congregational singing adopted by Africans in America.
The first foreign tongue spoken by some slaves in America was Scottish Gaelic picked up from Gaelic-speakers from the Western Isles. In a North Carolina newspaper dated about 1740, an advertisement offers a generous reward for the capture and return of a runaway African slave who is described as being easy to identify because he only spoke Gaelic. In one church in Alabama the African American congregation worshiped in Gaelic as late as 1918, another indication of the extent to which the Highlanders and Islanders spread their culture, from North Carolina to Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi.
Patriots and LoyalistsEdit
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.
Emigrants and free tradersEdit
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.
Soldiers and statesmenEdit
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.
- Bagpiping and pipe bands
- Burns Supper
- Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year
- St. Andrew's Day festivities
- Tartan - some places in the US have their own tartan, and Scottish dress is worn by some Americans to celebrate their ancestral heritage.
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.
Scottish Gaelic language in the United StatesEdit
In the 17th and 18th centuries, tens of thousands of Scots from Scotland, and Scotch-Irish from the north of Ireland arrived in the American colonies. The province of Nova Scotia, Canada, was the main concentration of Scottish Gaelic speakers in North America (Nova Scotia is Latin for New Scotland). According to the 2000 census, 1,199 people speak Scottish Gaelic at home.
In parts of North Carolina and Alabama, African-American communities spoke Scots Gaelic, it having been the language of their masters before Emancipation. According to musicologist Willie Ruff, jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie spoke often of the Gaelic speaking African-Americans.
Presidents of Scottish or Scotch-Irish descentEdit
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.
- James Monroe (Scottish and Welsh)
- 5th President 1817-1825: His paternal great-great-grandfather, Andrew Monroe, emigrated to America from Ross-shire, Scotland in the mid-17th century.
- Andrew Jackson (Scotch-Irish)
- 7th President 1829-1837: : He was born in the predominantly Ulster-Scots Waxhaws area of South Carolina two years after his parents left Boneybefore, near Carrickfergus in County Antrim.
- James Knox Polk (Scottish and Scotch-Irish)
- 11th President, 1845-1849: His Scottish paternal great x 5 grandfather, Robert Pollock, emigrated to Ireland in the 17th century. The family's surname was later changed from Pollock to Polk.
- James Buchanan (Scottish and Scotch-Irish)
- 15th President, 1857-1861: His paternal great-grandmother, Katherine Blair, was born in Stirlingshire.
- Andrew Johnson (Scotch-Irish and English)
- 17th President, 1865-1869: His grandfather left Mounthill, near Larne in County Antrim around 1750 and settled in North Carolina.
- Ulysses S. Grant (Scottish, Scotch-Irish and English)
- 18th President, 1869-1877: His maternal great-grandfather, John Simpson, was born in Dergenagh, County Tyrone.
- Rutherford Hayes (Scottish and English)
- 19th President, 1877-1881: His ancestor, George Hayes, emigrated from Scotland to Connecticut in 1680.
- Chester A. Arthur (Scotch-Irish, Scottish and English)
- 21st President, 1881-1885: His paternal great-grandmother, Jane Campbell, emigrated from Scotland to County Antrim, Ireland.
- Grover Cleveland (Scotch-Irish and English)
- 22nd and 24th President, 1885-1889 and 1893-1897: Born in New Jersey, he was the maternal grandson of merchant Abner Neal, who emigrated from County Antrim in the 1790s. He is the only president to have served non-consecutive terms.
- Benjamin Harrison (Scottish, Scotch-Irish and English)
- 23rd President, 1889-1893: Through his mother, Elizabeth Irwin, his great x 5 grandfather, David Irvine, was born in Aberdeenshire, and emigrated to Ireland.
- William McKinley (Scottish and Scotch-Irish)
- 25th President, 1897-1901: His Scottish paternal great-great-great-great-grandfather, James McKinley, settled in Ireland in 1690.
- Theodore Roosevelt (Scottish, Scotch-Irish, Dutch, English & French)
- 26th President, 1901-1909: His maternal great-great-great-grandmother, Jean Stobo, emigrated to America from Scotland with her parents in 1699.
- William Howard Taft (Scotch-Irish and English)
- 27th President 1909-1913
- Woodrow Wilson (Scottish and Scotch-Irish)
- 28th President, 1913-1921: His Scottish maternal grandparents, Rev. Dr Thomas Woodrow and Marion Williamson, emigrated to America in the 1830s. Throughout his career he reflected on the influence of his ancestral values on his constant quest for knowledge and fulfillment.
- Warren G. Harding (Scottish and English)
- 29th President 1921-1923: His paternal great-great grandmother, Lydia Crawford, was born in Midlothian.
- Harry S. Truman (Scottish, English and German)
- 33rd President 1945-1953: His paternal great-great-great-great-grandfather, Thomas Monteith, was a merchant from Glasgow.
- Lyndon B. Johnson (English, German and Scotch-Irish)
- 36th President, 1963-1969: His patrilineal line traced back to John Johnson, born in Dumfriesshire in 1590.
- Richard Nixon (Scotch-Irish, Irish, English and German)
- 37th President, 1969-1974: The Nixon ancestors left Ulster in the mid-18th century; the Quaker Milhous family ties were with County Antrim and County Kildare.
- Gerald Ford (Scottish and English)
- 38th President 1974-1977: His maternal great-grandfather, Alexander Gardner, emigrated to Quebec from Kilmacolm in 1820.
- Jimmy Carter (Scottish, Scotch-Irish and English)
- 39th President 1977-1981: His paternal great x 6 grandfather, Adam Clinkskaill, was Scottish.
- Ronald Reagan (Irish, Scottish and English)
- 40th President 1981-1989: His great-grandfather, John Wilson, emigrated to North America from Paisley in 1832.
- George H. W. Bush (Scottish, Irish and English)
- 41st President 1989-1993: His maternal great-great-great-grandmother, Catherine Walker (née McLelland), was Scottish.
- George W. Bush (Scottish, Irish and English)
- 43rd President 2001-2009: His great-great-great-great-grandmother, Catherine Walker (née McLelland), was Scottish.
- Barack Obama (Scotch-Irish, English and Kenyan)
- 44th President 2009-2017: The ancestry of his mother's family is partially Scotch-Irish.
- Donald Trump (Scottish and German)
- 45th President: His mother, Mary Anne MacLeod, was born in the village of Tong, Isle of Lewis, and emigrated to the USA in 1930.
Vice Presidents of Scottish or Scotch-Irish descentEdit
- John C. Calhoun (Scotch-Irish)
- 10th Vice President 1825-32; staunch advocate of states' rights
- George M. Dallas (Scottish)
- 15th Vice President 1845-49; former Secretary of War
- Walter Mondale (Scottish)
- 42nd Vice President 1977-1981: His maternal great-grandparents, Walter Cowan and Agnes Phorson, were Scottish.
Other American presidents of Scottish or Scotch-Irish descentEdit
Some Scottish placenames in the US include:
- Aberdeen, Montana
- Inverness, Montana
- Drummond, Montana
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- Washington state
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