American Party
Other name
  • Native American Party (before 1855)
  • American Party (after 1855)
First LeaderLewis Charles Levin
Founded1844; 180 years ago (1844)
Dissolved1860; 164 years ago (1860)
Merger ofAmerican Republican Party
Preceded by
Merged intoRepublican Party (Northern U.S.)
Succeeded by
HeadquartersNew York City
Secret wingOrder of the Star Spangled Banner
Colors  Red   White   Blue
(American flag colors)
Party flag

The Know Nothings were a nativist political movement in the United States in the 1850s, officially known as the Native American Party before 1855, and afterwards simply the American Party.[a] Members of the movement were required to say "I know nothing" whenever they were asked about its specifics by outsiders, providing the group with its colloquial name.[2]

Supporters of the Know Nothing movement believed that an alleged "Romanist" conspiracy to subvert civil and religious liberty in the United States was being hatched by Catholics. Therefore, they sought to politically organize native-born Protestants in defense of their traditional religious and political values. The Know Nothing movement is remembered for this theme because Protestants feared that Catholic priests and bishops would control a large bloc of voters. In most places, the ideology and influence of the Know Nothing movement lasted only one or two years before it disintegrated due to weak and inexperienced local leaders, a lack of publicly proclaimed national leaders, and a deep split over the issue of slavery. In parts of the South, the party did not emphasize anti-Catholicism as frequently as it emphasized it in the North and it stressed a neutral position on slavery,[3] but it became the main alternative to the dominant Democratic Party.[2]

The Know Nothings supplemented their xenophobic views with populist appeals. At the state level, the party was, in some cases, progressive in its stances on "issues of labor rights and the need for more government spending"[4] and furnished "support for an expansion of the rights of women, the regulation of industry, and support of measures which were designed to improve the status of working people."[5] It was a forerunner of the temperance movement in the United States.[2]

The Know Nothing movement briefly emerged as a major political party in the form of the American Party.[2] The collapse of the Whig Party after the passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Act left an opening for the emergence of a new major political party in opposition to the Democratic Party. The Know Nothing movement managed to elect congressman Nathaniel P. Banks of Massachusetts and several other individuals into office in the 1854 elections, and it subsequently coalesced into a new political party which was known as the American Party. Particularly in the South, the American Party served as a vehicle for politicians who opposed the Democrats. Many of the American Party's members and supporters also hoped that it would stake out a middle ground between the pro-slavery positions of Democratic politicians and the radical anti-slavery positions of the rapidly emerging Republican Party. The American Party nominated former President Millard Fillmore in the 1856 presidential election, but he kept quiet about his membership in it, and he personally refrained from supporting the Know Nothing movement's activities and ideology. Fillmore received 21.5% of the popular vote in the 1856 presidential election, finishing behind the Democratic and Republican nominees.[6] Henry Winter Davis, an active Know-Nothing, was elected on the American Party ticket to Congress from Maryland. He told Congress that "un-American" Irish Catholic immigrants were to blame for the recent election of Democrat James Buchanan as president, stating:[7]

The recent election has developed in an aggravated form every evil against which the American party protested. Foreign allies have decided the government of the country – men naturalized in thousands on the eve of the election. Again in the fierce struggle for supremacy, men have forgotten the ban which the Republic puts on the intrusion of religious influence on the political arena. These influences have brought vast multitudes of foreign-born citizens to the polls, ignorant of American interests, without American feelings, influenced by foreign sympathies, to vote on American affairs; and those votes have, in point of fact, accomplished the present result.

The party entered a period of rapid decline after Fillmore's loss. In 1857 the Dred Scott v. Sandford pro-slavery decision of the Supreme Court of the United States further galvanized opposition to slavery in the North, causing many former Know Nothings to join the Republicans.[8] The remnants of the American Party largely joined the Constitutional Union Party in 1860 and they disappeared during the American Civil War.


Uncle Sam's youngest son, Citizen Know Nothing, an 1854 print

Anti-Catholicism was widespread in colonial America, but it played a minor role in American politics until the arrival of large numbers of Irish and German Catholics started in the 1840s.[9] It then emerged in nativist attacks. It appeared in New York City politics as early as 1843 under the banner of the American Republican Party.[10] The movement quickly spread to nearby states using that name or Native American Party or variants of it. They succeeded in a number of local and Congressional elections, notably in 1844 in Philadelphia, where the anti-Catholic orator Lewis Charles Levin was elected Representative from Pennsylvania's 1st district. In the early 1850s, numerous secret orders grew up, of which the Order of United Americans[11] and the Order of the Star Spangled Banner[12] came to be the most important. They emerged in New York in the early 1850s as a secret order that quickly spread across the North, reaching non-Catholics, particularly those who were lower middle class or skilled workers.[13]

The name Know Nothing originated in the semi-secret organization of the party. When a member of the party was asked about his activities, he was supposed to say, "I know nothing." Outsiders derisively called the party's members "Know Nothings", and the name stuck. In 1855, the Know Nothings first entered politics under the American Party label.[14][15]

Underlying issues

The immigration of large numbers of Irish and German Catholics to the United States in the period between 1830 and 1860 made religious differences between Catholics and Protestants a political issue. Violence occasionally erupted at the polls. Protestants alleged that Pope Pius IX had contributed to the failure of the liberal Revolutions of 1848 in Europe and they also alleged that he was an enemy of liberty, democracy and republicanism. One Boston minister described Catholicism as "the ally of tyranny, the opponent of material prosperity, the foe of thrift, the enemy of the railroad, the caucus, and the school".[16][17] These fears encouraged conspiracy theories regarding papal intentions of subjugating the United States through a continuing influx of Catholics controlled by Irish bishops obedient to and personally selected by the Pope.

1850s political cartoon by John H. Goater: Irish and German caricatures "stealing an election" with chaos at the "Election Day Polls" site, fueling fears of immigrant political power

In 1849, an oath-bound secret society, the Order of the Star Spangled Banner, was founded by Charles B. Allen in New York City. At its inception, the Order of the Star Spangled Banner only had about 36 members. Fear of Catholic immigration caused some Protestants to become dissatisfied with the Democratic Party, whose leaders included Catholics of Irish descent in many cities. Activists formed secret groups, coordinating their votes and throwing their weight behind candidates who were sympathetic to their cause:

Immigration during the first five years of the 1850s reached a level five times greater than a decade earlier. Most of the new arrivals were poor Catholic peasants or laborers from Ireland and Germany who crowded the tenements of large cities. Crime and welfare costs soared. Cincinnati's crime rate, for example, tripled between 1846 and 1853 and its murder rate increased sevenfold. Boston's expenditures for poor relief rose threefold during the same period.[18]

Unlike later antisemitic nativist groups in the U.S., and despite their zealous xenophobia and religious bigotry, the Know Nothings did not focus their ire on Jews or Judaism.[19] Prioritizing a zealous disdain for Irish Catholic immigrants, the Know Nothing Party "had nothing to say about Jews", according to historian Hasia Diner,[20] reportedly because its backers believed Jews, unlike Catholics, did not allow "their religious feelings to interfere with their political views."[19] In New York, the party supported a Jewish candidate for governor, Daniel Ullman, in 1854.[21]


In the spring of 1854, the Know Nothings carried Boston and Salem, Massachusetts, and other New England cities. They swept the state of Massachusetts in the fall 1854 elections, their biggest victory. The Whig candidate for mayor of Philadelphia, editor Robert T. Conrad, was soon revealed as a Know Nothing as he promised to crack down on crime, close saloons on Sundays and only appoint native-born Americans to office—he won the election by a landslide. In Washington, D.C., Know Nothing candidate John T. Towers defeated incumbent Mayor John Walker Maury, triggering opposition of such a high proportion that the Democrats, Whigs, and Freesoilers in the capital united as the "Anti-Know-Nothing Party". In New York, where James Harper had been elected mayor of New York City as an American Republican almost a decade before, the Know Nothing candidate Daniel Ullman came in third in a four-way race for governor by gathering 26% of the vote. After the 1854 elections, they exerted a large amount of political influence in Maine, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and California, but historians are unsure about the accuracy of this information due to the secrecy of the party, because all parties were in turmoil and the anti-slavery and prohibition issues overlapped with nativism in complex and confusing ways. They helped elect Stephen Palfrey Webb as mayor of San Francisco and they also helped elect J. Neely Johnson as governor of California. Nathaniel P. Banks was elected to Congress as a Know Nothing candidate, but after a few months he aligned with Republicans. A coalition of Know Nothings, Republicans and other members of Congress opposed to the Democratic Party elected Banks to the position of Speaker of the House.

The results of the 1854 elections were so favorable to the Know Nothings, up to then an informal movement with no centralized organization, that they formed officially as a political party called the American Party, which attracted many members of the by then nearly defunct Whig party as well as a significant number of Democrats. Membership in the American Party increased dramatically, from 50,000 to an estimated one million plus in a matter of months during that year.[22]

The historian Tyler Anbinder concluded:

The key to Know Nothing success in 1854 was the collapse of the second party system, brought about primarily by the demise of the Whig Party. The Whig Party, weakened for years by internal dissent and chronic factionalism, was nearly destroyed by the Kansas–Nebraska Act. Growing anti-party sentiment, fueled by anti-slavery sentiment as well as temperance and nativism, also contributed to the disintegration of the party system. The collapsing second party system gave the Know Nothings a much larger pool of potential converts than was available to previous nativist organizations, allowing the Order to succeed where older nativist groups had failed.[23]

In San Francisco, a Know Nothing chapter was founded in 1854 to oppose Chinese immigration—members included a judge of the state supreme court, who ruled that no Chinese person could testify as a witness against a white man in court.[24]

FillmoreDonelson campaign poster

In the spring of 1855, Know Nothing candidate Levi Boone was elected mayor of Chicago and barred all immigrants from city jobs. Abraham Lincoln was strongly opposed to the principles of the Know Nothing movement, but did not denounce it publicly because he needed the votes of its membership to form a successful anti-slavery coalition in Illinois.[25][26] Ohio was the only state where the party gained strength in 1855. Their Ohio success seems to have come from winning over immigrants, especially German-American Lutherans and Scots-Irish Presbyterians, both hostile to Catholicism. In Alabama, Know Nothings were a mix of former Whigs, discontented Democrats and other political outsiders who favored state aid to build more railroads. Virginia attracted national attention in its tempestuous 1855 gubernatorial election. Democrat Henry Alexander Wise won by convincing state voters that Know Nothings were in bed with Northern abolitionists. With the victory by Wise, the movement began to collapse in the South.[27][28]

Know Nothings scored victories in Northern state elections in 1854, winning control of the legislature in Massachusetts and polling 40% of the vote in Pennsylvania. Although most of the new immigrants lived in the North, resentment and anger against them was national and the American Party initially polled well in the South, attracting the votes of many former southern Whigs.[29]

The party name gained wide, but brief, popularity: Know Nothing candy, tea, and toothpicks appeared, and the name was given to stagecoaches, buses, and ships.[30] In Trescott, Maine, a shipowner dubbed his new 700-ton freighter Know-Nothing.[31] The party was occasionally referred to, contemporaneously, in a slightly pejorative shortening, "Knism".[32]

Leadership and legislation

Historian John Mulkern has examined the party's success in sweeping to almost complete control of the Massachusetts legislature after its 1854 landslide victory. He finds the new party was populist and highly democratic, hostile to wealth, elites and to expertise, and deeply suspicious of outsiders, especially Catholics. The new party's voters were concentrated in the rapidly growing industrial towns, where Yankee workers faced direct competition with new Irish immigrants. Whereas the Whig Party was strongest in high income districts, the Know Nothing electorate was strongest in the poor districts. They expelled the traditional upper-class, closed, political leadership, especially the lawyers and merchants. In their stead, they elected working-class men, farmers and a large number of teachers and ministers. Replacing the moneyed elite were men who seldom owned $10,000 in property.[33]

Nationally, the new party leadership showed incomes, occupation, and social status that were about average. Few were wealthy, according to detailed historical studies of once-secret membership rosters. Fewer than 10% were unskilled workers who might come in direct competition with Irish laborers. They enlisted few farmers, but on the other hand they included many merchants and factory owners.[34] The party's voters were by no means all native-born Americans, for it won more than a fourth of the German and British Protestants in numerous state elections. It especially appealed to Protestants such as the Lutherans, Dutch Reformed and Presbyterians.[35]


Main article: Know-Nothing Riots in United States politics

An 1855 Ohio Know Nothing Party ticket naming party candidates for state and county offices. At the bottom of the page are voting instructions.

Fearful that Catholics were flooding the polls with non-citizens, local activists threatened to stop them. On August 6, 1855, rioting broke out in Louisville, Kentucky, during a hotly contested race for the office of governor. Twenty-two were killed and many injured. This "Bloody Monday" riot was not the only violent riot between Know Nothings and Catholics in 1855.[36] In Baltimore, the mayoral elections of 1856, 1857, and 1858 were all marred by violence and well-founded accusations of ballot-rigging.[37] In the coastal town of Ellsworth, Maine, in 1854, Know Nothings were associated with the tarring and feathering of a Catholic priest, Jesuit Johannes Bapst. They also burned down a Catholic church in Bath, Maine.[38]

New England


The most aggressive and innovative legislation came out of Massachusetts, where the new party controlled all but three of the 400 seats—only 35 had any previous legislative experience. The Massachusetts legislature in 1855 passed a series of reforms that "burst the dam against change erected by party politics, and released a flood of reforms."[39] The period from 1854 to 1857 saw among Massachusetts Know Nothings a decline in the traditional nativist wing of the party and the rise of the group of abolitionists and reformers, including former Massachusetts Senate President Henry Wilson, looking to redirect the focus of the party.[40] Historian Stephen Taylor says that in addition to nativist legislation, "the party also distinguished itself by its opposition to slavery, support for an expansion of the rights of women, regulation of industry, and support of measures designed to improve the status of working people".[5]

It passed legislation to regulate railroads, insurance companies and public utilities. It funded free textbooks for the public schools and raised the appropriations for local libraries and for the school for the blind. Purification of Massachusetts against divisive social evils was a high priority. The legislature set up the state's first reform school for juvenile delinquents while trying to block the importation of supposedly subversive government documents and academic books from Europe. It upgraded the legal status of wives, giving them more property rights and more rights in divorce courts. It passed harsh penalties on speakeasies, gambling houses and bordellos. It passed prohibition legislation with penalties that were so stiff—such as six months in prison for serving one glass of beer—that juries refused to convict defendants. Many of the reforms were quite expensive; state spending rose 45% on top of a 50% hike in annual taxes on cities and towns. This extravagance angered the taxpayers, and few Know Nothings were reelected.[41] These successes at enacting reform legislation came at the expense of the traditional nativist priorities of the party, causing some national Know Nothing leaders, like Samuel Morse, to question the Massachusetts party's aims.[42]

The Massachusetts Know Nothings did advance attacks on the civil rights of Irish Catholic immigrants. After this, state courts lost the power to process applications for citizenship and public schools had to require compulsory daily reading of the Protestant Bible (which the nativists were sure would transform the Catholic children). The governor disbanded the Irish militias and replaced Irish holding state jobs with Protestants. However, Know Nothing lawmakers failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed to pass a state constitutional amendment to restrict voting and office holding to men who had resided in Massachusetts for at least 21 years. The legislature then called on Congress to raise the requirement for naturalization from five years to 21 years, but Congress never acted.[43] The most dramatic move by the Know Nothing legislature was to appoint an investigating committee designed to prove widespread sexual immorality underway in Catholic convents. The press had a field day following the story, especially when it was discovered that the key reformer was using committee funds to pay for a prostitute. The legislature shut down its committee, ejected the reformer, and saw its investigation become a laughing stock.[44][45][46][47]

New Hampshire and Rhode Island

The Know Nothings scored a landslide in New Hampshire in 1855. They won 51% of the vote, including 94% of the anti-slavery Free Soilers, and 79% of the Whigs, plus 15% of Democrats and 24% of those who abstained in the previous election for governor the year before.[48] In full control of the legislature, the Know Nothings enacted their entire agenda. According to Lex Renda, they battled traditionalism and promoted rapid modernization. They extended the waiting period for citizenship to slow down the growth of Irish power; they reformed the state courts. They expanded the number and power of banks; they strengthened corporations; they defeated a proposed 10-hour workday law. They reformed the tax system; increased state spending on public schools; set up a system to build high schools; prohibited the sale of liquor; and they denounced the expansion of slavery in the western territories.[49]

The Whigs and Free Soil parties both collapsed in New Hampshire in 1854–55. In the 1855 fall elections the Know Nothings again swept New Hampshire against the Democrats and the small new Republican party. When the Know Nothing "American Party" collapsed in 1856 and merged with the Republicans, New Hampshire now had a two party system with the Republicans edging out the Democrats.[50]

The Know Nothings also dominated politics in Rhode Island, where in 1855 William W. Hoppin held the governorship and five out of every seven votes went to the party, which dominated the Rhode Island legislature.[51] Local newspapers such as The Providence Journal fueled anti-Irish and anti-Catholic sentiment.[51]


In the Southern United States, the American Party was composed chiefly of ex-Whigs looking for a vehicle to fight the dominant Democratic Party and worried about both the pro-slavery extremism of the Democrats and the emergence of the anti-slavery Republican party in the North.[29] In the South as a whole, the American Party was strongest among former Unionist Whigs. States-rightist Whigs shunned it, enabling the Democrats to win most of the South. Whigs supported the American Party because of their desire to defeat the Democrats, their unionist sentiment, their anti-immigrant attitudes and the Know Nothing neutrality on the slavery issue.[52]

David T. Gleeson notes that many Irish Catholics in the South feared that the arrival of the Know-Nothing movement portended a serious threat. He argues:

The southern Irish, who had seen the dangers of Protestant bigotry in Ireland, had the distinct feeling that the Know-Nothings were an American manifestation of that phenomenon. Every migrant, no matter how settled or prosperous, also worried that this virulent strain of nativism threatened his or her hard-earned gains in the South and integration into its society. Immigrants fears were unjustified, however, because the national debate over slavery and its expansion, not nativism or anti-Catholicism, was the major reason for Know-Nothing success in the South. The southerners who supported the Know-Nothings did so, for the most part, because they thought the Democrats who favored the expansion of slavery might break up the Union.[53]

In 1855, the American Party challenged the Democrats' dominance. In Alabama, the Know Nothings were a mix of former Whigs, malcontented Democrats and other political misfits; they favored state aid to build more railroads. In the fierce campaign, the Democrats argued that Know Nothings could not protect slavery from Northern abolitionists. The Know Nothing American Party disintegrated soon after losing in 1855.[54]

In Virginia, the Know Nothing movement came under sharp attack from both established parties. Democrats published a 12,000-word, point-by-point denunciation of Know Nothingism. The Democrats nominated ex-Whig Henry A. Wise for governor. He denounced the "lousy, godless, Christless" Know Nothings and instead he advocated an expanded program of internal improvements.[55][56][57]

In Maryland, growing anti-immigrant sentiment fueled the party's rise.[58] Despite the state's Catholic roots, by the 1850s about 60 percent of the population was Protestant and open to the Know Nothing's anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant appeal. On August 18, 1853, the party held its first rally in Baltimore with about 5,000 in attendance, calling for secularization of public schools, complete separation of church and state, freedom of speech, and regulating immigration.[37] The first Know-Nothing candidate elected into office in Baltimore was Mayor Samuel Hinks in 1855. The following year, ethnic and secular conflicts fueled riots around municipal and federal elections in Maryland with Know-Nothing–affiliated gangs clashing with Democratic-aligned gangs.[59]

Historian Michael F. Holt argues that "Know Nothingism originally grew in the South for the same reasons it spread in the North—nativism, anti-Catholicism, and animosity toward unresponsive politicos—not because of conservative Unionism". Holt cites William B. Campbell, former governor of Tennessee, who wrote in January 1855: "I have been astonished at the widespread feeling in favor of their principles—to wit, Native Americanism and anti-Catholicism—it takes everywhere".[60] Despite this, in Louisiana and Maryland, prominent Know Nothings remained loyal to the Union. In Maryland, American Party's former governor and later senator Thomas Holliday Hicks, Representative Henry Winter Davis, and Senator Anthony Kennedy, along with his brother, former Representative John Pendleton Kennedy, all supported the Union in a border state. Louisiana Know Nothing congressman John Edward Bouligny, a Catholic Creole, was the only member of the Louisiana congressional delegation who refused to resign his seat after the state seceded from the Union.[61]


Despite the national American Party's anti-Catholicism, the Know Nothings found strong support in Louisiana, including in largely Catholic New Orleans.[62][63] The Whig Party in Louisiana had a strong anti-immigrant bent, making the Native American Party the natural home for Louisiana's former Whigs.[64] Louisiana Know Nothings were pro-slavery and anti-immigrant, but, in contrast to the national party, refused to include a religious test for membership.[65] Instead, the Louisiana Know Nothings insisted that "loyalty to a church should not supersede loyalty to the Union."[64] Similarly, the broader Know Nothing movement viewed Louisiana Catholics, and in particular the Creole elite who supported the American Party, as adhering to a Gallican Catholicism and therefore opposed to papal authority over matters of state.[66]


Results by county indicating the percentage for Fillmore in each county

The party declined rapidly in the North after 1855, in part due to the party's rejection of a clear anti-slavery platform. During the presidential election of 1856, the party was bitterly divided over slavery. The main faction supported the ticket of presidential nominee Millard Fillmore and vice presidential nominee Andrew Jackson Donelson. In Massachusetts, for example, the American Party ran Republican candidate John C. Frémont as its presidential nominee.[67]

Fillmore, a former president, had been a Whig and Donelson was the nephew of Democratic President Andrew Jackson, so the ticket was designed to appeal to loyalists from both major parties, winning 23% of the popular vote and carrying one state, Maryland, with eight electoral votes. Fillmore did not win enough votes to block Democrat James Buchanan from the White House.

Many were appalled by the Know Nothings. Abraham Lincoln expressed his own disgust with the political party in a private letter to Joshua Speed, written August 24, 1855. Lincoln never publicly attacked the Know Nothings, whose votes he needed:

I am not a Know-Nothing—that is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equals, except negroes and foreigners and Catholics." When it comes to that I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty—to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.[68]

Historian Allan Nevins, writing about the turmoil preceding the American Civil War, states that Millard Fillmore was never a Know Nothing nor a nativist. Fillmore was out of the country when the presidential nomination came and had not been consulted about running. Nevins further states:

[Fillmore] was not a member of the party; he had never attended an American [Know-Nothing] gathering. By no spoken or written word had he indicated a subscription to American [Party] tenets.[69]

However, Fillmore had sent a letter for publication in 1855 that explicitly denounced immigrant influence in elections[70] and Fillmore stated that the American Party was the "only hope of forming a truly national party, which shall ignore this constant and distracting agitation of slavery."[71]

After the Supreme Court's controversial Dred Scott v. Sandford ruling in 1857, most of the anti-slavery members of the American Party joined the Republican Party. The pro-slavery wing of the American Party remained strong on the local and state levels in a few southern states, but by the 1860 election they were no longer a serious national political movement. Most of their remaining members supported the Constitutional Union Party in 1860.[8]

Electoral results

Know Nothing Winners in Congressional Elections

     Democratic Party       Whig Party       Republican Party

Know Nothing Candidates in Presidential Elections

Election Candidate Running mate Votes Vote % Electoral votes +/- Outcome of election
1848 Withdrew endorsement of Zachary Taylor and Henry Alexander Scammell Dearborn
after Taylor's nomination at the 1848 Whig National Convention
Jacob Broom

Reynell Coates
2,566 0.1
0 / 294
Steady Democratic victory
Millard Fillmore

Andrew Jackson Donelson
873,053 21.5
8 / 294
Increase8 Democratic victory


The nativist, anti-Catholic spirit of the Know Nothing movement was revived by later political movements such as the American Protective Association of the 1890s and the Second Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s.[72] In the late 19th century, Democrats called the Republicans "Know Nothings" in order to secure the votes of Germans which is exactly what they did in the Bennett Law campaign in Wisconsin in 1890.[73][74] A similar culture war took place in Illinois in 1892, where Democrat John Peter Altgeld denounced the Republicans:

The spirit which enacted the Alien and Sedition laws, the spirit which actuated the "Know-nothing" party, the spirit which is forever carping about the foreign-born citizen and trying to abridge his privileges, is too deeply seated in the party. The aristocratic and know-nothing principle has been circulating in its system so long that it will require more than one somersault to shake the poison out of its bones.[75]

Some historians and journalists "have found parallels with the Birther and Tea Party movements, seeing the prejudices against Latino immigrants and hostility towards Islam as a similarity".[76] Historians Steve Fraser and Joshue B. Freeman lend their opinion on the Know Nothing and the Tea Party movements, arguing:

Tea Party populism should also be thought of as a kind of identity politics of the right. Almost entirely white, and disproportionately male and older, Tea Party advocates express a visceral anger at the cultural and, to some extent, political eclipse of an America in which people who looked and thought like them were dominant (an echo, in its own way, of the anguish of the Know-Nothings). A black President, a female speaker of the house, and a gay head of the House Financial Services Committee are evidently almost too much to bear. Though the anti-immigration and Tea Party movements so far have remained largely distinct (even with growing ties), they share an emotional grammar: the fear of displacement.[76]

Know Nothing has become a provocative slur, suggesting that the opponent is both nativist and ignorant. George Wallace's 1968 presidential campaign was said by Time to be under the "neo-Know Nothing banner". Fareed Zakaria wrote that politicians who "encourage[d] Americans to fear foreigners" were becoming "modern incarnations of the Know-Nothings".[72] In 2006, an editorial in The Weekly Standard by neoconservative William Kristol accused populist Republicans of "turning the GOP into an anti-immigration, Know-Nothing party".[77] The lead editorial of the May 20, 2007, issue of The New York Times on a proposed immigration bill referred to "this generation's Know-Nothings".[78] An editorial written by Timothy Egan in The New York Times on August 27, 2010, and titled "Building a Nation of Know-Nothings" discussed the birther movement, which falsely claimed that Barack Obama was not a natural-born United States citizen, which is a requirement for the office of president of the United States.[79]

In the 2016 United States presidential election, a number of commentators and politicians compared candidate Donald Trump to the Know Nothings due to his anti-immigration policies.[80][81][82][83][84][85]

In popular culture

The fictional "Confederation of American Natives" party was represented in the 2002 film Gangs of New York, led by William "Bill the Butcher" Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis), the fictionalized version of real-life Know Nothing leader William Poole. The Know Nothings also play a prominent role in the historical fiction novel Shaman by novelist Noah Gordon.

Notable Know Nothings

See also



  1. ^ The Know Nothings used the name "Native American Party" generations before the descendants of the aboriginal populations of the Americas and Native Americans in the United States were commonly referred to as "Native Americans". The membership of the party chiefly consisted of the descendants of colonists and the descendants of Evangelical European immigrants; it did not include Indigenous Americans.


  1. ^ Anbinder, Tyler (1992). Nativism and Slavery: The Northern Know Nothings and the Politics of the 1850s. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. p. 121. ISBN 978-0-19-507233-4. OCLC 925224120 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ a b c d Boissoneault, Lorraine. "How the 19th-Century Know Nothing Party Reshaped American Politics". Smithsonian Magazine. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  3. ^ Farrell, Robert N. (2017). No Foreign Despots on Southern Soil: The American Party in Alabama and South Carolina, 1850-1857 (MA). Hattiesburg, Mississippi: University of Southern Mississippi. Retrieved October 1, 2020.
  4. ^ Kierdorf, Douglas (January 10, 2016). "Getting to know the Know-Nothings". The Boston Globe.
  5. ^ a b Taylor, Stephen (2000). "Progressive Nativism: The Know-Nothing Party in Massachusetts" (PDF). Historical Journal of Massachusetts. 28 (2): 167–84.
  6. ^ Kemp, Bill (January 17, 2016). "'Know Nothings' Opposed Immigration in Lincoln's Day". The Pantagraph. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
  7. ^ McLaughlin, James Fairfax (1885). The Life and Times of John Kelly, Tribune of the People. New York City: The American News Company. pp. 72–73 – via Internet Archive.
  8. ^ a b Anbinder (1992), p. 270.
  9. ^ Cogliano, Francis D. (1995). No King, No Popery: Anti-Catholicism in Revolutionary New England. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.
  10. ^ Leonard, Ira M. (April 1966). "The Rise and Fall of the American Republican Party in New York City, 1843–1845". New-York Historical Society Quarterly. 50 (2): 151–92. Retrieved April 25, 2023.
  11. ^ Scisco, Louis Dow (1901). Political Nativism in New York State (PhD). New York, New York: Columbia University. p. 267 – via Internet Archive.
  12. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Know Nothing Party" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 877.
  13. ^ Levine, Bruce (2001). "Conservatism, Nativism, and Slavery: Thomas R. Whitney and the Origins of the Know-Nothing Party". The Journal of American History. 88 (2): 455–488. doi:10.2307/2675102. JSTOR 2675102.
  14. ^ Wilentz, Sean (2005). The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln (1st ed.). New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Company. pp. 681–2, 693. ISBN 0-393-05820-4. OCLC 57414581.
  15. ^ Billington, Ray A. (1938). The Protestant Crusade, 1800–1860: A Study of the Origins of American Nativism. Chicago, Illinois: Quadrangle Books. pp. 337, 380–406 – via Internet Archive.
  16. ^ Billington (1938), p. 242.
  17. ^ McGreevey, John T. (2003). Catholicism and American Freedom: A History. New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Company. pp. 22–5, 34 (quotation). ISBN 0-393-04760-1.
  18. ^ McPherson, James M. (1988). Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 131. ISBN 0-19-503863-0. OCLC 15550774.
  19. ^ a b Anbinder (1992), p. 120.
  20. ^ Diner, Hasia R. (2006). The Jews of the United States, 1654 to 2000. University of California Press. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-520-24848-9. Retrieved February 9, 2022 – via Google Books.
  21. ^ Rabinowitz, Howard N. (March 1988). "Nativism, Bigotry and Anti-Semitism in the South". American Jewish History. 77 (3): 437–451. JSTOR 23883316.
  22. ^ Anbinder (1992), pp. 75–102.
  23. ^ Anbinder (1992), p. 95.
  24. ^ LeMay, Michael C. (2012). Transforming America: Perspectives on U.S. Immigration. Volume 1, The Making of a Nation of Nations: The Founding to 1865. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger Publishers. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-313-39644-1. OCLC 828743108.
  25. ^ Miller, Richard Lawrence (2012). Lincoln and His World. Vol. 4, The Path to the Presidency, 1854–1860. Jefferson, North Carolina: Mcfarland & Company Inc. pp. 63–64. ISBN 978-0-7864-8812-4. OCLC 775680836.
  26. ^ Lincoln, Abraham (August 24, 1855). "Lincoln on the Know Nothing Party (Letter to Joshua F. Speed)". Lincoln Home National Historic Site, U.S. National Park Service. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
  27. ^ Allan Nevins, Ordeal of the Union: A House Dividing 1852–1857 (1947) 2:396–8.
  28. ^ Bladek, John David (1998). "'Virginia Is Middle Ground': The Know Nothing Party and the Virginia Gubernatorial Election of 1855". Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. 106 (1): 35–70. JSTOR 4249690..
  29. ^ a b Carey, Anthony Gene (1995). "Too Southern to Be Americans: Proslavery Politics and the Failure of the Know-Nothing Party in Georgia, 1854–1856". Civil War History. 41 (1): 22–40. doi:10.1353/cwh.1995.0023. ISSN 1533-6271. S2CID 144295708.
  30. ^ Bennett, David Harry (1988). The Party of Fear: From Nativist Movements to the New Right in American History. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: UNC Press Books. p. 15. ISBN 0-8078-1772-4.
  31. ^ "Launches in the United States for the Past Month". The Monthly Nautical Magazine and Quarterly Commercial Review. Vol. I, no. 2. November 1854. p. 140 – via Smithsonian Libraries.
  32. ^ Gienapp, William E. "Salmon P. Chase, Nativism, and the Formation of the Republican Party in Ohio". Ohio History. 93: 22, 24. Retrieved April 25, 2023.
  33. ^ Mulkern, John R. (1990). The Know-Nothing Party in Massachusetts: The Rise and Fall of a People's Movement. Lebanon, New Hampshire: University Press of New England. pp. 74–89. ISBN 978-1-55553-071-6.
  34. ^ Anbinder (1992), pp. 34–43.
  35. ^ Gienapp, William E. (1987). Origins of the Republican Party 1852–1856. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 538–542. ISBN 0-19-504100-3.
  36. ^ Deusner, Charles E. (April 1963). "The Know Nothing Riots in Louisville". Register of the Kentucky Historical Society. 61 (2): 122–47. JSTOR 23375884.
  37. ^ a b Tuska, Benjamin R. (1925). "Know-Nothingism in Baltimore 1854–1860". The Catholic Historical Review. 11 (2): 217–251. ISSN 0008-8080. JSTOR 25012185.
  38. ^ Hatch, Louis Clinton, ed. (1919). Maine: A History. Vol. 1. New York, New York: The American Historical Society. Retrieved April 25, 2023 – via Google Books.
  39. ^ Formisano, Ronald P. (1983). The Transformation of Political Culture: Massachusetts Parties, 1790s–1840s. Oxford University Press. p. 332. ISBN 978-0-19-503124-9.
  40. ^ Ruchames, Louis (1952). "The Abolitionists and the Jews". Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society. 42 (2): 138. ISSN 0146-5511. JSTOR 43057515.
  41. ^ Taylor (2000), pp. 171–172.
  42. ^ Ruchames (1952), p. 139.
  43. ^ Mulkern (1990), pp. 101–102.
  44. ^ Anbinder (1992), p. 137.
  45. ^ Mulkern, John R. (1983). "Scandal Behind the Convent Walls: The Know-Nothing Nunnery Committee of 1855" (PDF). Historical Journal of Massachusetts. 11 (1): 22–34. Retrieved April 25, 2023.
  46. ^ Oates, Mary J. (1988). "'Lowell': An Account of Convent Life in Lowell, Massachusetts, 1852–1890". New England Quarterly. 61 (1): 101–18. doi:10.2307/365222. JSTOR 365222. (Discusses the actual behavior of the Catholic nuns.)
  47. ^ Lord, Robert Howard; Harrington, Edward T. & Sexton, John E. (1945). History of the Archdiocese of Boston in the Various Stages of Development, 1604 to 1943. Vol. 2. Boston: The Pilot Publishing Co. pp. 686–99. Retrieved April 25, 2023 – via Hathi Trust.
  48. ^ Renda, Lex (1997). Running on the Record: Civil War-Era Politics in New Hampshire. Charlottesville, Virginia: University Press of Virginia. pp. 54, 211, Table 15. ISBN 0-8139-1722-0. OCLC 36065963.
  49. ^ Renda (1997), pp. 33–57.
  50. ^ Renda (1997), pp. 55, 58, 212.
  51. ^ a b c McLoughlin, William G. (1986). Rhode Island: A History. New York, New York: W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 141–142. ISBN 0-393-30271-7.
  52. ^ Broussard, James H. (1966). "Some Determinants of Know-Nothing Electoral Strength in the South, 1856". Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association. 7 (1): 5–20. JSTOR 4230880.
  53. ^ Gleeson, David T. (2001). The Irish in the South, 1815–1877. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press. p. 78. ISBN 978-0-8078-4968-2.
  54. ^ Frederick, Jeff (2002). "Unintended Consequences: The Rise and Fall of the Know-Nothing Party in Alabama". Alabama Review. 55 (1): 3–33. Retrieved January 23, 2017.[dead link]
  55. ^ Bladek (1998), p. 45.
  56. ^ Rice, Philip Morrison (1947). "The Know-Nothing Party in Virginia, 1854–1856". Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. 55 (1): 66. JSTOR 245457.
  57. ^ Rice, Philip Morrison (1947). "The Know-Nothing Party in Virginia, 1854–1856 (Concluded)". Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. 55 (2): 159–167. JSTOR 4245471.
  58. ^ Baker, Jean H. (1977). Ambivalent Americans: The Know-Nothing Party in Maryland. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-1906-7.
  59. ^ Melton, Tracy Matthew (2005). Hanging Henry Gambrill: The Violent Career of Baltimore's Plug Uglies, 1854–1860. Baltimore, Maryland: The Maryland Center for History and Culture. doi:10.56021/9780938420941. ISBN 978-0-938420-94-1.
  60. ^ Holt, Michael F. (1999). The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. p. 856. ISBN 978-0-19-516104-5.
  61. ^ Bouligny, John Edward (February 5, 1861). Feb. 5, 1861: Secession of Louisiana (PDF) (Speech). Speech in the House of Representatives. Washington, D.C. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 2, 2017. Retrieved January 23, 2017.
  62. ^ Hall, Ryan M. (2015). A Glorious Assemblage: The Rise of the Know-Nothing Party in Louisiana (MA). Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University. Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  63. ^ Anbinder (1992), p. 167.
  64. ^ a b Tarver, Jerry L. (1964). A Rhetorical Analysis of Selected Ante-Bellum Speeches by Randell Hunt (PhD). Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University. Retrieved October 20, 2020.
  65. ^ "American Convention". The South-Western. Shreveport, Louisiana. September 5, 1855. p. 1. Retrieved October 20, 2020 – via That while we resist all encroachments of spiritual power upon our political rights, we disclaim the calumnious charge of our own opponents that we require a religious test to qualify native born citizens to hold office or enjoy the full rights of citizenship.
  66. ^ Carriere, Marius M. Jr. (2018). The Know Nothings in Louisiana. Jackson, Mississippi: University of Mississippi Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-1-4968-1688-7. OCLC 1021063970 – via Google Books.
  67. ^ Levine, Bruce (2001). "Conservatism, Nativism, and Slavery: Thomas R. Whitney and the Origins of the Know-Nothing Party". The Journal of American History. 88 (2): 484. doi:10.2307/2675102. JSTOR 2675102. Retrieved April 5, 2023.
  68. ^ Browne, Francis Fisher (1914). The Every-day Life of Abraham Lincoln: A Narrative and Descriptive Biography with Pen-pictures and Personal Recollections by Those Who Knew Him. Browne & Howell. p. 153. Retrieved August 28, 2015.
  69. ^ Nevins, Allan (1947). Ordeal of the Union: A House Dividing 1852–1857. Vol. 2. New York City, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 467.
  70. ^ Smith, Elbert B. (1988). The Presidencies of Zachary Taylor & Millard Fillmore. The American Presidency. University Press of Kansas. pp. 252–253. ISBN 978-0-7006-0362-6.
  71. ^ Anbinder, Tyler (2000). "Fillmore, Millard (1800–1874), thirteenth president of the United States". American National Biography. Vol. 1. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/anb/9780198606697.article.0400374. ISBN 978-0-19-860669-7.
  72. ^ a b Safire, William (2008), Safire's Political Dictionary, New York, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 375–76, ISBN 978-0-19-534061-7
  73. ^ Jensen, Richard J. (1971). The Winning of the Midwest: Social and Political Conflict, 1888–96. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press. pp. 108, 147, 160. ISBN 0-226-39825-0.
  74. ^ Kellogg, Louise Phelps (September 1918). "The Bennett Law in Wisconsin". Wisconsin Magazine of History. 2 (1): 13. JSTOR 4630124.
  75. ^ Jensen (1971), p. 220.
  76. ^ a b "Library Exhibits | Know Nothings". Villanova University.
  77. ^ Shirley, Craig (April 22, 2006). "How the GOP Lost Its Way". The Washington Post. p. A21.
  78. ^ "The Immigration Deal". The New York Times. May 20, 2007.
  79. ^ Egan, Timothy (August 27, 2010). "Building a Nation of Know-Nothings". The New York Times.
  80. ^ Cassidy, John (December 28, 2015). "Donald Trump Isn't a Fascist; He's a Media-Savvy Know-Nothing". The New Yorker. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  81. ^ Nevius, James (August 15, 2015). "Donald Trump is an immigration Know-Nothing, and dangerous for Republicans". The Guardian. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  82. ^ Raleigh, Helen (September 19, 2015). "Is Trump Turning the GOP Into the 'Know Nothing' Party?". Townhall. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  83. ^ Reston, Laura (July 30, 2015). "Donald Trump Isn't The First Know Nothing to Capture American Hearts". The New Republic. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  84. ^ Kaufman, Scott Eric (December 16, 2015). "Former NY Governor George Pataki: Donald Trump is the 'Know Nothing' candidate of the 21st Century". Salon. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  85. ^ Kiedrowski, Jay (September 9, 2016). "Trump: A throwback to the Know-Nothing Party of the 1850s". MinnPost. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
  86. ^ Smith, Gene (1992). American Gothic: the story of America's legendary theatrical family, Junius, Edwin, and John Wilkes Booth. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 60 ]. ISBN 0-671-76713-5 – via Internet Archive.
  87. ^ Cantrell, Gregg (January 1993). "Sam Houston and the Know-Nothings: A Reappraisal". The Southwestern Historical Quarterly. 96 (3): 327–343. JSTOR 30237138.
  88. ^ Ramage, James A. (2004). Lowell H. Harrison (ed.). Kentucky's Governors. Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky. p. 75. ISBN 0-8131-2326-7.
  89. ^ Billington, Ray Allen (1959). "The Know-Nothing Uproar". American Heritage. Vol. 10, no. 2.
  90. ^ Brodie, Fawn (1966) [1959]. Thaddeus Stevens: Scourge of the South (Norton Library ed.). New York: W. W. Norton & Co. Inc. p. 122. ISBN 0-393-00331-0 – via Internet Archive.
  91. ^ Foner, Eric (1995). Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-1997-6226-2.


  • Alsan, Marcella, Katherine Eriksson, and Gregory Niemesh. "Understanding the Success of the Know-nothing Party" (No. w28078. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2020) statistical analysis of anti-Irish vote in Massachuesetts online.
  • Anbinder, Tyler. Nativism and Slavery: The Northern Know Nothings and the politics of the 1850s (1992). online at ACLS History e-Book;, the standard scholarly study' summary
  • Anbinder, Tyler. "Nativism and prejudice against immigrants," in A companion to American immigration, ed. by Reed Ueda (2006) pp. 177–201 online excerpt
  • Baker, Jean H. (1977), Ambivalent Americans: The Know-Nothing Party in Maryland, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins.
  • Baum, Dale. "Know-Nothingism and the Republican Majority in Massachusetts: The Political Realignment of the 1850s." Journal of American History 64 (1977–78): 959–86. in JSTOR
  • Baum, Dale. The Civil War Party System: The Case of Massachusetts, 1848–1876 (1984)
  • Bennett, David H. The Party of Fear: From Nativist Movements to the New Right in American History (1988) online
  • Billington, Ray A. The Protestant Crusade, 1800–1860: A Study of the Origins of American Nativism (1938), standard scholarly survey; online
  • Bladek, John David. "'Virginia Is Middle Ground': the Know Nothing Party and the Virginia Gubernatorial Election of 1855." Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 1998 106(1): 35–70. in JSTOR
  • Boissoneault, Lorraine. "How the 19th-Century Know Nothing Party Reshaped American Politics." Smithsonian Magazine (2017), heavily illustrated with editorial cartoons. online
  • Carriere, Marius. "Political Leadership of the Louisiana Know-Nothing Party." Louisiana History (1980): 183–195. online
  • Cheathem, Mark R. "'I Shall Persevere in the Cause of Truth': Andrew Jackson Donelson and the Election of 1856". Tennessee Historical Quarterly 2003 62(3): 218–237. ISSN 0040-3261 Donelson was Andrew Jackson's nephew and K–N nominee for Vice President
  • Dash, Mark. "New Light on the Dark Lantern: the Initiation Rites and Ceremonies of a Know-Nothing Lodge in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania" Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 2003 127(1): 89–100. ISSN 0031-4587
  • Desmond, Humphrey J. The Know-Nothing Party (1905) online
  • Farrell, Robert. "No Foreign Despots on Southern Soil: The Know-Nothing Party in Alabama, 1850-1857." Alabama Review 72.2 (2019): 99–122. extract
  • Farrelly, Maura Jane. Anti-Catholicism in America, 1620–1860 (Cambridge University Press, 2017) .
  • Gienapp, William E. "Nativism and the Creation of a Republican Majority in the North before the Civil War," Journal of American History, Vol. 72, No. 3 (Dec., 1985), pp. 529–559 in JSTOR
  • Gienapp, William E. The Origins of the Republican Party, 1852–1856 (1978), detailed statistical study, state-by-state
  • Gillespie, J. David. Challengers To Duopoly : Why Third Parties Matter in American Two-Party Politics. Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 2012. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 4 Dec. 2014.
  • Gleeson, David T. The Irish in the South, 1815–1877 Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.
  • Haebler, Peter. "Nativist Riots in Manchester: An Episode of Know-Nothingism in New Hampshire." Historical New Hampshire 39 (1985): 121–37.
  • Holt, Michael F. The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party (1999)
  • Holt, Michael F. Political Parties and American Political Development: From the Age of Jackson to the Age of Lincoln (1992)
  • Holt, Michael F. "The Antimasonic and Know Nothing Parties", in Arthur Schlesinger Jr., ed., History of United States Political Parties (1973), I, 575–620.
  • Hurt, Payton. "The Rise and Fall of the 'Know Nothings' in California," California Historical Society Quarterly 9 (March and June 1930).
  • Kadir, Djelal. "Agnotology and the Know-Nothing Party: Then and Now." Review of International American Studies 10.1 (2017): 117–131. online
  • Lee, Erika. America for Americans: A history of xenophobia in the United States (Basic Books, 2019) online.
  • Levine, Bruce. "Conservatism, Nativism, and Slavery: Thomas R. Whitney and the Origins of the Know-nothing Party" Journal of American History 2001 88(2): 455–488. in JSTOR
  • McGreevey, John T. Catholicism and American Freedom: A History (W. W. Norton, 2003)
  • Maizlish, Stephen E. "The Meaning of Nativism and the Crisis of the Union: The Know-Nothing Movement in the Antebellum North." in William Gienapp, ed. Essays on American Antebellum Politics, 1840–1860 (1982) pp. 166–98
  • Melton, Tracy Matthew. Hanging Henry Gambrill: The Violent Career of Baltimore's Plug Uglies, 1854–1860. Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society (2005).
  • Mulkern, John R. The Know-Nothing Party in Massachusetts: The Rise and Fall of a People's Movement. Boston: Northeastern UP, 1990. excerpt
  • Nevins, Allan. Ordeal of the Union: A House Dividing, 1852–1857 (1947), overall political survey of era online
  • Overdyke, W. Darrell. The Know-Nothing Party in the South (1950)
  • Ramet, Sabrina P., and Christine M. Hassenstab. "The Know Nothing Party: Three Theories about its Rise and Demise." Politics and Religion 6.3 (2013): 570–595.
  • Parmet, Robert D. "Connecticut's Know-Nothings: A Profile," Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin (1966), 31 #3, pp. 84–90
  • Rice, Philip Morrison. "The Know-Nothing Party in Virginia, 1854–1856." Virginia Magazine of History and Biography (1947): 61–75. in JSTOR
  • Roseboom, Eugene H. "Salmon P. Chase and the Know Nothings." Mississippi Valley Historical Review 25.3 (1938): 335–350. online
  • Scisco, Louis Dow. Political Nativism in New York State (1901) full text online, pp. 84–202
  • Taylor, Steven. "Progressive Nativism: The Know-Nothing Party in Massachusetts" Historical Journal of Massachusetts (2000) 28#2 online
  • Tuska, Benjamin. "Know-Nothingism in Baltimore 1854-1860." Catholic Historical Review 11.2 (1925): 217–251. online
  • Voss-Hubbard, Mark. Beyond Party: Cultures of Antipartisanship in Northern Politics before the Civil War (2002)
  • Wilentz, Sean. The Rise of American Democracy. (2005); ISBN 0-393-05820-4

Primary sources