Who were the Know-Nothings?
The Know-Nothings were members of a secret political group that sprouted in the 1800s amid anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States. They organized to keep foreign-born citizens from holding political office and to promote other anti-immigrant and anti-Roman Catholic activities. This was in response to the approximately 5 million immigrants, many of them Roman Catholics, who arrived in the United States between 1825 and 1855. Know-Nothings went by names such as the Order of the Sons of America in Pennsylvania and the Order of the Star-Spangled Banner in New York. They came to be called Know-Nothings because they operated clandestinely and always answered “I don’t know” when questioned about their activities. Under the banner of the American Party in the mid-1850s, Know-Nothing candidates were elected governor in states as geographically diverse as Massachusetts, California, and Kentucky.