What is a Hibernicon?

HIBERNICONS were an Irish variety show which combined a moving panorama (with scenes of Ireland) Irish piping, fiddling, stepdancing and comedy skits. The the scenes of the moving panorama were described by a narrator or "professor." Hibernicon shows were performed from Civil War times up to World War I.

For in-depth information about Hibernicons, see the writings of Michelle Granshaw, PhD who has researched and written about them extensively. Click on the link to read an interview with Michelle from 2013 Five questions for Hiberian Research Award recipient Michelle Granshaw.

What did the moving panorama scrolls look like?

Sadly, none of the Hibernicon moving panorama scrolls survived but we can get an idea of what they looked like by sifting through information from newspaper advertisements, handbills, reviews, souvenirs,  broadsides and programs. 


Here's a description of a show from an unnamed writer. It appeared in the  Plattsburgh, N.Y. Daily Press in 1937, long after the Hibernicon shows died out. The writer reminisces about his experience with Hibernicon shows of the past. (from WhitmerPipes.com)


'The panorama itself used to be set up on the stage a short distance from the back drop (that is, near the back wall of the stage).

The panoramas consisted of a series of paintings about five by eight feet. They were attached to two upright spools and the operator usually was a boy who sat out of sight beside one spool and wound it up as the other spool unwound. There was a curtain in front with an opening just large enough to make a frame for the picture.

Among the most popular of these panoramas were those with a special appeal to the Irish people of whom there were many immigrants in those days. In connection with the showing of the panorama and its accompanying lecture, a number of specialty performers took part. The lecturer usually played the part of the head of a small party of tourists taking in the beauties of the Emerald Isle. There would be an Irish comedian active as a guide who would break into a song or a dance at the slighest provocation.'

Hibernicon Companies

There were many Hibernicon companies during the period between the Civil War and WWI.   My focus here is more on the moving panorama and giving us an idea of what these scrolls might have looked like.  To that end, I am sharing bits and pieces of information from these four companies/shows:

  • McGill's Mirror of Ireland
  • Harrigan's Double Hibernicon Company
  • MacIvoy's Orginal Hibernicon and
  • John Fuller's Myriorama Through Ireland

McGill's Mirror of Ireland

The image is taken from the research of Margaret Granshaw. It is a postcard/souvenir of the Cove of Cork. These souveniers were given to ladies at a Hibernicon performance.

Harrigan's Double Hibernicon Company with Patrick (Patsy) Touhey

Patrick (Patsy) and Mary Touhey.

Patrick (Patsy) Touhey (1865-1923) was one of the greatest Uilleann pipers of that time. He immigrated from Ireland to the US and in his late teens/early 20s, he played pipes in Harrigan's Double Hibernicon show. 78 recordings of his playing exist and coincidentally, my husband (Richard Twomey) collects Patsy Touhey 78s! Imagine my surprise when I learned he played in moving panorama shows!

Here's a newspaper review of one of the shows:

'Harrigan's Hibernian Panorama and Specialy show entertained a fair-sized audience last evening. The panorama of Irish scenery, with views of cities, castles, and places of historic interest, were much appreciated. Beside these views, the "two Barneys," Messers Jerry and Time Cohan, gave a unique exhibition of Irish character. The Irish bagpipers, Pat. Toohey and John Eagan, formed an excellent part of the show; it was probably the best music on the bagpipes ever heard here. There was lively dancing, of the Irish jig sort.'

Reading, PA, Daily Times and Dispatch, Jan. 23, 1886

For more information about Patsy Touhey and Harrigan's. Double Hibernicon, visit the WhitmerPipes.com

Here's my tribute to Patsy Touhey! Machine cut and hand cut Tyvek images and torn tissue paper glued to a white Tyvek scroll. Thank you to Richard Twomey for use of the 78 recording and Michael Twomey for filming. Nov. 2017.
Harrigan's Hibernian Tourists' Songster published in 1885. Photo from the New York Public Library.

MacEvoy's Original Hibernicon - 1870

This gorgeous broadside survives from another Hibernicon show.

Charleston, SC  Hibernian Hall  March 21-26?, 1870  "MacEvoy's Great Pictorial, Musical, and National Entertainment, "The Hibernicon! "Representing a Tour in Ireland... "The Great Jerry Cohan as Barney the Guide.   "Marie D. MacEvoy as Norah.  "Miss Kate Halpine as Mrs. O'Callahan and the Wodow.
"Charles MacEvoy, Musical Director and Lecturer.

Image from the Library of Congress

John Fuller's Myriorama Through Ireland