Mr. Dooley

Mr. Dooley (or Martin J. Dooley) is a fictional Irish immigrant bartender created by American journalist and humorist Finley Peter Dunne. Dooley was the subject of many Dunne columns between 1893 and 1915, and again in 1924 and 1926. Dunne's essays contain the bartender's commentary on various topics (often national or international affairs). They became extremely popular during the 1898 Spanish–American War and remained so afterwards; they are collected in several books. The essays are in the form of conversations in Irish dialect between Mr. Dooley, who in the columns owns a tavern in the Bridgeport area of Chicago, and one of the fictional bar's patrons (in later years, usually Malachi Hennessy) with most of the column a monologue by Dooley. The pieces are not widely remembered, but originated lasting sayings such as "the Supreme Court follows the election returns".

Mr. Dooley
Dooley (right) and Hennessy, by E. W. Kemble (1900)
First appearance
  • "Bridgeport Gossip Shared with John McKenna"
  • October 7, 1893
Last appearance
  • "On the Farmer's Woes"
  • July 3, 1926
Created byFinley Peter Dunne

Mr. Dooley was invented by Dunne to replace a similar character whose real-life analogue had objected. By having the garrulous bartender speak in dialect and live in an unfashionable area of Chicago, Dunne gained a freedom of expression he often did not have in standard English. The first four years of the weekly column made Mr. Dooley popular in Chicago, but little noticed elsewhere. Dunne was a rapidly rising newspaperman, and the pieces mainly appeared in the Chicago paper which he worked for. During that time, Dunne detailed the daily life of Bridgeport through Dooley's lips, painting a portrait of ethnic urban life unparalleled in 19th-century American literature.

Dunne's bartender came to wider attention with the wartime columns, and the Dooley pieces were soon in newspapers nationwide. Both the columns and the books collecting them gained national acclaim. Beginning around 1905, Dunne had increasing trouble finding time and inspiration for new columns, and they ended in 1915, except for a brief resurrection in the mid-1920s. Even in Dunne's own time (he died in 1936), his work was becoming obscure in part due to his use of dialect, and the unusual spellings that it required have proved a lasting barrier for potential readers.