Each April, Scottish-American Heritage Month highlights Scottish heritage and remembers the Scottish-Americans who have had an impact on U.S. society. With an impressive list of contributions to American culture, Scottish-Americans have a lot to celebrate.
Did you know some of the most famous Americans — including Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Uncle Sam himself — have Scottish heritage? As early immigrants to the American colonies, the Scottish have made an indelible mark on American culture as inventors, artists, politicians, and more. What better reason to raise a glass of scotch? Slàinte!
History of Scottish-American Heritage Month
Scotland: the home of golf, peaty whiskey, and bagpipe music. As one of the oldest immigrant groups to the Americas, the Scottish have played an important role in American development since the beginning.
The first known Scottish immigrant, Robert Sproat, sailed to America on the Mayflower in 1620. Scots started coming to the United States in significant numbers in the late 1700s, when political upheavals and social changes at home displaced many Scots and sent them searching for a better home. Presbyterian Scots sought religious freedom in the colonies, and families who lost their land when the clan system collapsed hoped to start over somewhere new.
Since the cost of the voyage was high, many emigrants became indentured servants to gain passage to America and pay off their debt there. They signed contracts lasting five to seven years, after which they could pursue their own interests.
Scottish immigration accelerated after the 1717 Transportation Act established service in the colonies as a punishment for criminals, who were sent to spend 7 to 14 years in America in lieu of imprisonment or execution at home.
Lured by promises of money, land, and freedom, many Scots joined the American revolutionary army to fight against the British. This so alarmed the British that they outlawed emigration to North America during the Revolution. After the U.S. won its independence, Scottish immigrants continued to make up a significant portion of immigration in North America.
Scottish immigrants and their descendants have made some vital contributions to American society and culture. Today, about 8% of Americans claim Scottish heritage, including celebrities like Hillary Clinton, Jennifer Aniston, and Barack Obama.
Scottish-American Heritage Month timeline
- March 7, 1876
First Telephone Patent
Scottish-born Alexander Graham Bell invents and patents the first telephone. Bell went on to contribute a number of other important inventions.
Scots in the Revolution
Scottish-Americans Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, James Monroe, and others sign the Declaration of Independence, kicking off the American Revolution.
The Transportation Act called for the transportation of Scottish criminals and Jacobite rebels to America as punishment.
- Late 1600s
First Scottish Immigrants
Scots began emigrating to America in significant numbers to escape religious persecution and economic hardship.
Scottish-American Heritage Month FAQs
What are the heritage months?
A few other heritage months include Black History Month in February, Women’s Heritage Month in March, Asian and Pacific American heritage Month in May.
Is there a German Heritage Month?
German-American Heritage Month is celebrated every year during the month of October.
What heritage month is February?
Every year in February, we celebrate Black History Month. During this time, we reacquaint ourselves with the racial incidents of the not so distant past and work to create a better future.
How to Observe Scottish-American Heritage Month
Attend an event
Many cities hold Scottish-American Heritage parades or other events. Find one in your area to enjoy the food, music, and culture of Scotland.
Try some Scottish foods
From haggis to shortbread, Scotland offers something delicious and interesting for everyone.
Wear your Scottish pride
Do you know your family’s tartan? Even if you don’t, you can honor your heritage by wearing a kilt or a tartan pattern of your choice today.
5 Fascinating Facts About Scottish-American Heritage Month
Uncle Sam is Scottish
Samuel Wilson, a New York businessman born to Scottish immigrant parents, supplied meat to the U.S. Army during the War of 1812.
Scottish-Americans wrote some of our most iconic American stories, including The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and The Raven.
Scottish Founding Fathers
Several of the Founding Fathers and over 75% of all U.S. presidents claim Scottish ancestry.
Born to be wild
The Davidson brothers of Harley-Davidson Motorcycles fame are the sons of Scottish immigrants.
To the moon and back
Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, the first two men to walk on the moon, both claim Scottish heritage.
Why Scottish-American Heritage Month is Important
America is a nation of immigrants
Every immigrant group has had their own unique struggles and triumphs in their American journey. Scottish-American History Month honors that history for those descended from the Scots.
It honors the contributions of Scottish-Americans
Scottish-Americans have contributed to all fields and remain some of the country’s most successful leaders.
It lets us engage with our ancestry or experience a new culture
Whether or not you have Scottish ancestry yourself, this is a great time to learn about Scotland, interesting Scottish-Americans, and Scottish culture.
Scottish-American Heritage Month dates