Joseph Francis Xavier Armagh and his two younger siblings Sean and Mary escape a ship on the harbor of New York. The situation ashore is problematic, jobs are scarce and food equally scarce. Aboard the ship their mother has died from disease, but they have a hope; their father is in Philadelphia awaiting them. The siblings run away, and discovers their father to be dead to, and young teenager Joseph places his siblings in an Orphanage while he himself goes to make money, become rich and get them out of poverty. The first episode follows Joseph for a few years through a series of struggles, and how he starts earning his first dollars and setting off into speculation in oil, together with his new-won friend, the Lebanese Haroun Al-Zieff (later: Harry Seff). The beginnings of a true rags-to-riches-story.
A few years of successful gun running and Joseph Armagh becomes a partner in the oil company of Ed Healey.
Joseph Armagh rejects the love of Elizabeth Healey, learns of the dying Katherine Hennessey's unrequited love, promising to wed her daughter Bernadette before Katherine's jealous husband goes too far in a salacious attack on Joseph.
Tensions escalate between the labor unions and the railroad, as Joseph Armagh fathers four children with Bernadette even as he seeks to avenge himself on her father for depriving him of the two great loves of his life.
Joseph Armagh's attempted blackmail of an upstanding senator results in suicide and a lasting curse.
Rory Armagh romances Marjorie Chisholm while his sister Anne-Marie's relationship with Courtney Wickersham crashes and burns through no fault of their own.
While his son Rory searches for brother Kevin with Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders in the jungles of Cuba, Joseph Armagh quietly orchestrates the annulment of Rory's marriage to Marjorie Chisholm.
Rory Armagh seeks the Democratic nomination for President over Woodrow Wilson, while his father ponders a lifetime without love.