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Founding Families Of Pittsburgh

Founding Families Of Pittsburgh: The Evolution Of A Regional Elite 1760-1910

Joseph F. Rishel
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 260
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  • Book Info
    Founding Families Of Pittsburgh
    Book Description:

    As Pittsburgh and its surrounding area grew into an important commercial and industrial center, a group of families emerged who were distinguished by their wealth and social position. Joseph Rishel studies twenty of these families to determine the degree to which they formed a coherent upper class and the extent to which they were able to maintain their status over time. His analysis shows that Pittsburgh's elite upper class succeeded in creating the institutions needed to sustain a local aristocracy and possessed the ability to adapt its accumulated advantages to social and economic changes.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7278-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. I The Historical Framework
    (pp. 3-13)

    This is a study of individuals and of families. It is a collective biographical, or prosopographical, analysis of twenty of the ʺfounding familiesʺ of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. It traces the evolution of these families from their founders through successive generations, beginning in the late revolutionary period and ending in the early twentieth century. The purpose of the study is to describe the internal composition of this group of families to determine the degree to which they formed a clearly defined, coherent upper class, and the extent to which they were able to maintain their status over time. The...

  2. II Discovering the Founding Families
    (pp. 14-21)

    Any quantitative study of an elite is dependent upon reliable sources for determining who actually belongs to that group.¹ Identifying these individuals in a preindustrial society without an aristocracy presents special problems not confronted by those studying elites in a later period with more formalized systems of identification. Still, there are a variety of sources available, albeit limited in number: lists that reveal occupation, such as tax rolls and city directories; records of governmental officeholders; and records of directors of charitable or civic organizations, business associations, or other groups that the researcher has identified as truly elite in makeup. These...

  3. III The Family Founders
    (pp. 22-45)

    Allegheny county is a portion of a great uneven plateau that slopes westward about one hundred fifty miles from the Appalachian Mountains. The Appalachians, seven hundred miles in length, almost one hundred miles wide, and frequently exceeding three thousand feet in height, presented a formidable barrier in preindustrial times. Chestnut Ridge, the westernmost of the ridges, is only thirty-four miles from Pittsburgh, the county seat. In addition to significantly retarding migration, transportation, and communication, these mountains ʺprevented an easy exchange of ideas between the people of the East and those to the west of the mountains.ʺ¹ Perhaps of even greater...

  4. IV The Founding Families in 1820
    (pp. 46-70)

    In 1820, Allegheny County was still far from the importance it was destined to attain in the state and the nation. While the U.S. population for that year was reported at 9,638,453, with 1,049,458 in Pennsylvania, the population of Allegheny County was only 34,921, just 0.3 percent of the nation. However, both the county and Pittsburgh were growing at a rate far outstripping that of the United States and Pennsylvania. In 1820 the population of Pittsburgh was 7,248, a 52 percent increase from the previous decade.¹ But this high growth rate was not extraordinary for western cities at this time....

  5. V Occupation
    (pp. 71-118)

    A fundamental consideration in tracing succeeding generations from the family founders is the nature and extent of vertical occupational mobility and its changing patterns in the nineteenth century. Although social mobility is not always a direct function of occupational mobility, it is nonetheless recognized that occupation is and has been associated with income, education, and community reputation, all of which tend to relate to one another and to identify with position within the social structure. Since it has been established that initially all the founding family members were within the upper class, though not necessarily at the very top, most...

  6. VI Geographic Mobility
    (pp. 119-140)

    Among all the features of daily living which individuals hold important, the place of residence ranks high. This is especially true in urban societies, where population density results in a greater frequency of social interaction than is possible in a rural setting. In an urban context, place of residence often reflects socioeconomic status. In a society as culturally diverse as the United States, urbanites have historically divided themselves into neighborhoods along ethnic, social, and economic lines. Oneʹs residence and the neighborhood in which it is located are frequently indicators of oneʹs level of success. The neighborhood in turn influences social...

  7. VII The Family
    (pp. 141-165)

    An individualʹs closest and strongest social ties are normally within the family. Unlike other personal associations that one may develop through clubs, churches, social organizations, and neighborhoods, family relationships do not affect just a single aspect of oneʹs life—they affect every aspect. Associations outside the family require less individual commitment; therefore the functioning of these institutions depends upon group consensus rather than upon individual control. Typically a single family cannot regulate the entrance of outsiders into such institutions, but they have considerable control over who marries into the family. In thus preserving its own social position and likeness of...

  8. VIII Social Institutions
    (pp. 166-183)

    ʺHowever much details may differ, stratification is found in all American communities, and religion is always one of its salient features.ʺ¹ So wrote Liston Pope of the Yale Divinity School. Not only do the details of stratification differ, but the social status of religious denominations varies widely from place to place and over time. In the late eighteenth century, the Anglican church made such significant inroads among the upper classes of Quaker Philadelphia and Congregationalist New England, that it was well on its way to becoming the dominant church of the upper classes on the eastern seaboard even though these...

  9. IX Conclusion
    (pp. 184-196)

    This study of a sample of Allegheny Countyʹs earliest elite families and their descendants throughout the nineteenth century traces the degree to which they formed a cohesive upper class. The founders of these families were not the extremely wealthy merchants of eastern cities, nor were they the incredibly rich iron and steel elite of the late nineteenth century for which Pittsburgh became famous. Unlike their eastern contemporaries or their industrial successors, the estates they amassed were not sufficiently large to maintain succeeding generations. These founders started out as a pioneering elite in a western community separated by the mountains from...

  10. APPENDIX The Founding Families
    (pp. 199-208)
    (pp. 229-230)