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Pittsburgh 1758-1890: The Industrial Gateway to the West

Signals, October 2008

A Postal History of the Pittsburgh Post Off

This exhibition, which appeared in September at a national philatelic show in Philadelphia, tells the story of the origin and development of the Pittsburgh Post Office, from its beginnings at Fort Pitt through the usages of the Bank Note issues of 1875- 1889. The show was put together by Dan Telep, Sewickley Valley Historical Society board member, and commemorates the founding of Pittsburgh on its 250th anniversary, November 25, 2008.

First shown in 1993, when it was awarded a gold medal, the collection has matured and developed into a more complete story that includes a stronger representation of the Revolutionary War period. In the exhibition are manuscripts, handstamps, adhesives, stamped envelopes and postal cards illustrating various rates, usages, routes and markings. A large portion of the items reflect a commercial advertising theme.

Included is the Free Frank seen below, which was docketed on October 9, 1779, addressed in another hand to the Commanding Officer at Fort Pitt and signed by the Commanding Officer of the Continental Army, G[eorge] Washington.

Also in the exhibition is this 3¢ stamped envelope, dated March 18, 1864, from Confederate prisoner of war Lieutenant Van J. Sellers, who was captured in Morgan’s Raid in Southern Ohio and taken to Pittsburgh and Allegheny City Penitentiary, where he would serve eight months.

ortions of the exhibition will be on display in Sewickley Valley Historical Society headquarters during Sweetwater Center for the Arts’ Holiday Mart. You can view the show between 11:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m., Thursday, December 4, and Saturday, December 6; and 11:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m. on Friday, December 5, Sewickley’s “Light Up Night.” During these hours, Mr. Telep will be available to explain more about the material


African Americans in Sewickley Valley

a presentation by Bettie Cole & Autumn Redcross

Held: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 7:00 p.m. (NOTE NEW TIME)

at the Old Sewickley Post Office

Sewickley Valley Historical Society, in conjunction with Sweetwater Center for the Arts, is proud to cap off MAVUNO XII, Sweetwater’s annual celebration of African American art and culture, with this illustrated lecture. Bettie Cole and Autumn Redcross’s new book, African Americans in Sewickley Valley, is part of Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series. The presentation will be followed by refreshments and a book signing.

The African Americans of Sewickley Valley have a history as rich and deep-rooted as the Valley itself. Early residents brought black servants with them to serve as domestics; many African Americans migrated here, primarily from Virginia and Kentucky, to work as builders. From Jim Robinson, brought to Sewickley Bottom as a servant by the Shields family in 1823, through the annual “Come on Home” reunions of recent years, African Americans in Sewickley Valley documents the life and ambitions of the African Americans who make up a vital part of the Sewickley community today.

Bettie Cole, noted local historian and author, has partnered with genealogist, lecturer and newcomer Autumn Redcross to compile and annotate this intriguing collection of historic photographs.


“The Bar Fly”

A recent addition to the SVHS archives are drafts of several issues of a home-grown publication that kept Sewickleyites serving in the military during World War II up on news from the home front: The Bar Fly. Published by Joseph D. Dury (back in Sewickley after having received a medical discharge from the U. S. Army) and edited by Betty Buffington (Berg), volume I, number l, dated October 6, 1943, was sent to about 25 of “the gang.” It began with the following disclaimer: “Any similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Comments do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the publishers. Do you know any gossip that’s printable? We’ll send it on and save you the trouble of writing letters to everyone. The more news we get, the oftener we can put this paper-waster out.”

What followed on the typewritten sheets was gossip, news from abroad and from various postings around the country, plus engagements and weddings, all related with acerbic wit. The rag proved to be so popular that the Junior League of Pittsburgh eventually took over its production and included news from the entire Pittsburgh area.

Issues of The Bar Fly were a gift to the Historical Society by Joe and Peggy Dury. If you want to walk down Memory Lane, come in and see what was going on sixty-five years ago in Sewickley. You might just be able read about yourself (or your parents or grandparents) in these humorous pages.


A New Book with Sewickley Connections

James Oliver Goldsborough, an award-winning journalist who has written on national and foreign affairs for four decades, has recently published a new book, Misfortunes of Wealth. A graduate of UCLA, he attended UC Berkeley Law School and later served in Special Services in the U. S. Army. He has reported for the New York Herald Tribune, International Herald Tribune, Toronto Star and Newsweek magazine. A former Edward R. Murrow Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, his previous book, Rebel Europe: Living with a Changing Continent, received high praise. He has been a reporter, editor and columnist for the San Francisco Examiner, Honolulu Advertiser, Arizona Republic, San Jose Mercury-News and San Diego Union Tribune and is a contributor to the New York Times Magazine, Fortune, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Readers’ Digest and Politique Étrangere. He currently writes for the on-line newspaper Voice of San Diego and resides in San Diego.

But there are definite Sewickley connections! Jim is the grandson of William J. and Amelia Oliver Crittenden, nephew of Dr. John Oliver Crittenden, and spent the summers of his youth at the Crittenden home in Edgeworth, “Sucasa.” His family tree is populated not only with Crittendens, but also with Shieldses, Olivers, Nevilles and Craigs. According to the “sell sheet” for the book,

Misfortunes of Wealth explores one of American society’s endlessly fascinating scenarios, the one where inherited wealth and family intersect, not always to the good. Best of all, the story is true. James Goldsborough takes the reader on a journey beginning with Revolutionalry War heroes down through succeeding generations of Civil War notables, industrial titans, an improbable love story ... and finally a son who not only survives but thrives.

The story is one of east and west, north and south; Western Pennsylvania, land of opportunity in the Republic’s early years and later a seat of eastern high society; Calilfornia immediately after World War II; dreams of railroads and then an airline to open up vast territories of Mexico; brother-against-brother in war; exotic adventures and improbable schemes; lives fulfilled and lives wasted. [The book] portrays the schizophrenia of people richocheting between vast opportunity and the inablility to make a life in the shadow of great wealth.

...These are not far-away characters in a fairy tale but real flesh-and blood human beings speaking through the generations.

Misfortunes of Wealth, published by The Local History Company, Pittsburgh, is a 308-page, hard cover book, 6” x 9”, with over 75 photos, maps and drawings. It is available for $27.95 plus tax from Sewickley Valley Historical Society; add $5.00 postage and handling for mail orders. Note: If you have a “$5 off” coupon for the book, it is redeemable at the Historical Society until October 31, 2008.

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