also known as: McKees Port, after its founder John McKee and later nicknamed, "Tube City"
40°20'38" N / 79°50'56" W
~ Introduction ~
( Click the arrow in the buttons below for pronunciation. )
is located in Allegheny County, in SW Pennsylvania (PA), is geographically about 12 miles SE of Pittsburgh,
PA, about 20 miles W of Greensburg, PA and about 37 miles N of Uniontown, PA. It is the second largest city (not including
townships, boroughs, and Home Rule Municipalities) in Allegheny county, after Pittsburgh.
McKeesport is one of few
cities in the United States with a direct connection to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans from the Monongahela to the Ohio, to
the Mississippi, to the Gulf of Mexico, to the Atlantic Ocean and to the Pacific Ocean, through the Panama Canal.
~ History ~
the confluence of the Monongahela and Youghiogheny rivers, is the City of McKeesport.
(Click the image below to view a larger image.)
Birds Eye View of McKeesport
Postcard: Photographer unknown
By the middle of the 18th century, settlers from the eastern seaboard began crossing the Appalachian Mountains to clear the wilderness of the Ohio Valley. Whether they travelled by way of the Forbes Road or the National Pike, they reached the Monongahela river where they continued their journey by flatboat or keelboat up river.
In 1753, Major George WASHINGTON met Queen ALIQUIPPA (pictured), a Seneca Indian ruler. Shortly thereafter, Major General Edward BRADDOCK and his troops, with his aid-de-camp George WASHINGTON, marched through what is now White Oak and McKeesport, to engage the French and drive them out of Western Pennsylvania.
John Fraser, a trapper, had a cabin in the area and is considered to be the first settler.
In 1755, David McKEE, a North of Ireland immigrant, arrived with his wife Margaret, five sons (Robert, James, Thomas, David and John) and two daughters (Margaret and Mary).
McKEE built a log cabin in the swampy wilderness near the confluence of the Monongahela and Youghiogheny Rivers, cleared the land for farming and cabins and in 1769, he applied for and received a charter to operate a skiff ferry, "McKees Ferry," providing transportation services across the Youghiogheny and Monongahela rivers—a service that contributed to the developement of the Northwest Territory.
A survey was made 30 November 1782 on order #1103 for 306 acres, 143 perches and allowances for David McKee, who died in 1795.
In 1795, John McKEE, his son, after taking over his father's river ferry business, received the patent for this land on a warrant dated 3 November 1795 and listed as "McKees Port". John devised a plan for a city by having laid out 200 lots which he offered for sale by lottery, costing $20.00 each and advertised in the Pittsburgh Gazette. It was laid out along the two rivers and bounded by Walnut and Rose streets. Travellers passing by on boats recorded seeing no more than a dozen houses here as late as 1820. After the Native Americans were subdued in Pontiac's War, the area saw increased growth.
By the end of 1795, the town name changed to "McKeesport." The town was situated in a important location, with access to the rivers, for transportation of raw materials and deposits in the immediate area, lumber for building and transportation for an influx of settlers.
When coal mining of large deposits of bituminous coal began in the region, McKees Port saw increased growth. The first schoolhouse (pictured) was built in 1832, with James E. Huey as its schoolmaster. Huey Street in McKeesport is named for him.
McKeesport was incorporated as a borough in 1842.
In 1850, W. DeWees WOOD purchased land on the northeast corner of Walnut and Water Streets and erected an Ironworks. Then in 1851, this ironworks became a rolling mill, which incorporated by the W. DeWees Wood company and produced sheet iron. This laid the groundwork that would make McKeesport and iron and steel center.
Joseph KANT, who arrived here around 1858, was, according to family traditions, the first Jew to live in McKeesport. Then, in 1866, Joseph HABER settled here, followed by Louis GERSHON and Mayer KANT. Then came the BACHMANS, the STARGARTERS, the SIMONS, Joseph ROTH, Joseph UNGER, the MEYERS and others. These early and isolated Jewish families acclimated easily, they learned to speak a correct English and before long, developed into prosperous merchants and public spirited citizens as well.
The Flagler company from Boston, Massachusetts, moved here in 1870 and renamed itself the National Tube Works.
Then, the National Tube Works, W. DeWees Wood Company, and the American Sheet Association merged to became the U.S. Seamless Tube Company in 1896.
McKeesport became a city in 1891 and a consolidation of 13 major tube and pipe producers created a National Tube Company in 1899, later a subsidiary of US steel in 1901. Afterwards, McKeesport became known as "Tube City" and attracted other companies in the 19th and 20th centuries such as the Carnegie (later US Steel), Kelsey Hayes, Firth Sterling, Continental Can and J. Fisher body. The products coming out of McKeesport helped the United States win two world wars and contributed to a heightened standard of living for its citizens. The National Tube Company once employed 10,000 men. In the years directly following the opening of the National Tube Company, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, McKeesport was the fastest growing municipality in the nation. In 1900, the population was 34,227.
Families arrived at Ellis Island (pictured) and after processing, continued on to McKeesport from Eastern Hungary, Carpatho-Ukraine (also known as Ruthenia, at the foot hills of the Carpathian mountains), Italy, Germany, Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Greece, with most of the Jewish immigrants working at the huge Westinghouse Electric plant which opened in East Pittsburgh, in 1895.
George WESTINGHOUSE kept his operation closed on Sundays, but he respected the Jewish religion and never penalized his Jewish workers for not working on their Sabbath or on their holidays. Some workers traveled to work by streetcar from McKeesport while others settled near the plant. At the National Tube Works in McKeesport, a large percentage of the Jewish employees were Hungarian, but also Galicians were among the workers. Perhaps 12% of the Jewish wage earners of the Pittsburgh area worked for industrial corporations by 1900, a much lower proportion than other immigrant groups.
By 1890, about 200 Jewish families lived in McKeesport.
Prominence in steel-making contributed significantly to the influx of European immigrants who heard from others or advertisements overseas, about job availability in McKeesport. They joined English and Scots Irish already living here, arriving from the tiny villages and shtetls—some only with the clothes they could carry—to join others from their families or from their villages to start the process of becoming an American. In addition, after the Civil War, many African Americans migrated north to McKeesport for job opportunities.
All of these groups brought a work ethic that contributed to the success of business and industry in Western Pennsylvania.
The oldest house of the town was on Second and Market Streets, of log construction, marked by masonry and was owned by Joseph GOLDBERG. It served for a time as meeting house for divine services for the pioneer Jews of the community. By 1907, two Jewish congregations were in existence, a Hungarian congregation and a Russian congregation, both flourishing, progressive and active.
In contrast to the slow pace of the town, there was soaring life along the river front at the taverns where kegs of rye whiskey and Old Monongahely were distilled, only a little ways up the Youghiogheny. It was here that the Whiskey Rebellion was actually hatched. The invention of the steamboat and later the railroad, guided the river traffic here.
By the middle of the 19th century rich deposits of coal were discovered in the Monongahela Valley, and the industrial expansion which preceded the Civil War, brought a planing mill, a foundry, the Wood steel mill to McKeesport. The growing demand for labor attracted the Irish and the Germans, who, during this era, came to the United States in large numbers increasing the population of the town.
In 1906, the first G. C. MURPHY five-and-ten-cent store (pictured) was built at Fifth Avenue and Sheridan Street. To get around his contract with WOOLWORTH, G. C. MURPHY sold higher-priced items than five and ten cents. The building eventually became part of the home office complex and foundation of the modern G.C. Murphy Co. In 1909, G.C. MURPHY died and he is buried in the McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery.
By 1910, the city's population rose to 42,694. McKeesport contributed significantly toward the victory in World Wars I and II. In WWI, Jacob GREENFIELD was amongst the first group to volunteer in the U.S. Army's local division, 6 September 1917, and he was Killed in Action. The McKeesport Jewish War Veterans Post 181 was named after him.
In 1920, the city's population was 45,975 and had about 500 Jewish families living here.
In the 1930s, the Jewish population of McKeesport was about 5,000, second in the region only to Pittsburgh, and with four synagogues.
By 1940, the McKeesport's population reached a peak of 55,355.
The city continued to grow well into the 1950s, but two conditions led to the city's decline:
- In the mid-19th century, shopping malls became very popular taking business away from downtown shopping district and forcing the closing of local stores; and
- The collapse of big steel in 1980s, National Tube along with other U.S. Steel plants in the Mon Valley, led to a lack of jobs and an economic downturn, causing the further demise of many small businesses.
Avenue no longer bustled with activity and the Bessimer blast furnaces no longer lit up the night sky in McKeesport.
In 1947, thirteen years before beginning their famous televised presidential debates, John F. KENNEDY and Richard M. NIXON (pictured) faced off in McKeesport to argue labor-reform legislation. "It was a prelude to history. It's really a cool story," said David STOKES, a West Virginia pastor and history buff who has written about their 1947 debate. "They were two young men with plenty of ambition and a lot in common."
In 2000, the city census showed 24,000 inhabitants. Most of the vacant mill structures were torn down and for the first time in decades, the rivers were accessible to the general public.
Today, manufacturing in McKeesport now includes electrical equipment, solvents, metal fabrication, coal tar products, and meat processing and several technology firms are located in the former mill sites. McKeesport has embarked upon a urban renewal program, demolishing abandoned housing and building new recreational facilities, repairing streets and is overall working hard to improve the face of the city.
Popular tourist attractions in and around McKeesport include the first schoolhouse, the City's 258-acre Renziehausen Park
Rose Garden and Arboretum, City of McKeesport's Heritage Center, Little Theater, Symphony, Palisades Performing Arts Center,
McKees Point Marina, Carnegie Library, Daily Newspaper, local hospital and skilled-nursing care facilities, to name a few.
Through revitalization impacting business investments, development opportunities and economic growth, the city's local
government officials are encouraging new companies and industries with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities in manufacturing,
commercial sales and distribution and entrepreneurial joint ventures. Land developments are available to new businesses in
a city where "community" is the number one priority for a prosperous future for all.
Today, few Jewish families live
within the city limits of McKeesport today, having moved over time to the suburbs, e.g., White Oak.
(Click the images below to view a larger image.)
Bob CARROLL, Jr., (b. McKeesport, 12 August 1918) was a television writer notable for his creative role in the series I Love Lucy, the first four seasons of which he wrote with his professional partner Madelyn PUGH. The two created a partnership that lasted more than 50 years and together wrote approximately 400 television episodes and 500 radio episodes. Though they briefly dated, they married other people.
While writing for Steve ALLEN's early local radio program on CBS Radio station KNX in Los Angeles, the duo became interested in writing for Lucille BALL's new radio series "My Favorite Husband," and ultimately wrote for a 2.5 year duration. They also helped develop and create a vaudeville act for Lucille Ball and her husband, Desi ARNAZ, the basis for the pilot episode of the "I Love Lucy" series - writing for 39 episodes per season for the run of the show. Pugh and Carroll were nominated for three Emmys for their work on it.
Swintayla Marie CASH, (b. McKeesport, 22 September 1979), better known as Swin CASH, is a WNBA player who plays for the Seattle Storm. Cash attended McKeesport Area High School and is best known for her basketball skills, which earned her a place on the national WBCA All-American. She participated in the WBCA High School All-America Game where she scored fourteen points, and earned MVP honors. A prolific scorer, rebounder, capable ball handler and defender, she helped lead the University of Connecticut women's basketball team to national titles in 2000 and 2002, winning the NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Championship with the UConn Huskies. She also helped lead UConn to an undefeated 39-0 season in 2002. Swin was a member of the inaugural class (2006) of inductees to the University of Connecticut women's basketball "Huskies of Honor" recognition program. In her second WNBA season, she led the Detroit Shock to their first ever WNBA title. Washington and Jefferson College awarded Cash with an honorary degree in Doctorate of Public Service at their commencement ceremonies in May 2012 to honor her charity work. Cash is the founder of the Pennsylvania based Cash for Kids charitable organization. On 29 December 2006, the city of McKeesport unveiled a monument to women's basketball star Swin Cash and to Rick Krivda, the two Olympic athletes from McKeesport.
Marc CONNELLY (b. McKeesport, 13 December 1890), was a playwright, director, producer, performer and lyricist. He was a key member of the Algonquin Round Table and received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1930.
Connelly contributed to several Broadway musicals then teaming up with his most important collaborator, George S. KAUFMAN, in 1921. During a four-year partnership, they wrote five comedies—Dulcy (1921), "To the Ladies" (1922), "Merton of the Movies" (1922), "The Deep Tangled Wildwood" (1923) and "Beggar on Horseback" (1924)—and co-directed and contributed sketches to the 1922 revue "The '49ers," collaborated on the book to the musical comedy "Helen of Troy," New York (1923), and wrote both the book and lyrics for another musical comedy, "Be Yourself" (1924). Connelly received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for "The Green Pastures."
John HOERR (b. McKeesport, 1930-2015), is a novelist and a former labor journalist who has published three nonfiction books about labor, industry and politics.
He began a journalistic career in 1956 with United Press International in Newark, New Jersey and Trenton. Later he worked at The Daily Tribune in Royal Oak, Michigan, rejoined UPI for two years in Chicago, and served separate stints with Business Week, in Detroit and Pittsburgh, specializing as a labor reporter on the automobile, steel, and coal-mining industries. After five years as an on-air reporter and documentary producer at WQED, the PBS station in Pittsburgh, he returned to Business Week in 1975 as labor editor and later senior writer on the New York staff.
Since 1991, he has been a free-lance writer of nonfiction and fiction.
Byron JANIS (b. McKeesport, 24 March 1928), is a classical
pianist. He was born Byron YANKS, a shortened form of YANKILEVICH, to Russian-Polish Jewish parents and had his first piano lesson at age four with Abraham LITOW, who had studied at the prestigious Music Conservatory in Leningrad. Janis studied with Litow until he was seven when he was taken to New York to study with Adele MARCUS. Later, he studied at the Juilliard School with Josef and Rosina LHÉVINNE, and received musical influences from RACHMANINOFF and Alfred CORTOT. At ten, Janis lost sensation in a finger due to an accident, but it didn't prevent his debut under Frank BLACK playing Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 in New York. At 16, Vladimir HOROWITZ heard his performance of the same concerto with the Pittsburgh Symphony and invited Janis to work with him. Janis studied with HOROWITZ for four years and remained a close friend and one of only three students ever acknowledged by HOROWITZ—the other two being Gary GRAFFMAN and Ronald
David KALSTONE, (b. McKeesport, ____ 1933) was a writer and literary critic.
He was the recipient of a Fulbright scholarship and studied at the University of Cambridge. He taught at Harvard University starting in 1959 and was a professor of English at Rutgers University from 1967 until his death.
He lectured on and wrote about 20th century poets including Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell.
His friends included the poet James Merrill and the writer Edmund White, who is said to have portrayed Kalstone as the character Joshua in the novel "The Farewell Symphony."
Rick KRIVDA, (b. McKeesport, 19 January 1970) pitched 12 years in professional baseball and won a gold medal in the 2000 Olympics. He graduated from McKeesport High School in 1988 and then went on to California University of Pennsylvania. After college, he was picked in the 23rd round of the 1991 amateur draft by the Baltimore Orioles. He also played baseball with the Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds and Kansas City Royals.
On 29 December 2006, the city of McKeesport unveiled a monument to Krivda and to women's basketball star Swin Cash, the two Olympic athletes from McKeesport.
Henrietta LEAVER, (b. 28 March 1916) was living in McKeesport during the depression and was forced to drop out of high school in 1934 to help her family. She found work in a five and dime store. She was encouraged by her grandmother to enter the "Miss Pittsburgh" contest. She won. This instant celebrity brought the attention of famed Pittsburgh sculptor, Frank Vittor who sculpted the heads of three United States Presidents, to extend an invitation to Henrietta to pose for him. She accepted, and was soon off to Atlantic City to compete for Miss America, with her grandmother. Never appearing in public before, but when it was announced that the girls were supposed to display their talents before the audience, Henrietta said, "I would take a chance, so I sang and danced." Henrietta was selected "Miss America for 1935." On the West Coast, she won another crown, "Miss Model America of 1936," a contest for models representing department stores around the country, then received a screen contract and was cast in the musical motion picture "Star Struck."
Aline MACMAHON, (b. McKeesport, 3 May 1899) was born Aline Laveen MACMAHON, of Irish/Jewish ancestry, to William Marcus and Jennie (née SIMON) MACMAHON.
Aline MACMAHON was educated in New York and graduated from Barnard College in 1920. She began appearing on Broadway in 1921. Her first film role was in 1931 in Five Star Final and she alternated between Broadway and Hollywood throughout her career, until her retirement in the mid-1770s. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Dragon Seed (1944). Aline was married to Clarence STEIN, an architect and city planner, who founded the Regional Planning Association in 1928. He died in 1975. They had no children. Aline died in 1991, aged 92, only seven years after the death of her own mother.
Robert M. MCBRIDE, (b. McKeesport, 24 August 1879) was the publisher of James Branch Cabell and the later books of Frank Buck. McBride started in publishing at Country Life in America. He founded Yachting magazine in 1907 and took over House and Garden in 1908, Travel magazine in 1910 and Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in 1914. He was a partner of Condé Montrose Nast in McBride, Nast & Co. After McBride and Nast separated, they remained on good terms, and McBride attended the wedding of Nast's son, Charles Coudert Nast, in 1928. McBride began book publishing 1912 and founded a London publishing house in 1915. Among the books he published were the later works of Frank Buck, including Buck's autobiography, "All In A Lifetime." McBride also published a series of travel books which he himself had written, some under the pen name Robert Medill. His name appeared frequently in the society columns of the New York Times during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. He was a member of The Players Club and the Dutch Treat Club.
John Edward MCLAUGHLIN, (b. McKeesport, 15 June 1942) is the former Deputy Director and Acting Director of Central Intelligence. Also, an accomplished magician and lectured at the 2006 International Brotherhood of Magicians Convention in Florida. His CIA career began in 1972 focusing on European, Russian, and Eurasian issues. In 1984-1985, he served a tour at the State Department in the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs, responsible for following European relations with the Middle East, Central America and Africa; served as Deputy Director and Director of the Office of European Analysis from 1985-1989 and Director of Slavic and Eurasian Analysis from 1989-1995; Deputy Director for Intelligence, Vice Chairman for Estimates of the National Intelligence Council, and Acting Chairman of the National Intelligence Council from 1995-1997; and Deputy Director for Intelligence from 1997-2000, heading up the Agency's analytical corps. President Clinton designated McLaughlin Acting Deputy Director of CIA, unanimously confirmed and swore in on 19 October 2000.
Pvt. Franklin J. PHILLIPS, (b. McKeesport, 20 October 1874), also known as Harry FISHER, served as a soldier in the United States Marine Corps as a Private.
Private Phillips posthumously received the Medal of Honor for actions during the Boxer Rebellion and was the first Marine whose Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously.
Private Phillips is interred in Versailles Cemetery, McKeesport.
Helen RICHEY, (b. McKeesport, ____ 1909), was a pioneering female aviator and the first woman to be hired as a pilot by a commercial airline in the United States. Also, she was the first woman sworn in to pilot air mail and one of the first female flight instructors. She learned how to fly a plane at age 20 and he father bought her a plane when she obtained her pilot's license. In 1932, Richey partnered with Frances MARSALIS to set an endurance record, staying airborne for nearly 10 days, with midair refueling. In 1934, she won the premier air race at the first National Air Meet for women in Dayton, Pennsylvania. Central Airlines, eventually became part of United Airlines, hired Richey as a pilot, but she eventually was forced to step down from the cockpit by the all-male pilots union. After leaving Central Airlines, Richey continued to perform at air shows and in 1936, she teamed with Amelia EARHART in the Bendix Trophy Race—they came in fifth, beating some all-male teams. Later, Richey flew with the British Air Transportation Authority during World War II.
Nathan SCHULHOF, (b. McKeesport, 17 May 1949) is known as "Father of the MP3 Player Industry." As an extraordinary inventor, Nathan patented and introduced the first MP3 player, the the Audio Highway player. Sony Corporation eventually purchased his patents which lead to the first mainstream MP3 player, the Sony Walkman TPS-L2. This was only the beginning of this visionary achievements in changing the world.
He took three companies public creating the first media catalog website, bundling software in magazines and continuing to bring emerging technologies to the marketplace, for example in the solar industry and he helped to fund and introduce a Monterey headquartered bio bank, an immunology storage facility for white blood cells. He's made the world a better place for human beings through technology.
Brandon SHORT, (b. McKeesport, 11 July 1977) is a former professional football linebacker in the National Football League. He was an All-American at Penn State University and played in Super Bowl XXXV. Short was named Associated Press Pennsylvania Big School Player-of-the-Year as a senior at McKeesport Area High School in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, lettering four times in both football and basketball. He was a four-year starter at Penn State and two time captain of the team. He was named defensive MVP of the 1998 Citrus Bowl and All-Big Ten as a senior and junior. Short earned his B.S. degree in marketing from PSU in 1999. The New York Giants picked him in the 2000 NFL Draft played 5 seasons for the New York Giants and two for the Carolina Panthers. In his rookie year saw action in 11 regular season games and appeared in all three of the Giants postseason contests, including Super Bowl XXXV. Short signed as a free agent with the Carolina Panthers in 2004 and appeared in all 32 games at strongside linebacker with Carolina in 2004 and 2005. He returned to the New York Giants in April 2006 signing as a free agent.
Sam SNEED (b. McKeesport, __ 1968), born Sam ANDERSON, is a producer and rapper who originally got his start working as a producer for K-Solo and the Hit Squad.
In 1993, he was signed to Death Row Records, releasing only one single, "U Better Recognize" featuring Dr. Dre, in 1994 and it appeared on the Murder Was the Case soundtrack and peaked at #16 Billboard sales chart, #18 on the Hot Rap Tracks chart and #48 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart. He became well known for a catchphrase, "My name is Sam Sneed, you better recognize!" which originally appeared on the Snoop Dogg debut album, "Doggystyle." He also appeared in the Death Row movie, Murder Was the Case. He also co-produced the hit songs "Keep Their Heads Ringin'" and "Natural Born Killaz" with Dr. Dre. He recorded an album on Death Row Records with his group Street Scholars in 1996 which included J-Flexx, Sharief (now Killer Ben), Vance Buford & Drauma (now Stocks McGuire) which remains unreleased. In 2010, Death Row/WIDEawake announced the release date for Sam Sneed's album "Street Scholars."
Herbert SPIEGEL, (b. McKeesport, 29 June 1914) was a psychiatrist who popularized therapeutic hypnosis as a mainstream medical treatment for patients suffering from pain, anxiety and addictions. He also gained notoriety for his treatment of the woman known as Sybil, whose case became the subject of a book, 1976 television miniseries and 2007 television movie.
During World War II, Spiegel used hypnosis as a treatment for pain control while serving as a battalion surgeon with the First Infantry in North Africa. With the use of hypnosis, Spiegel was able to reduce the use of morphine in treating soldiers wounded in battle.
He later wrote, "I discovered that it was possible to use persuasion and suggestion to help the men return to previous levels of function" after sustaining severe combat stress.
Robert J. STEVENS, (b. McKeesport, 29 June 1914) is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Lockheed Martin. He is a summa cum laude graduate of Slippery Rock University from which he received the Distinguished Alumni Award. He earned a master's degree in engineering and management from the Polytechnic University of New York and with a Fairchild Fellowship, earned a master's degree in business administration from Columbia Business School in 1987. He is a graduate of the Department of Defense Systems Management College Program Management course and also served in the United States Marine Corps. He has been recognized by the National Management Association as Executive of the Year, by Government Computer News as the Industry Executive of the Year, by the Partnership for Public Service with the Private Sector Council Leadership Award and by the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation with the Globe and Anchor Award.
Tamara Renee TUNIE, (b. McKeesport, 14 March 1959) is an
Tamara is best known for her portrayal of attorney Jessica Griffin on the CBS soap opera As the World Turns and as medical examiner Melinda Warner on the NBC police drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
From 2000 to 2007 (and again briefly in 2009 & 2010), she appeared on both series simultaneously.
She is the daughter of James W. and Evelyn (née HAWKINS) TUNIE.