Guide to the Photographs of Pittsburgh Public Schools, 1880-1982

Digital Research Library, University Library System

Summary Information

Title
Guide to the Photographs of Pittsburgh Public Schools
Collector
Pittsburgh Public Schools
Collection Number
MSP#117
Date [inclusive]
1880-1982
Extent
19.0
Language of Materials
The material in this collection is in English.
Abstract
This collection features images which document events and activities of students, teachers, parents and board members of the Pittsburgh School District from 1880-1985.

Preferred Citation

Photographs of the Pittsburgh Public Schools

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Historical Sketch of the Pittsburgh Public Schools

The Pittsburgh Public Schools began operating as an official institution in 1835 after the passage of the "Common School" Law of 1834 by the Pennsylvania Legislature. The four wards of the city at that time became the school wards, West, South, East, and North. For the first fifteen years of its existence the Pittsburgh Public schools operated out of rented or loaned office space, churches or warehouses in the downtown area. An 1838 newspaper article reported 1420 students attended twelve different schools administered by 18 teachers. These schools consisted of five male, five female, one black(attended by both boys and girls) and one infant school. By 1850 each ward had constructed school buildings for the sole purpose of instruction.

In 1855 the commonwealth relinquished its supervisory role over public schools thus enabling the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education to assume control over the school system. A Central Board was created by the directors of each ward to oversee the administration of the schools, but, for the most part, each ward board had complete authority over the schools within its jurisdiction including the hiring of teachers and principals, construction of buildings, and the approval of curricula. This system permitted unscrupulous tactics for the collection and distribution of funds for the schools. Graft, patronage, spoils politics and corruption dictated school policy for the next fifty years. Stories of payoffs to illegal contractors, uneducated relatives of board members hired as teachers, and outright theft of school coffers for illicit activities flourished throughout the city, but little could be done to change this system.

Despite these practices the Pittsburgh Public Schools and its students did progress throughout the second half of the nineteenth century. The Central Board created the first High School in the city with the opening of the Central High School in September, 1855. One hundred fourteen students enrolled in three separate levels of instruction that fall. In 1859 three seniors attended ceremonies honoring the first graduating class of Central High.

With the appointment of George Luckey as Superintendent in 1868, the Schools acquired a long-term leader who worked to upgrade the conditions of the school system. He submitted the first annual report in 1869. Luckey served as superintendent until 1899. During his tenure the Pittsburgh Public Schools organized the Pittsburgh Teachers' Institute, began offering evening courses, opened the first kindergarten in Pittsburgh, received special service from the Carnegie Library, and offered special classes for the deaf.

The Pennsylvania Legislature enacted a new School Code in 1911 changing the structure and function of the Board of Education. Under this new organization all sixty one individual school districts were eliminated and a court appointed board of fifteen was established to oversee the administration of the school system. The restructured school district ended the corrupt practices of the ward boards and ensured a more efficient and productive system. Despite the evils of the previous system, many local groups criticized the new Board because of its central authority, these groups felt they were losing control of their own neighborhoods by the state instituting an appointed board. The change helped to elevate the Pittsburgh Public Schools to one of the top school districts in the country over the next several decades. Accolades from national organizations and government agencies recognized the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

The new board worked swiftly to advance the school district appropriating funds for the refurbishing, demolition and construction of several school buildings. At that time 12,000 students were attending school half-time because of lack of classrooms and teachers were carrying loads of over ninety students. The board formed the Building Department, which immediately began construction of five new elementary schools and two new high schools. From 1911 to 1920 annexation added more buildings desperately in need of repair. In the first thirty years of its existence, the board oversaw sixty five major building projects at a cost to the district of over 41 million dollars. But this building boom was necessary to make the education experience of sixty thousand pupils safe, secure and comfortable.

Other changes and improvements the new board adopted after its appointment were a uniform district wide system of record keeping and taxation, the establishment of a Department of Vocational Guidance, the abolishment of entrance examinations to high school which increased enrollment in the secondary schools 382% between 1914 and 1930, a normal school and retirement package for teachers, an evening school and continuation school for dropouts including Industrial and Trade Training programs, and took over the Open Air School at the Irene Kaufmann Settlement House.

Continuity in leadership also helped the Pittsburgh Schools to progress. While S. L. Heeter, the district's first superintendent, served only two years, Dr. William Mehard Davidson (1913-1930) and Dr. Benjamin G. Graham (1930-1942) combined to act as the school's top administrator until the middle of World War II. This long term commitment to service and a centralized board, many of whom served longer than both Davidson and Graham, enabled the board to correct many of the problems created by the previous sub-district system.

As the prosperity of the twenties gave way to the poverty of the Great Depression the Pittsburgh Public Schools adapted to the changing needs of the community and its children. Working in tandem with the Frick Educational Commission many schools became food distribution centers for needy families. In 1932 all teachers agreed to voluntarily give back ten percent of their salary to keep the schools open and functioning at normal schedule. Federal programs also worked with the district for the benefit of the community. The National Youth Administration hired students for non-academic maintenance and clerical positions in the schools. In addition, the Public Works Administration put construction crews to work building Schiller School and West Liberty School in 1939. Along with economic aid the school district also was concerned with the social welfare of its students replacing its ineffective Truant Officer with trained social workers called Home and School visitors. By 1940 the district mandated a Department of Special Education to provide extra instruction to mentally and physically disadvantaged youths.

The next two decades also saw the Pittsburgh Public Schools adjusting to the ebb and flow of local, national and international events. World War II brought civil defense training to the high schools and a decrease in enrollment as students and teachers joined in the service of their country. After the war the schools retooled their curriculum to train returning veterans who left without earning their diplomas. A more interdisciplinary approach to education became the standard reaction to a burgeoning global economy. Despite several budget crunches in the mid 1940s and early 1950s forced cutbacks and retrenchment of programs the board initiated a second building boom to keep pace with the city's own Renaissance.

The Post-war years also changed the racial matrix of the city of Pittsburgh affecting major policy of the school district into the 1980s. In 1945 the black student population in the schools was 18.8% by 1965 this figured doubled to 36.7%. The 1965 board annual report issued a statement of policy noting a need for, "All reasonable measures to integrate student population and staff." In 1967 the Columbus Middle School opened with much fanfare as the first attempt at desegregation in the school district. The magnet system of schools, as it was called, attempted to pull in students from different neighborhoods to one central location for a more consistent educational experience. Unfortunately the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) did not agree that the Columbus School changed segregation policy and ordered the Pittsburgh Public Schools to develop an official desegregation plan in February 1968. School and government leaders formed the Pittsburgh Council on Public Education (PCPE) to do just that. However, their first submissions were rejected by the PHRC creating a protracted battle between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg for the next fifteen years. Teacher strikes, frequent superintendent changes and calls for direct election of board members combined with the PHRC's ultimatums for integrated schools created tense situations for school administrators. In 1979 the PCPE instituted the "Pittsburgh Desegregation Plan" based on a similar magnet school concept of program oriented schools. The PHRC rejected the plan and held the district in contempt of court, but the board implemented the plan anyway and opened schools in September 1980 without incident.

Into the 1990s the Pittsburgh Public Schools continue to support its community just as it did when the central board was appointed in 1911. It still provides vocational training, adult education programs and free lunch programs to the disadvantaged. Despite the changes that have taken place throughout their history the Board of Education and School District of Pittsburgh have maintained their commitment to excellence in their service to the city of Pittsburgh.

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Scope and Content Notes

The images document events and activities of students, teachers, parents and board members of the District from 1880-1985. Many of these photographs display buildings that have been demolished as well as areas of Pittsburgh which have changed dramatically over the last seventy-five years. The four series arrangement represents the most logical order giving the fact that there was very little order to the photographs upon their accession.

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Arrangement

They are arranged in four series designated as Public Relations, Student Activities, Class Photos and Sports.

The Pittsburgh Public Schools Photographs are housed in 31 archival boxes, and oversized folders designated on shelf.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Digital Research Library, University Library System Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, Fall, 1999

Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center
1212 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
library@hswp.org

Revision Description

 Converted from EAD Version 1.0 to EAD Version 2002 July 1, 2006

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research.

Restrictions on Use

Property rights reside with the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permissions to reproduce or publish, please contact the curator of the Archives.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Stephen Doell in 1994.

Revision and rearrangement for the encoded version of the finding aid provided by Janet Begnoche on September 10,1999.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Department of Public Instruction -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh.
  • Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission
  • Pittsburgh Council on Public Education.

Personal Name(s)

  • Davidson, William Mehard, -- 1863-1930.
  • Dimmick, Earl.
  • Faison, Helen S.
  • Graham, Benjamin G., -- 1880-1942.
  • Gross, Calvin.
  • Heeter, S.L.
  • Kishkinas, Louis, -- 1927-
  • McCormick, Bernard, -- 1907-
  • Marland, Sidney Percy.
  • Olson, Jerry, -- 1931-
  • Wallace, Richard.

Subject(s)

  • Education -- Curricula -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh.
  • Educational law and legislation -- Federal aid -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh.
  • Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
  • Elementary schools -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh.
  • Elementary school buildings -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh.
  • High schools -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh.
  • High school buildings -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh.
  • Parents' and teachers' associations -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh.
  • Personnel management -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh.
  • School integration -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh.
  • School libraries -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh.
  • Student teaching -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh.
  • Vocational education -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh.

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Collection Inventory

Series I  Public Relations/Information Services  

Scope and Content Notes

The Public Relations Department (1930-1980) represents the largest group of photographs. It documents events, activities and functions sponsored by the school district including board and PTA meetings, classroom activities, educational programs, school building exteriors and interiors, and vocational classes. All of these photographs were taken for the purpose of publication in either in-house newsletters, local newspapers or national periodicals. Therefore, they convey the Pittsburgh Public Schools in the most positive settings as possible. The bulk of these photographs are dated from 1950 to 1970. The building photographs are a vital aspect of this collection because many of these structures have been razed so these images are the only documentation of their existence. The Personnel and Board of Education photos provide researchers with an accurate list of the many people who have worked for the district.

Arrangement

The Public Relations Department is arranged alphabetically by subject; the Personnel and Board of Education photos are arranged alphabetically by name.

  boxfolder
Adult Education  1949-1955 11
  folder
Advanced Placement-Aeronautics  1945-1960 2
  folder
Americanization  1917-1977 3
  folder
Annual Reports  1963-1965 4
Arts and Crafts 
  folder
 1934-1958 5
  folder
 1959-1965 6
  folder
 1970 7
  folder
Auditorium  1934-1955 8
  boxfolder
Automotive-Awards  1949-1967 21
  folder
Beechwood Teacher Center  1973 2
Board of Education 
Group Photographs 
  folder
 1911-1966 3
 1948 
  folder
 1967-1979 4
  folder
 1976-1979 5
Members-Individual 1940-1975 
  folder
Dedication Plaques  1925-1945 6
  folder
Aaron-Foster  1928-1940 7
  folder
Calloway-Davidson  1934-1970 8
  folder
Davis-Foster  1960 9
  boxfolder
Gerwig-Jones  1959-1966 31
  folder
Khorey-Lewis  1950-1972 2
  folder
McClain-Patrick  1960-1972 3
  folder
Penn-Scott  1959-1966 4
  folder
Sergi-Venson  1959 5
  folder
Vessley-Young  1955-1967 6
  boxfolder
Miscellaneous  1928-1970 41
Buildings 
  folder
Administration  1916-1938 2
  folder
Closed and/or Razed  1917-1962 3
  folder
Demountable  1962-1972 4
Elementary 
  folder
Arlington-Crescent  1959-1967 5
  folder
East-Carnegie-Frick  1930-1973 6
  folder
Grandview-King  1923-1973 7
  boxfolder
Letsche-Murray, Phillip  1956-1973 51
  folder
Northview-Roosevelt  1959-1964 2
  folder
Schiller-West Liberty  1929-1959 3
High Schools 
  folder
Allerdice-Greenway  1928-1975 4
  folder
Langley-Westinghouse  1924-1979 5
  folder
Liberty Regeneration Project  1966 6
  folder
Middle Schools  1966-1967 7
  folder
Pioneer School  1964-1975 8
  boxfolder
Suburban Districts  1966 61
Miscellaneous 
  folder
Interiors  1950-1961 2
  folder
Non-School related  1953-1966 3
  folder
Business and Industry Day  1955 4
  folder
CACREE-Career Planning  1935-1973 5
  folder
Commencement-Communication Skills  1949-1968 6
  folder
Community Intervention-Dance  1949-1976 7
  folder
Distinguished Graduates-Drafting  1953-1967 8
  boxfolder
Elementary and Secondary Education Act Conference  1966 71
Elementary Education 
  folder
Classroom Activites  1950-1971 2
  folder
Miscellaneous  1951-1978 3
  folder
Evacuations-Experiments  1951-1958 4
  folder
Extracurricular Activites  1942-1970 5
  boxfolder
Faculty-Food Management  1950-1973 81
  folder
First Aid-Frick Foundation  1951 2
  folder
Gardening-Guidance  1950-1951 3
  folder
Harvard Study-Health Services  1940-1965 4
  folder
High School Plan  1975 5
Home Economics 
  folder
 1950-1965 6
  folder
 1970 7
  folder
Horne's Welcome Week-Industry Fair  1950-1978 8
  boxfolder
Juvenile Detention School-Kindergarten  1935-1971 91
  folder
Kindergarten  1951-1960 2
  folder
Library  1934-1968 3
  folder
Math-Music  1958-1969 4
  folder
Music  1939-1973 5
  folder
Music 6-7
  boxfolder
Neighborhoods, Environment Study-Youth Corps  1965 101
  folder
Newspaper Project-Operation HELP!  1949-1981 2
  folder
Newspaper Photos  1934-1960 3
  folder
Occupational Vocational and Technical  1951-1977 4
Parent Teacher Association 
  folder
 1950-1960 5
  folder
 1961-1968 6
  folder
Personalities  1951-1968 7
Personnel  1940-1968 
  boxfolder
Arch-Evans 111
  folder
Fascetti-Gross 2
  folder
Haffner-Kisinick 3
  folder
Lamping-Outen 4
  folder
Palmer-Robinson 5
  folder
Sawyer-Tygard 6
  folder
Vasser-Young 7
  boxfolder
Miscellaneous group shots 121
Physical Education 
  folder
Elementary  1950-1973 2
High School 
  folder
Female  1950-1972 3
  folder
Male  1949-1976 4
  folder
Schaeffer School  1920 5
  folder
Miscellaneous  1934 6
  folder
Plant Operations-Preschool  1951-1973 7
  folder
Primary Activities  1944-1950 8
  boxfolder
Primary Education Project-Racial Equality  1967-1973 131
  folder
Radio and Television  1953-1965 2
  folder
Safety Program  1951-1968 3
  folder
Salary-Science Fairs  1951-1973 4
  folder
Science  1947-1977 5
  folder
School Days-Scholars  1953-1958 6
  folder
Schools, Collegiate Programs  1948-1966 7
Social Studies 
  boxfolder
 1948-1951 141
  folder
 1952-1953 2
  folder
 1958-1973 3
Special Education  1955-1977 
  folder
Arsenal Open Air-Conroy 4
  folder
Frick Hearing and Speech Center 5
  folder
Homebound Students-Industrial Home for Crippled Children 6
  folder
Larimer-Pioneer 7
  folder
Schenley-Leo Weil 8
  boxfolder
State Subsidy-Student Activities  1953-1969 151
  folder
Student Activites  1959 2
  folder
Student Council-Superintendents  1968-1975 3
  folder
Teachers  1914-1970 4
  folder
Team Teaching 1949-1968 5
Training Programs 1968-1969 
  boxfolder
Alderice-Arsenal 161
  folder
Carrick-Fifth Avenue 2
  folder
Heron Hill-Schenley 3
  folder
South Hill School-Westinghouse 4
  folder
Tutors  1967-1973 5
Vocational Studies 
  boxfolder
Alderice-Allegheny  1948-1951 171
  folder
Bellefield Girls Vocational  1950-1953 2
  folder
Carrick-Conneley  1951-1978 3
  folder
Conneley-Oliver  1949-1978 4
  folder
Schenley-South Hills  1950 5
South Vocational 
  folder
Females  1953 6
  folder
Males  1953-1978 7
  folder
Veterans  1950-1953 8
  folder
Washington  1965 9
  folder
Washington-Westinghouse  1951-1977 10
Miscellaneous 
  boxfolder
 1934 181
  folder
 1940-1970 2
  folder
War Activities  1940-1946 3
  folder
Work Opportunities  1950-1955 4
  folder
Workshops-Yummy Rolls  1953-1973 5
  folder
Miscellaneous 6
Miscellaneous School Functions 
  boxfolder
Alderdice-Burgwin  1948-1979 191
  folder
Carmalt-East Hills  1973-1976 2
  folder
Fairywood-Forbes  1976-1980 3
  folder
Fort Pitt-Hays  1951-1973 4
  folder
Herron Hill  1950-1976 5
  folder
Holmes-Linden  1975-1977 6
  folder
McNaugher-Peabody  1971-1979 7
  folder
Reizenstein-Roosevelt  1976 8
  folder
Rogers-Woolslair  1970-1976 9
  box
Allegheny High School Yearbook Proofs  1980 20
  box
Miscellaneous-Unidentified 21

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Series II  Students  (1895-1934) 

Scope and Content Notes

This series contains scenes of students and teachers in various activities. These photographs appear as a separate series because of their identification labels, which indicate that they were created and filed together. The building interior shots in this series add a unique dimension to the images in Series I. Significant pictures also include images of the agriculture program sponsored by the district showing students working in individual school gardens.

  boxfolder
Allegheny High School  1915-1928 221
  folder
Allegheny Vocational-Beechview  1914-1928 2
  folder
Beechwood-Brilliant  1915-1937 3
  folder
Brookline-Carmalt  1914-1937 4
  folder
Carrick-Chartiers  1915-1928 5
  folder
Central High-Concord  1914-1925 6
  boxfolder
Connelley-Duquesne  1915-1928 231
  folder
East Carnegie-Fifth Avenue  1915-1928 2
  folder
Fifth Avenue-Fulton  1917-1925 3
  folder
Garfield-Hazelwood  1914-1928 4
  folder
Holmes-Humboldt  1915-1928 5
  folder
Irwin Avenue-Larimer  1914-1927 6
  boxfolder
Latimer  1917-1928 241
  folder
Lawrence-Longfellow  1915-1928 2
  folder
McKelvey  1916-1928 3
  folder
McNaugher-Morningside  1915-1928 4
  folder
John Morrow-North Industrial  1895-1920 5
  folder
Northview Heights-Park Place  1914-1934 6
  folder
Peabody  1914-1927 7
  boxfolder
Penn-Rogers  1917-1928 251
  folder
Quentin Roosevelt-Schaeffer  1915-1928 2
  folder
Schenley  1916-1927 3
  folder
Schiller-Sommers  1915-1927 4
  folder
Springfield-Squirrel Hill  1914-1918 5
  folder
South High (South Side)  1914-1928 6
  folder
South Hills High  1915-1928 7
  boxfolder
Sterrett-Sunnyside  1914-1920 261
  folder
Swisshelm-Washington Vocational  1914-1937 2
  folder
Watt (Vann)-Westlake  1915-1928 3
  folder
West Liberty-Woolslair  1912-1939 4
Miscellaneous 
Miscellaneous Departments 
  folder
Art 5
  folder
Art-Manual Training 6
  folder
Unidentified 7

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Series III  Class Photographs 

Scope and Content Notes

This series shows posed figures documenting student and faculty at various schools in the Pittsburgh school system. Some photos are from districts that were not part of the Pittsburgh Public Schools at the time, i.e. Minersville, Mount Lebanon, but were later absorbed into the system.

  box
Allegheny High School  1957 27
  folder
Brookline  1910-1940 2
  folder
Colfax  c. 1900 3
  folder
Columbus  1896-1900 4
Conroy 
  folder
 1895-1948 5
 1949-1960 
  folder
 1958-1959 6
 1961 
  folder
 1961-1962 7
Cowley 
 1946-1947 
  folder
 1960-1962 8
Davis Elementary 
  folder
 1963-1968 9
  folder
 1970 10
  folder
 1972-1973 11
  boxfolder
 1973-1975 281
  folder
 1978-1979 2
Fairywood Elementary 
  folder
Faculty  1972-1984 3
  folder
 1963-1981 4
  folder
 1981-1983 5
  folder
 1983-1985 6
  folder
Frick Elementary  1940 7
  folder
Greenfield School  1963 8
  folder
Holmes School  1915 9
  folder
Humboldt School  1953 10
  folder
Larimer  c. 1960 11
  folder
Lemington  1896-1917 12
Lincoln 
  boxvolume
 1899 29
  folder
 1899 1
 1902 
  folder
 1904 2
  folder
 1917 3
  folder
 1936 4
 1950-1951 
McNaugher 
  folder
 1912 5
  box
 1930-1945 30
  folder
 1946-1962 2
  folder
Miller School  1968 3
Minersville/Leo Weil 
  box
 1901-1905 31
  folder
Overbrook  1947 2
  folder
Phillips School  1964-1969 3
  folder
Rogers School  1924 4
Quentin Roosevelt 
  folder
 1910 5
  folder
 1959 6
  folder
 1973-1979 7
  folder
 1980-1982 8
Schiller School 
  folder
 1954 9
  folder
 1960-1961 10
  folder
 1964-1979 11
Tenth Ward School 
  boxfolder
 1907 321-2
Washington 
 1948-1960 
  folder
 1955-1981 3
  folder
West Liberty  1910 4
Wightman 
  folder
 1963-1964 5
  folder
 1964-1965 6
  folder
 1966-1967 7
  folder
 1970-1974 8
  folder
 1975 9
  folder
Woolslair  1963-1972 10
  folder
Miscellaneous Unindentified 11

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Series IV  Sports Teams 

Scope and Content Notes

This series represents sports activities and team photographs from different schools. This series is limited to only a few schools with Arsenal Vocational and South Hills High being the most predominant. Several championship team photographs are oversized and designated as "shelf." Some of the different sports are soccer, baseball, football, basketball, and track and field.

  boxfolder
Alderdice  1973 331
  folder
Arsenal Trade School  1935-1956 2
  folder
Holmes School  1914 3
  folder
South Hills High School  1935-1945 4
  folder
Washington Vocational  1930-1952 5
  folder
Weil-Westinghouse  1965-1973 6
  folder
Miscellaneous Track  1950-1970 7

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