Guide to the Papers of Charles William Dahlinger, 1849-1935

Heinz History Center

Summary Information

Heinz History Center
Papers of Charles William Dahlinger
Dahlinger, Charles (1831-1899)
Collection Number
Date [inclusive]
.75 cubic feet (2 boxes)
The material in this collection is in English.
Charles W. Dahlinger was a prominent historian, lawyer and politician in Allegheny and Pittsburgh in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Family Papers include personal correspondence of various members of the Dahlinger family, genealogical histories and manuscripts about the Dahlinger family, and legal and financial papers for both Charles and Charles William Dahlinger.
Sponsor Note
This finding aid has been encoded as a part of the Historic Pittsburgh project a joint effort of the University of Pittsburgh and the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Funding for this portion of the project has been donated by the Hillman Foundation.

Preferred Citation

Papers of Charles William Dahlinger, 1849-1935, MSS# 172, Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania

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Biographical Sketch of Charles Dahlinger (1858-1935)

Charles W. Dahlinger was a prominent historian, lawyer and politician in Allegheny and Pittsburgh in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He was the son of German immigrants, Charles Dahlinger and Margaret Strauch, who were married in Pittsburgh in August of 1853, shortly after their respective arrivals in the United States. They lived in Allegheny, now the North Side of Pittsburgh, where Charles worked at various times as a furniture maker, railroad worker, coffin maker, and embalmer. Charles was naturalized in 1856, and in February of 1858, Margaret gave birth to a son, Charles William Dahlinger.

There is little material documenting the early life of Charles William Dahlinger. He was an avid reader as a child, and in his early twenties he began writing histories and articles about the history of Pittsburgh. He left school at a young age to work as a messenger for the Workingman Savings Bank, eventually working up to the position of cashier. In 1884, he took an extended tour of the southern United States, and his writing interests expanded to include broader subjects in American history. He passed the Pennsylvania Bar exam, and began practicing law in 1887. He was elected to the Common Council of Allegheny City in the same year.

In the late 1880s, Dahlinger became involved in the organization and the construction of the Carnegie Library of Allegheny City. Andrew Carnegie had, by this time, donated over three million dollars toward the construction of various American libraries and music halls. After an 1881 donation of half a million dollars for the construction of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, the city of Allegheny asked Carnegie for a similar donation. Carnegie contributed three hundred thousand dollars, and on February 13, 1890, President Benjamin Harrison presided over the grand opening of the Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny. The library had the support of prominent Pittsburgh citizens, including Henry Phipps. Dahlinger served as the library's first chairman, and worked closely with William Stevenson, a friend and the first librarian of the Carnegie Library of Allegheny. Dahlinger also took part in the process of an 1899 addition to the library, made possible through another donation by Carnegie.

Dahlinger began working with the Allegheny Trust Company and the Ridgeview Land Company at the turn of the twentieth century. He became legal advisor and vice president of the Allegheny Trust in 1901. A life-long Republican, he served as a Presidential Elector to Theodore Roosevelt in 1904. In 1915 he received an honorary Master of Arts degree from Washington and Jefferson College (Washington County, Pa.). He became president of Allegheny Trust Company in 1925, and later served as the chairman of the board in 1934. Dahlinger served as a trustee of Washington Jefferson College, president of the Allegheny Lyceum, a literary society, and invested in the Columbia Plate Glass Company. He was also a member of the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, serving as both director, from 1930 to 1932, and as a trustee from 1932 until his death in December of 1935.

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Scope and Content Notes

Series have been designated for Family Papers and Other Materials. The Family Papers include personal correspondence of various members of the Dahlinger family, genealogical histories and manuscripts about the Dahlinger family, and legal and financial papers for both Charles and Charles William Dahlinger. Other Materials include letters and documents concerning the construction of the Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny, a scrapbook of clippings and writings about Pittsburgh history, political papers from the Independent Republicans of Pittsburgh, and various articles and manuscripts written by Charles William Dahlinger about the history and religion of the Pittsburgh area.

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The Charles William Dahlinger Papers are arranged in two series. Series have been designated for Family Papers and Other Materials.

The Charles William Dahlinger Papers are housed in two archival boxes.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Heinz History Center

1212 Smallman St.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15222

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing 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.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These materials were received in one accession in 1936.

Acc# 1936x Gift of Mrs. Charles W. Dahlinger.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Historical Society Staff in c1937. Papers rearranged and inventory rewritten by Melanie Stevn Marinkovic on February 13, 1995.

Revision and rearrangement for the encoded version of the finding aid provided by Doug MacGregor on May 12, 2001.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Ridgeview Land Company (Pittsburgh, Pa.)

Personal Name(s)

  • Dahlinger, Charles (1831-1899)
  • Carnegie, Andrew (1835-1919)
  • Cramer, Zadok, bookseller (1773-1813)
  • Stevenson, William (1855-1913)
  • Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865)


  • Floods -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • German Americans -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • Immigrants -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • Libraries -- Pennsylvania -- Allegheny County
  • Natural Disasters -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • Political parties -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • Railroad Strike, U. S., 1877.
  • Republicanism -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh

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Collection Inventory

Series I Family Papers, (1849-1935) 

Scope and Contents

The Family Papers include family correspondence, genealogical materials, and legal papers. The family correspondence spans the years 1850 to 1935. The early correspondence includes letters written in German between Charles Dahlinger and his family. Letters and postcards from Carnegie librarian William Stevenson are addressed to Charles William Dahlinger and date from 1904 to 1910. In these personal letters, Stevenson describes European scenery, his activities, and asks Dahlinger to conduct business for him in Pittsburgh. The genealogical materials cover the period between 1886 and 1934, and include newspaper obituaries, biographies, and notes on oral histories conducted by Dahlinger. There are two typed and one handwritten copy of a Dahlinger family history, transcribed by Charles William Dahlinger between 1917 and 1919. Included in the family history are descriptions by Margaret and Charles Dahlinger of the 1848 political uprisings in Germany and their voyages to the United States and Pittsburgh from Germany. The legal papers are composed of family tax records and legal documents. Tax receipts document payments to Allegheny City between 1855 and 1932, with the greatest concentration documenting the 1860s. After 1868, gaps of several years occur between the receipts. Of particular note are passes permitting Charles Dahlinger to travel the Pittsburgh Allegheny Bridge in the 1850s. The legal papers are dated from 1849 to 1902, and include the passport, naturalization certificate, and bankruptcy papers of Charles Dahlinger. Legal papers signed by Mary and Edward Schenley concern leasing agreements from the 1850s and 1860s, and court records document a few cases handled by Charles William Dahlinger in the 1890s.

Correspondence, 1850-1935 11
Genealogical Materials, 1886-1934 12
Legal Materials, 1849-1932 13

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Series II Other Materials, (1877-1928) 

Scope and Contents

Other Materials include items concerning the Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny, Dahlingers published and unpublished writings and speeches, Pittsburgh history, Pittsburgh politics, and the Ridgeview Land Company. The Carnegie Library materials contain correspondence between librarian William Stevenson and various people, including Andrew Carnegie, and city resolutions passed concerning the construction of the library and its later addition. Most of the correspondence is dated after the 1890 opening of the library, some of which addresses funding of the 1899 addition. Included are transcribed copies of most of the letters from Andrew Carnegie. Of particular interest are resolutions, budgets and reports concerning the administration of the library. Also included are the programs for the library's grand opening, newspaper obituaries for William Stevenson, and a program and other information concerning the 1915 dedication of a memorial to James Anderson.

Also included are materials documenting the Ridgeview Land Company, the history of Pittsburgh, Allegheny city politics, and other historical topics. The Ridgeview Land Company minutes cover the length of the Company's existence, from July of 1889 until February of 1900, and include the company's by-laws and lists of property purchasers. News clippings and writings about the history of Pittsburgh from 1752 to 1877 are contained in the scrapbook. It contains accounts of the 1874 flood of Pittsburgh, handwritten chapters of the history of Pittsburgh from 1752 to 1874, and newspaper clippings about the flood, the 1872 fire in Allegheny, and 1877 railroad riots of Pittsburgh. The political materials date from 1882 to 1927 and include pamphlets addressing election procedures for the Independent Republicans of Pittsburgh (1880-1890), handbills of candidates, and hand written membership rolls for the Republican Party membership. Charles William Dahlinger wrote the manuscripts, booklets, and articles, dated between 1884 and 1926, about various aspects of American and Pittsburgh religion and history. The longer works address Moravian Missions in the Pittsburgh area, Abraham Lincoln's life and presidency, and a history of the Republican Party of Pittsburgh. Also included with his writings is an 1884 journal that Dahlinger kept while traveling in the South, documenting his impressions of the scenery, his fellow passengers, and the Southern people. Speeches and addresses by Charles William Dahlinger are intermingled with the writings and date from 1914 to 1920. The bulk of the speeches were given at meetings of the German Beneficial Union during the first World War, and urge German-Americans to loyally support the American government. The miscellaneous materials include an elementary school speller, a letter written by Andrew Carnegie during his War Department association in the 1860s, and materials concerning author/bookseller Zadok Cramer. The Cramer materials include a listing of books, magazines, and almanacs published by Cramer.

Carnegie Library (Allegheny, Pa.)
, 1886-1898 14
, 1899-1928 15
Political Materials, 1882-1927 16
Ridgeview Land Company, 1889-1900 1[1]
Scrapbook, 1877-c1900 1[2]
Writings Speeches
, 1884-1922 21
, 1926 22
Miscellaneous Materials, 1884-1915 23

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