Guide to the Papers of Joseph Albree, 1842-1898

Digital Research Library, University Library System

Summary Information

Detre Library & Archives, Heinz History Center
Papers of Joseph Albree
Joseph Albree
Collection Number
Date [inclusive]
.75 cubic feet (2 boxes)
Language of Materials
The material in this collection is in English.
Joseph Albree operated a family shoe store and ornamental iron works in Pittsburgh. He was also very active in civic organizations and groups supporting the Union cause during the Civil War. These papers include correspondence, biographical materials, receipts for educational, household and medical expenses, business materials, philanthropic organizational materials and other sundry items, primarily documenting the family, business and philanthropic life of Joseph Albree.
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 Joseph Albree, 1842-1898, MSS #47, Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania.

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Biographical Sketch of Joseph Albree (1835-1898)

George Albree was born on February 1, 1803 and moved from Salem, Massachusetts to Pittsburgh in 1829. He first worked for his brother, John, who operated a shoe store in Pittsburgh on the corner of Market Street and Diamond, but soon opened his own wholesale shoe store at No. 71 Wood Street, on the corner of Fourth Street. Although the store suffered $4,750 in damages in the Great Fire of 1845, it flourished and was widely considered to be the oldest shoe store in the west. George Albree retired from active participation in the business in 1876 and died on February 2, 1890. Little is known about his personal life, other than that he had a son named Joseph, who was born in Pittsburgh on September 13, 1835.

Joseph attended the Western University of Pennsylvania (now the University of Pittsburgh) and was associated with his father's shoe business. After George's retirement, Joseph and a partner, W. P. Thompson, operated the store as George Albree, Son and Company. As both a wholesale and retail business, the company conducted trade in the neighboring states while maintaining the retail side of the business. He appeared to spend much of his time in Boston looking for shoes to sell at his Pittsburgh store. Joseph Albree continued this business until 1887, when he became a partner with his sons in an ornamental iron works. Later, he served on the founding board of Pittsburgh's Dollar Bank. Joseph Albree was also active in civic organizations, as president of the Young Men's Mercantile Library and Mechanics' Institute, and the Young Men's Christian Association. During the Civil War, Albree was active with groups supporting the Union cause. He served as treasurer for the United States Christian Commission's Army Committee of Western Pennsylvania in their efforts to provide religious books and chaplains for all Union soldiers and regiments. He also served on the Executive Committee of the Pittsburgh Subsistence Committee, an organization established to provide care and housing for soldiers while in Pittsburgh and provide general relief to Union soldiers. In both endeavors, Albree worked closely with William P. Weyman. In a similar capacity, Albree worked towards the planning of the Pittsburgh Sanitary Fair of 1864. Joseph Albree married Martha Bidwell in 1858 and had three sons, Chester B., Ralph, and Frederick W. The Albrees resided in an area called "Grays Row," on Cedar Avenue in Allegheny City (now the North Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh). Joseph Albree died on November 7, 1898 in London, England while on a European trip.

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Scope and Content Notes

These papers include correspondence, biographical materials, receipts for educational, household and medical expenses, business materials, philanthropic organizational materials, and other sundry items. These papers primarily document the family, business and philanthropic life of Joseph Albree. The correspondence primarily includes incoming letters to Joseph Albree from his father, wife and friends while Albree was living in Boston and Pittsburgh. Much of the correspondence deals with general family issues, business concerns, and life in northern cities during the Civil War. Of these letters, the majority were written by Joseph's father and wife from Pittsburgh, and Joseph's friends E. D. Cleaver of Delaware and Matthew Brown Riddle, a Presbyterian minister and educator from New Jersey. George Albree's letters to his son broadly discuss family issues, the shoe business, providing Joseph Albree with items to order while in Boston, and general issues relating to life in Pittsburgh during the Civil War. Two letters specifically address soldiers' lives in the region and include one describing a Civil War soldier who was living in the region and was presumed to be a Confederate spy, March 30, 1863, and a letter of introduction for a soldier requiring medical care in Pittsburgh, September 1, 1863. Cleaver's letters provide the point of view of a resident in a border state prior to and during the war. Of note are Cleaver's letters concerning the election of President Lincoln and general military strategy. Riddle's letters were primarily written from Hoboken, New Jersey and document his personal life, religious views and his brief service as chaplain of the 2nd Regiment of the New Jersey Brigade while they were at Camp Princeton in New Jersey. Also of note is a letter written by Riddle in 1850 describing his activities while at school in Cannonsburg (Washington County), Pennsylvania (probably at Jefferson College). Additional correspondence is from William P. Weyman discussing the activities of the United States Christian Commission and the Pittsburgh Subsistence Committee.

The Albrees' financial affairs are documented by receipts for household expenses. While not comprehensive, these receipts are for all types of products and services, including clothing, jewelry, groceries, newspapers, books, stationery, household furnishings, maintenance and general taxes from a large number of merchants in Pittsburgh. Material documenting Albree's involvement with philanthropic organizations is sketchy, providing little more than receipts, occasional minutes and printed items from the Young Men's Mercantile Library Association, the Young Men's Christian Association, the Third Presbyterian Church and the Beethoven Society of Pittsburgh. The scrapbook, 1861-1865, primarily contains newspaper clippings, programs, reports detailing Albree's work with the United States Christian Commission and the Pittsburgh Subsistence Committee. Of note is a late 1863 newspaper clipping alerting farmers to criminals who were stealing fruits and vegetables under the pretense of collecting them for the Pittsburgh Subsistence Committee. Material documenting other family members primarily includes receipts for Chester Albree's education and various business related material documenting George Albree's business career. Included with George Albree's material is an account book, other financial material, and stock from the Monongahela Navigation Company. These papers provide rich material to document the history of an upper-middle class family in Pittsburgh during the mid to late 19th century.

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The Joseph Albree Papers are housed in two archival boxes and arranged alphabetically by folder title with a scrapbook arranged to the rear.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

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

Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center
1212 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

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.

Acquisition Information

These materials came in three accessions and were combined into one body of papers in 1988.

Acc# 1919x -- Gift of Mrs. William A. Albree, (Scrapbook).

Acc# 1947x -- Gift of Mrs. Stephen S. Kieley, (Papers).

Acc# 1966x -- Gift of Henry A. Riddle, (Papers).

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Donald L. Haggerty in June 1988. The papers were rearranged and the inventory was rewritten by  Stephanie Riccardi on May 2, 1994.

Revision and rearrangement for the encoded version of the finding aid provided by Jennifer Marshall on June 23, 1999.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Third Presbyterian Church (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • United States Christian Commission
  • Young Men's Mercantile Library Association (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Pittsburgh Subsistence Commission

Geographic Name(s)

  • Allegheny County (Pa.) -- Social life and customs
  • Pittsburgh (Pa.) -- Commerce
  • Pittsburgh (Pa.) -- Religion
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Medical care
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Religion
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- War work -- Delaware
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- War work -- New Jersey
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- War work -- Pennsylvania --Pittsburgh

Personal Name(s)

  • Albree, Joseph, -- 1835-1898
  • Albree, George, -- 1803-1890
  • Cleaver, E. D.
  • Riddle, Matthew Brown
  • Weyman, William P.


  • Charities -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • Education -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • Footwear industry -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • Home economics -- Accounting
  • Presbyterian church -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • Transportation -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • Medicine -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh

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Collection Inventory

Biographical Material 1890-1898 11

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Chester Albree 1873-1878 2

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George Albree 1842-1871 3

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Joseph Albree  
 1850 - August 1863 4
 September 1863 - 1877 5
Household Expenses 
Clothing and Jewelry 1871-1878 6
Furnishings and Maintenance 1872-1878 7
Groceries 1864-1878 8
Newspaper, Books and Stationery Receipts 1871-1881 9
Taxes 1865-1878 10
Land and Stock Sales 1871 11
Medical Expenses 1871-1881 12
Philanthropic Organization 1859-1881 13
Translations from German 1860 14
Transportation and Travel 1863-1881 15
Scrapbook 1861-1865 2

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