Mary Cassatt (1844-1926)

“I took leave of conventional art. I began to live.” Mary Cassatt told her first biographer, Achille Segard, about her invitation in 1877 to join artists she regarded as “true masters.” Before she was accepted as one of America’s most famous im­pressionist artists, Cassatt first had to conquer Paris. Born on May 22, 1844, in Allegheny City, now part of Pittsburgh,...
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John A. Brashear (1840-1920)

Somewhere beneath the stars is work which you alone were meant to do. Never rest until you have found it,” proclaims a plaque at a small museum on Pittsburgh’s South Side. For the author, John Alfred Bras­hear (1840-1920), the stars were his life’s work. At the age of nine, encouraged by his grandfather, Brashear peered through a telescope with a lens ground from fire­hardened...
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Perry Como (1912-2001)

Fame and fortune in popular culture, particularly in the entertainment industry, became a phenomenon in twentieth-century America. Radio and television performer Perry Como (1912-2001), realized his American Dream and became famous, helping define the foundations of early television and popular music. Known for his easy-going and unflappable manner, “The Singing Barber” is proudly...
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Karl Mason (1915-1966)

If asked to describe his life’s work, those who remember Karl Mason would most likely exclaim, “He wanted to clean up the world!” If pressed to date the beginning of environmental regulation by a single state agency, many Penn­sylvanians would probably choose 1970, the year the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources – predecessor to the Commonwealth’s...
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LeRoy Patrick (1915-2006)

The record of civil rights in Pennsylvania is checkered at best. Proponents realize that it requires much more than legislation to guarantee equality for all Pennsylvani­ans. More often than not, it takes courageous private cit­izens to stand up in the face of bigotry, discrimination, and oppression. One such individual was the Reverend Dr. LeRoy Patrick (1915-2006), of Pittsburgh. Patrick died...
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Rebecca Lukens (1794-1854)

A woman in early nineteenth century America harbored limited expectations for her role in society. The story of Rebecca Lukens (1794-1854) and her successful leadership of the country’s oldest steel company, however, is remarkable even for the twenty-first century. Not only did she survive as a widow with six children, she was a brilliant businesswoman who guided her company through some...
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George Gordon Meade (1815-1872)

General George Gordon Meade (1815–1872) may be best known as the commander of the victorious Army of the Potomac that defeated Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. Meade was born in Cadiz, Spain, the eighth of eleven children. His father, Richard Worsam Meade (1778–1828), a native of Chester County, was a wealthy Philadelphia merchant serving the...
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Burrhus Frederic Skinner (1904-1990)

Well known among those who advanced the understanding of human behavior are Plato, Socrates, Descartes, Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Carl Jung, and Carl Rogers. Northeastern Pennsylvania claims another great thinker as a native son, one who revolutionized the field of behavioral psychology, the controversial B. F. Skinner. Burrhus Frederic Skinner was born March 20, 1904, in Susquehanna,...
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Elizabeth Langstroth Drexel Smith (1855-1890) and Louise Bouvier Drexel Morrell (1863-1945)

When Francis Martin Drexel (1792–1863) arrived in Philadelphia from the Austrian territory of Tyrol in 1817, he might have established a family of artisans—he was an accomplished artist and musician. Instead, his interest in finance, coupled with his business savvy, earned him a niche as patriarch of one of the wealthiest, most philanthropic families in the United States. Drexel’s sons, Francis...
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James A. Finnegan (1906-1958)

At the 1956 Democratic Convention in Chicago, former President Harry S. Truman greeted Philadelphian James A. Finnegan (1906–1958) and asked how he was. “Very good,” replied Finnegan. “I hope it isn’t too good!” Truman quipped. Truman had endorsed New York Governor William Averell Harriman for the Democratic nomination for president. Finnegan served as campaign manager for former Illinois...
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