Summary Information
Title: Allegheny County, Pa. Coroner's Office Records
Collection Number: AIS.1982.07
Creator: Allegheny County (Pa.). Coroner's Office.

Collection Dates: 1884-1976
Extent: 1087.5 linear feet (870 boxes)

Language: English

The Coroner’s Office investigates suspicious, unusual and sudden deaths in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. These records contain inquest files dating between 1887 and 1976, which reflect coroner’s verdicts for over ninety years. In addition to the final inquest report, materials in the files may include eye-witness testimony, grand jury reports, physician notes, affidavits, press clippings and other documentation. Also included in these records are morgue reports covering intermittent years from 1901 to 1941, along with a small amount of administrative files. Digital reproductions of some of the notable case files are scanned and online.

Funding for this project was made available in part through a grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

ULS Archives Service Center
University of Pittsburgh Library System
7500 Thomas Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA, 15260
Date Published:

February 2009

Finding aid prepared by Kate Colligan and Nicole Mader.
Revision Description:
August 2014:
Information and scans of the files regarding the fatalities that occurred as a result of the Homestead Steel Strike were added to the finding aid.


The Office of the Coroner for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, has developed into one of the leading medico-legal programs in the country. Historically, the title of coroner could be held by any land owning citizen, with professions ranging from a cabinet maker, to a silver smith, farmer, or lawyer, but seldom were they physicians. Until recently, the coroner had jurisdiction over crimes such as robbery, rape and burglary, in addition to homicides. As late as the early nineteenth century, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that these common law powers still inherently rested with the coroner. In 1972, the coroner statutes became codified and those seldom-used common law powers of the coroner were officially abolished.

By the turn of the century, the Coroner's Office in Allegheny County was well on its way to becoming a fully developed medico-legal investigative agency. Employees took an active role in performing autopsies, rather than hiring private physicians to do the work. In 1965, Allegheny County voters elected their first physician as coroner, Dr. William Hunt. Since that time, the office has made its professional expertise available upon request to Coroners' Offices and law enforcement agencies in surrounding counties.

Collection Scope and Content Notes

These records contain information about the causes of death in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, from 1884 to 1973, along with other legal information from the Coroner's offices through 1976. There are three series: Coroner inquests files, morgue reports, and administrative records. For the individual scope and content notes, please see below.

The Coroner Inquest files date from 1887 to 1973. They are public records open to all, as affirmed by the Allegheny County Coroner’s Office. The records were created by the Coroner’s Office to satisfy public law. In addition to the final inquest report, materials in the files may include eye-witness testimony, grand jury reports, physician notes, affidavits, press clippings and other documentation. Ephemeral material such as photographs, tissue samples, bullets, suicide notes, and other items have been retained with the original files. There is a five year gap in the records between 1933 and 1938; these records are not present.

These records also contain morgue reports from the Allegheny County Coroner's Office. The responsibilities of the Coroner include transporting and disposing of bodies, investigating causes and manner of deaths, and determining whether an autopsy is needed. The morgue reports allowed for record keeping of arrivals, transfers and releases of the bodies to funeral homes. See below for more detail of the files.

A small amount of administrative records include case files that are undated, correspondence, minutes from meetings, and other records from the Coroner's Office.

Subject Terms

  • Coroners -- Pennsylvania -- Allegheny County -- Records and correspondence
  • Death -- Pennsylvania -- Allegheny County -- Causes
  • Morgues -- Pennsylvania -- Allegheny County -- Records and correspondence

Corporate Names
  • Allegheny County (Pa.). Coroner's Office.

  • Allegheny County (Pa.)

  • Judicial records

  • Government

Access and Use
Access Restrictions:

No restrictions.

Acquisition Information:

In 1982, the Coroner's Office of Allegheny County transferred and deposited inquest case records, morgue reports, and administrative records from 1884 to 1976, to the University of Pittsburgh.

Preferred Citation:

Allegheny County, Pa. Coroner's Office Records, 1884-1976, AIS.1982.07, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by archival assistants under the direction of Kate Colligan during 2007-2008.


No restrictions exist.

Collection Inventory

Series I. Coroner Case Files

Scope and Content Notes:

The records are arranged by docket number, which were numbered in order by the date the case was filed by the Office of the Coroner. Please note that date of death and date of inquest may be months and in some cases years apart. The Archives Service Center has created a separate name and date index available electronically which can be searched on site to help patrons identify material. Please contact the Archives Service Center for more information about this service.

Subseries 1. Coroner Case Files 1887-1973

Box 1-867 Coroner Case Files 1887-1973

Subseries 2. Notable Case Files

Scope and Content Notes:

This subseries features some of the notable case files found within the collection that have been digitized and are now available online.

Section: Homestead Steel Strike 1892

Scope and Content Notes:

These are the inquest files for the seven steelworkers and three Pinkerton guards that succumbed to injuries sustained during the Homestead Steel Strike of 1892. In addition to a Press Report incident summary, Proof of Identity affidavit, and jury verdict for each case there are also witness lists and several pages of witness testimony. In each case the blame is placed on an "unlawful assembly" of locked out steelworkers.

Box 16a
Folder 1 Witness Lists
Folder 2 John T. McCurry Testimony July 8, 1892
Folder 3 Witness Summons and Testimony July 9-12, 1892
Folder 4 Witness Testimony July 26, 1892
Folder 5 Witness Testimony August 2, 1892
Folder 6 Charge to the Jury
Folder 7 Joseph Sotak, a.k.a. Soppa, Steelworker, File 189208_159
Folder 8 John E. Morris, Steelworker, File 189208_160
Folder 9 Silas Wain, Steelworker, File 189208_161
Folder 10 Thomas Weldon, Steelworker, File 189208_162
Folder 11 Henry Striegel, Steelworker, File 189208_163
Folder 12 George W. Rutter, Steelworker, File 189208_165
Folder 13 Peter Farris, Steelworker, File 189208_167
Folder 14 Telegrams to Coroner Regarding the Shipment and Identification of Killed Pinkerton Guards, July 6-7, 1892
Folder 15 Thomas "T.J." Connors, Pinkerton Guard, 189208_166
Folder 16 J.W. Klein, Pinkerton Guard, 189208_158
Folder 17 Edward A.R. Spear, Pinkerton Guard, 189208_169

Section: Victims of Jack and Ed Biddle, 1901

Scope and Content Notes:

These inquest files document the investigation of two murders attributed to Jack and Ed Biddle. The file of Thomas Kahney includes testimony that recounts the Biddle brothers’ robbery attempt and the victim’s death. Patrick Fitzgerald’s file includes testimony that details the attempt to arrest the brothers. The Biddles later became part of local lore when the wife of Allegheny County Jail’s warden, Kate Soffel, helped them escape and fled with the fugitives. Police caught up to the group and both brothers were fatally injured in a shootout, succumbing to their wounds in a Butler jail cell on February 1, 1902.

Box 67
Folder 21 Thomas Kahney, 190103_404
Folder 22 Patrick Fitzgerald, 190103_405

Series II. Morgue Reports

Scope and Content Notes:

The files do not cover all cases received at the public morgue; however some cases are documented from the following years: 1901-1902, 1911-1921, and 1928-1941. Each report contains the following information about the deceased received at the public morgue: the date received, the time received, the deceased's name, sex, color, age, residence, where they were found, who found them, articles (coffin) ordered and where it was ordered from, which undertaker the body was delivered to and which county each body is buried in and when, along with the grave number.

Box 868 1901, 1902, 1911-1921
Box 869 1928-1941

Series III. Administrative Records

Scope and Content Notes:

A small amount of administrative files generated by the Coroner's Office contain some information on particular investigations. The files are arranged in one box, in the order in which they were found. Each folder is clearly marked and the information in these folders covers the entire time period from 1884 to 1976.

Box 870
Folder 1 Scraps from case files in Box 1 of the Coroner Case Files, 1887
Folder 2 Miscellaneous case files, 1884 - 1934
Folder 3 Statement of Deaths, , January 1887
Folder 4 Correspondence, 1893
Folder 5 County Contract with Monaghan Brothers, 1926
Folder 6 Clinical Diabetes Association, Dr. Mirsky, February 1956
Folder 7 Commissioner's Meeting, January 4, 1960
Folder 8 Employment Applications, 1968
Folder 9 Latshaw Papers: Stenographer, 1953-1956
Folder 10 Albert Goodman Misc. Papers, 1954-1955
Folder 11 Gregory A. Mill Accident: Note and Photos only, 1975
Folder 12 Raymond M. Carrol, 1976
Folder 13 Edward Schaffer, unknown