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Dorsey-Turfley Family Photographs, 1880-1987 (Bulk 1900-1950), MSP 455, Library & Archives, Senator John Heinz History Center

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What's online

All of the photographs from Series II (Athletics and Recreation) and Series III (Topical) from the Dorsey-Turfley Family Photograph collection have been digitized and placed online. A representative selection of images from Series I (Family and Friends) has also included in this digital collection. A total of 221 images are available online.

What's in the entire collection

The photographs in this collection, held by the Library & Archives at the Senator John Heinz History Center, document several generations of the Dorsey and Turfley families as well as African American sports teams from the beginning decades of the twentieth century.

About the Dorsey-Turfley Family

The Dorsey and Turfley families were well known members of Pittsburgh's Hill District neighborhood. James A. Dorsey was Pittsburgh's first African American physical education instructor, serving as director at Washington Park, the Centre Avenue YMCA, the Crawford Bath House, and the Ammon Recreation Center. In 1906, while employed as a janitor for the Phipps estate, he started an African American basketball team that played in the estate's gym. The team included Cumberland Posey, future manager and owner of the Homestead Grays. Between 1910 and 1917, Dorsey played basketball for the Pittsburgh-based teams the Monticello Athletic Club, Delany-Monticello's, and the Loendi Club. During this time, Dorsey also played football for the Collins Tigers and the Delaney Rifles.

During World War I, Dorsey worked at the Air Nitrates Corporation at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and the YMCA headquarters at Camp Jackson, South Carolina. Following World War I, he returned to Pittsburgh and became acting director of Washington Park. In 1923, Dorsey became the first director of the newly established Centre Avenue YMCA. In 1926, while directing recreation activities at the Crawford Bath House (Recreation Center), Dorsey coached a baseball team that would become the Pittsburgh Crawfords. In 1941, he started as director of the Ammon Recreation Center on Bedford Avenue.

Zerbie Ella Turfley Dorsey, James A. Dorsey's wife, was born to Dr. George G. Turfley and Mary Bryan Turfley on August 23, 1895. She played basketball with the Delaney Rifles' women's team and the Della Robbia Girls. Mrs. Dorsey graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1917 with a certificate in Household Economy.

Dr. George G. Turfley, Zerbie Dorsey's father, was the first registered African American doctor in Allegheny County. He was born in Pittsburgh on October 9, 1855, to John Turfley and Mathilda Brooks. Turfley first attended the Separate Schools of Pittsburgh until 1872, at which point he entered Central High School. He was one of the first black students to graduate from Pittsburgh schools in 1876. He first studied medicine under Dr. C. D. King of Allegheny before entering the Western Reserve Medical College in Cleveland, Ohio, from which he graduated in 1879. Turfley began his practice in Pittsburgh, and for ten years he was the only African American doctor in Pittsburgh. He served as president of the Board of Trustees of Avery College Trade School from 1903 until 1917 and was a member of the Allegheny Medical Society, the Eureka Lodge of Odd Fellows and the Medico-Pharmaco-Odonto Association of Allegheny County.