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Charles C. McGovern Papers

What’s online?

McGovern's speeches that he gave between 1924-1948 are scanned and online. They include Square Deal Party speeches made during the McGovern/Barr for County Commissioners re-election campaign and WJAS weekly broadcast speeches.

What’s in the entire collection?

This collection documents the military career, political career and personal life of Charles C. McGovern (1873-1962). He gained fame during the capture of the infamous Biddle Brothers in 1901-1902 and went on to become the head of his own detective agency. He served in the National Guard and held numerous political positions in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, including County Controller and County Commissioner. The materials in this collection range in date from 1893 to 1981 and include certificates, correspondence, campaign materials, photographs, journals, programs, publications, newsclippings, speeches, court documents, address books, notebooks, bills and government and military records.

About Charles C. McGovern

Charles C. McGovern (nicknamed Salty or Buck) was an military leader and politician in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. He was born March 6, 1873, in Pittsburgh’s First Ward, the Golden Triangle area, to Charles and Mary Alice Hyde McGovern. He attended Holy Ghost College, now known as Duquesne University.

McGovern married Leticia Rogers, his first wife, in 1900. They had five children: Charles C. Jr., J. Roger, Josephine, Mary and Elizabeth. Leticia McGovern died on September 4, 1953, and five years later, Charles McGovern married Rose Danahey on June 9, 1958. Ms. Danahey had worked with McGovern since 1902, as his secretary and co-worker on his political campaigns. The McGovern family's primary residence was at 1022 Grandview Avenue in the Mount Washington neighborhood of Pittsburgh. In addition to his city residence, McGovern also owned a farm in Moon Township, Pennsylvania where he hosted events for the Pennsylvania National Guard and raised horses. His initial claim to fame came from his captured of the infamous Biddle Brothers, a notorious duo that led the 'Chloroform Gang' and terrorized Pittsburgh in the early 1900s. McGovern had a long military career. He enlisted in the National Guard in 1888 and was in the relief group that went to Johnstown, Pa., after the massive flood there in 1889. He fought in the Spanish-American War, and he was with the relief group in the Mexican uprising of 1911. He was at the Battle of Juarez, and commanded Troop H, First Pennsylvania Calvary, on the Mexican Border in 1916 and 1917. During World War I McGovern served with the Field Artillery and as a general intelligence officer. He continued to serve on military committees throughout his life, and was honored with the appointment to Brigadier General on the retired list of the Pennsylvania National Guard Reserve Army one year before his death.

In addition to his military career, McGovern held a vast number of jobs and political positions. He served Theodore Roosevelt in a confidential capacity, and helped with his campaign from 1912 to 1914. McGovern then became a member of the Western Pennsylvania Historical Society in 1915, and in 1941 was appointed a Trustee. This membership led McGovern to give weekly Sunday evening talks about Pennsylvania history on radio station WJAS for over a decade.

In 1922, McGovern was appointed Chief of the City Detective Bureau, but resigned the same year in order to direct the Western Pennsylvania campaign of Gifford Pinchot for Governor. In 1923, he was named a special agent in the State Department of Justice to investigate bank failures and was also appointed to membership on the State Board of Registration Commission. Following that, he was appointed to the Commission to Study Municipal Consolidation in Counties of the Second Class Report (1925) and became County Controller (1926). In 1927, McGovern was elected County Commissioner, and served on the board until 1935 and as head of the board from 1932-1935. During this period McGovern organized the first Allegheny County Fair.

McGovern lost his campaign for re-election in 1935 and ran unsuccessfully for the office of County Treasurer in 1939. He re-entered private business until 1940, when he was appointed a referee on the Unemployment Compensation Board. In 1947, he was named to the Liquor Control Board, and held that position until 1949, when he was appointed as referee on the Workmen’s Compensation Board by Governor James Duff, and served as a referee in the Department of Labor and Industry until the time of his death in 1962.

Charles C. McGovern died on August 29, 1962 at his Grandview Avenue residence at the age of 89 years and is entombed in the McGovern family mausoleum at Calvary Cemetery in the Hazelwood section of Pittsburgh. Rose Danahey McGovern died in 1984.

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