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Darlington Family Papers

What’s online?

The Darlington Family Collection contains manuscript material, journals, letters, maps and photographs taken by Edith Dennison Darlington Ammon and her brother, O'Hara Darlington, from 1885 through 1888. Photographs contained within the five albums document family, friends, leisure activities, and the artistic approach to photography that both Edith and O'Hara shared. Most of the photographs are taken in and around the family home, Guyasuta, and the surrounding area.

The fifth album in this collection contains photographs from the Pittsburgh Amateur Photographers’ Society, a social club that was founded on May 25th, 1885 of which Edith and O'Hara were active members. Also available online is a transcript (pdf) of an article published by The Pittsburgh Leader in 1888 that discusses the society, its members, and their photographic equipment.

What’s in the entire collection?

As part of the Darlington Collection at the University of Pittsburgh, this collection of five photographic and scrapbook albums was created between 1885 and 1888. The photographs provide a glimpse into the life of a prominent family with rich historic ties to the history and development of Pittsburgh. Beyond this, the photographs are a creative body of work that reflects the artistry of Edith Dennison Darlington Ammon, and her brother, O'Hara Darlington, and the members of the Pittsburgh Amateur Photographer's Society.

About the Darlington Family

The Darlington family can trace its origins back to when Pittsburgh served as a fort and gateway to the west during the eighteenth century. James O'Hara, born in Ireland in 1752, began an illustrious military career by serving as an ensign in the British Royal Navy. After a brief tenure in the Navy, he studied business, with the hopes of pursuing opportunities in the United States. In 1772, he immigrated to the U.S. and soon found work as an Indian trader at Fort Pitt. He quickly excelled due to his business skills and command of several languages (he learned French while studying at the college of St. Sulpice in Paris and also became conversant in various Native American dialects after arriving in the U.S.).

The Darlington family can trace its beginnings to James O’Hara's marriage to Mary Carson of Philadelphia. It was they who built a home on 235 acres along a bluff on the north side of the Allegheny River, between present-day Sharpsburg and Aspinwall. O'Hara purchased this land in the area known then as Springfield along Water Street from the United States Army in 1793. This land later became known as O'Hara Township.

O'Hara affectionately called his estate Guyasuta, in honor of his friend the Seneca Indian Chief Guyasuta. Guyasuta was a guide and hunter for George Washington in 1753 when the future U.S. president was in charge of delivering a letter to the French at Fort LeBoeuf, near present-day Erie, Pennsylvania. Guyasuta later took sides with the French, fighting in the French and Indian War against the British. Guyasuta originally owned the land that James O’Hara purchased from the Army in 1793. O’Hara befriended Guyasuta and allowed the old chief to live at Guyasuta until his death in 1803. O’Hara purportedly buried him in a traditional burial mound on his estate, although there is also evidence that Guyasuta died and was buried ninety miles north of Pittsburgh along French Creek at Custaloga Town, outside present-day Franklin, Pennsylvania.

James O’Hara and his wife Mary had three sons. One son, Richard, had a daughter named Mary who was born in 1824. She became the matriach of the Darlington family at Guyasuta when she married William McCullough Darlington. Her husband was born in 1815, the son of Benjamin Darlington (a Pittsburgh carpenter and businessman) and Agnes McCullough. William and Mary Carson Darlington eventually inherited the Guyasuta estate that belonged to Mary’s grandfather, James O’Hara.

William and Mary Carson Darlington had three children. O’Hara Darlington, a son, was the oldest, born in 1848. Mary “Minnie” Darlington was born in 1852, and Edith “Darling” Dennison Darlington was born in 1862.

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