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Robert McKnight Diaries



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The diaries give detailed glimpses into the daily life of a rising lawyer from a well-to-do family in the nineteenth century. McKnight is diligent about recording his activities and reactions to events that garner local and national attention, also commenting on personal matters, such as births, deaths, parties, social calls, and marriages of family and friends.

In both volumes McKnight details the routines of daily life, discussing his work habits, mealtimes, naps, bathing and grooming habits, books he read, hours spent riding his horse, Tip, and other details. Simple tasks are recorded, as are descriptions of illnesses, particularly his father's, whom he writes of caring for, home remedies, and trips to the dentist. McKnight also makes references to prominent families in the Pittsburgh area.

Observations are made on the state of the country, such as remarking about the distress facing banks at the time as evidenced by the closure of some banks in Philadelphia. Comments are also made on the war between the United States and Mexico in 1846.

About Robert McKnight

Born the fourth of seven children to a prominent family, Robert McKnight attended private school in Xenia, Ohio, before attending the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University. Upon his graduation in 1839, McKnight returned to Pittsburgh where he worked in the law offices of Biddle and Bradford. Following his admittance to the bar in 1842, he entered into partnership with Henry S. Magraw and went on to become solicitor for the Bank of Pittsburgh in 1846. He later served as a Pittsburgh city councilman from 1847 to 1849 and as a United States congressman representing Pennsylvania from 1859 to 1863. When his time spent in public service concluded, McKnight returned to his law practice.

McKnight was born on January 27, 1820 and he married Elizabeth O'Hara Denny (1824-1896) on May 27, 1847, with whom he had ten children. McKnight died in Pittsburgh on October 25, 1885, and was buried in Allegheny Cemetery.

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