Ms. Gloria Blake:
Thaddeus Stevens School: History & Background

From Pittsburgh School Board Collection, William R. Oliver Special Collections Room, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, no date.

The Thaddeus Stevens School preceding the school being dedicated today was built in 1894 by the school directors of the "old 36th Ward." At the time of its completion, it was regarded as a model of architecture. It was one of the first schools to be equipped with an auditorium, which in this case, occupied the whole third floor. The present Board of Education has only had to improve the sanitary facilities and the fire-escapes to make that building modern in many respects.

Here was housed the regular day school kindergarten, a dental clinic, a baby clinic, and evening school and facilities for holding regular elections. Manual training, and home economics facilities were available for not only the public school pupils but a number of classes from surrounding Parochial schools.

It can be seen from the above statements that this school has meant much to the life of the community for a half century. This fact justifies the name Thaddeus Stevens given it many years ago.

The south side of Pittsburgh schools bear the names of many illustrious persons, namely, Bedford (the first physician in Pittsburgh), the Knox, an illustrious family in the early days of Pittsburgh, Langley, a famous scientist, and many others. But the greatest name of all, in the field of education, is the name of Thaddeus Stevens, known as the Great Commoner, and friend of education.

Thaddeus Stevens was born in Connecticut and migrated to the state of Pennsylvania to practice law. His home was in Gettysburg from which town he entered the state legislature. After the act of 1834 had been passed by a unanimous vote by the legislature, it was thought that the Public Schools had finally been established for good. But, at the next meeting of the legislature it was found that much opposition had arisen in many sections of the state. A bill to repeal the law of 1834 passed the Senate and was up for consideration in the House, where it was considered sure of passage. It must be remembered that 38 counties out of the 51 then in the state had sent their representatives instructed to vote against the law of 1834. Everything was set for the final vote when Thaddeus Stevens rose from his seat and delivered his famous speech in support of continuing the Public School System in Pennsylvania. At the conclusion of this speech the vote was taken and the repeal was defeated. Thaddeus Stevens considered this the crowning achievement of his long public career. He was truly the defender of every act in support of public schools in Pennsylvania, ever after.

Last updated: 13 May 1999.

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