DUQUESNE – FIT FOR A KING!
We have all come to realize that our beloved hometown, Duquesne, has fallen into a serious state of disorder and ruin. The Duquesne that existed when we were being raised in the city is a mere shadow or skeleton of what it was.
The population of Duquesne has dwindled to a mere 5,565 citizens according to the 2010 census. History indicated that Duquesne was very much a boomtown however in the early 20th century. The population, according to the 1920 US Census was just over 19,000 people, just shy of a 21% increase from the 1910 census. Again, the population grew during the 1920’s by another 12.5% from 1921 to 1930 to 21,396 citizens! The numbers are staggering but not surprising.
Just after Christmas, I received an email from the great grand-daughter of a former Duquesne resident. As you will read, one thing led to another, and I discovered a piece of Duquesne history that I was totally unaware of. I hope that you enjoy reading about this piece of Duquesne history.
I have an old photo taken outside the Duquesne Mill at the turn of the century and I would love your help finding out who the VIPs in the picture are. My great grandfather, who was an orderly in the hospital, is in the picture, so it is a family heirloom, but the story has been lost. Some say it might be the King of Belgium. May I email it to you with more detail? Perhaps you can refer me to some historians or archivists.
Attached is the picture. My great grandfather, John Wargo, an immigrant from Hungary, is the young man in white standing in the doorway. He worked as an orderly in the mill infirmary after he lost his leg in an accident while on the job. He built a house on First Street just a few blocks from the mill.
I circulated the picture to my uncle and mom’s first cousins. I have pasted below their theories about the picture. It is so easy to lose old stories!
At the foot of the photo it says Carnegie Steel. From what I have read Carnegie sold to US Steel in 1901 so this photo must pre-date the sale.
Very vaguely I remember a story Uncle Jim told me on a visit to Mich. several years ago. Apparently the King of Belgium was touring the Duquesne Mill (which King and when I do not know). This may be a picture from that occasion.
The King had a limp and when he got to the mill infirmary ( a stop on the tour – Dr. Botkin was doctor and probably is in the picture), Grand pap asked one of the King’s aides about the limp. He was told that the King had an infection that the Belgium doctors were having problems healing. Grand pap was granted permission, and treated the wound with some “black salve “ of his own making. The King returned home shortly thereafter and in a few days the infection was healed. Apparently the King sent a letter and possible a medal that was presented to Grand pap. I believe I saw a picture of that presentation. If these relics still exist (or ever did), Jim would most likely have had them. Anyway, it makes a good story.
Believe the central figure may be George Farris a contemporary of Andrew Carnegie
I decided to share these emails, the photograph and all of the stories connected to it with all of you. I do so as a way of expressing pride in our hometown. The fact that Duquesne hosted true royalty on two different occasions speaks to the vibrancy it once possessed.
The Wargo family’s heirloom photograph is indeed an image of the October 23, 1919 visit
to Duquesne by KING ALBERT I, King of Belgium and QUEEN ELISABETH OF BAVARIA, his wife. From September 23 through November 13, 1919, King Albert, Queen Elisabeth of Bavaria, and their son Prince Leopold took an official visit to the United States. During their 51 day tour of the United States, the Royal Family traveled coast to coast touring major manufacturing facilities and points-of-interest throughout the county.
The news of the royal visit was covered in The Duquesne Times, and the articles provide a thorough understanding of the historic event. I hope you find the articles as interesting as I did.
Another article that appeared the same day as the one above explains the chance encounter of King Albert I and Duquesne’s own Robert Walker. I wonder if his desire to visit Duquesne was to be able to once again see the young man who helped him during World War I?
Also appearing in The Duquesne Times was a recap of the visit of then Prince Leopold prior to becoming King Albert I of Belgium.
It was obvious that the King and Queen’s visit caused a frenzy of excitement in Duquesne based on the number of articles written about the event. One week after the visit, the following article appeared in The Times and provided further insight into the day of the visit.
Inserted below is additional information about the King and Queen. I found it to be interesting reading, so I encourage you to check it out. What a source of pride I’ll now feel about the importance of “Little Ol’ Duquesne.”
KING ALBERT I OF BELGIUM – Wikipedia
Albert I (April 8, 1875 – February 17, 1934) reigned as King of the Belgians from 1909 to 1934. This was an eventful period in the History of Belgium since it included the period of World War I (1914 – 1918), when 99 percent of Belgium was overrun, occupied, and ruled by the German Empire. Other crucial issues included the adoption of the Treaty of Versailles, the ruling of the Belgian Congo as an overseas possession of the Kingdom of Belgium along with the League of Nations mandate of Ruanda-Urundi, the reconstruction of Belgium following the war, and the first five years of the Great Depression (1929 – 1934). King Albert was killed in a mountaineering accident in eastern Belgium in 1934, at the age of 58, and he was succeeded by his son Leopold.
Born Albert Léopold Clément Marie Meinrad (in German Albrecht Leopold Clemens Marie Meinrad) in Brussels, he was the fifth child and second son of Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders, and his wife, Princess Marie of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. Prince Philippe was the third (second surviving) son of Leopold I, the first King of the Belgians, and his wife, Marie-Louise of France, and the younger brother of King Leopold II of Belgium. Princess Marie was a relative of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and a member of the non-reigning, Catholic branch of the Hohenzollern family. Albert grew up in the Palace of Flanders, initially as fourth in the line of succession to the Belgian throne. When, however, the only legitimate son of his uncle, Leopold II, died as a child, and Albert’s older brother, Prince Baudouin of Belgium, who had been subsequently prepared for the throne, also died young, Albert, at the age of 16, unexpectedly became second in line (after his father) to the Belgian Crown.
Retiring and studious, Albert prepared himself strenuously for the task of kingship. In his youth, Albert was seriously concerned with the situation of the working classes in Belgium, and personally travelled around working class districts incognito, to observe the living conditions of the people. Shortly before his accession to the throne in 1909, Albert undertook an extensive tour of the Belgian Congo, which had been annexed by Belgium in 1908 (after having been previously owned by King Leopold II of Belgium as his personal property), finding the area in poor condition. Upon his return to Belgium, he recommended reforms to protect the native population and to further technological progress in the colony.
He was the 1,152nd Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Austria and the 851st Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1914.
Albert was married in Munich on 2 October 1900 to Duchess Elisabeth Gabrielle Valérie Marie in Bavaria, a Wittelsbach princess whom he had met at a family funeral. A daughter of Karl-Theodor, Duke in Bavaria, and his wife, the Infanta Maria Josepha of Portugal, she was born at Possenhofen Castle, Bavaria, Germany, on 25 July 1876, and died on 23 November 1965. Based on the letters written during their engagement and marriage (cited extensively in the memoirs of their daughter, Marie-José) the young couple appear to have been deeply in love. The letters express a deep mutual affection based on a rare affinity of spirit. They also make clear that Albert and Elisabeth continually supported and encouraged each other in their challenging and difficult roles as king and queen. The spouses shared an intense commitment to their country and family and a keen interest in human progress of all kinds. Together, they cultivated the friendship of prominent scientists, artists, mathematicians, musicians, and philosophers, turning their court at Laeken into a kind of cultural salon.
Albert and Elisabeth had three children:
• Léopold Philippe Charles Albert Meinrad Hubertus Marie Miguel, Duke of Brabant, Prince of Belgium, who became later the fourth king of the Belgians as Leopold III (born 3 November 1901, and died at Woluwe-Saint-Lambert on 25 September 1983).
• Charles-Théodore Henri Antoine Meinrad, Count of Flanders, Prince of Belgium, Regent of Belgium (born Brussels 10 October 1903, and died at Ostend on 1 June 1983).
• Marie-José Charlotte Sophie Amélie Henriette Gabrielle, Princess of Belgium (born Ostend 4 August 1906 – 27 January 2001). She was married at Rome, Italy on 8 January 1930 to Prince Umberto Nicola Tommaso Giovanni Maria, Prince of Piemonte (born 15 September 1904 and died on 18 March 1983 at Geneva, Switzerland). He became King Umberto II of Italy.
Following the death of his uncle, Leopold II, Albert succeeded to the Belgian throne in December 1909, since Albert’s own father had already died in 1905. Previous Belgian kings had taken the royal accession oath only in French; Albert innovated by taking it in Dutch as well. He and his wife, Queen Elisabeth, were popular in Belgium due to their simple, unassuming lifestyle and their harmonious family life, which stood in marked contrast to the aloof, autocratic manner and the irregular private life of Leopold II. An important aspect of the early years of Albert’s reign was his institution of many reforms in the administration of the Belgian Congo, Belgium’s only colonial possession.
King Albert was a devout Catholic. Many stories illustrate his deep and tender piety. For instance, when his former tutor General De Grunne, in his old age, entered the Benedictine monastery of Maredsous in Belgium, King Albert wrote a letter to him in which he spoke of the joy of giving oneself to God. He said: “May you spend many years at Maredsous in the supreme comfort of soul that is given, to natures touched by grace, by faith in God’s infinite power and confidence in His goodness”. To another friend, a Chinese diplomat, who became a Catholic monk, Albert wrote: “Consecrating oneself wholly to the service of Our Lord gives, to those touched by grace, the peace of soul which is the supreme happiness here below”. Albert used to tell his children: “As you nourish your body, so you should nourish your soul.” In an interesting meditation on what he viewed as the harm which would result if Christian ideals were abandoned in Belgium, he said: “Every time society has distanced itself from the Gospel, which preached humility, fraternity, and peace, the people have been unhappy, because the pagan civilization of ancient Rome, which they wanted to replace it with, is based only on pride and the abuse of force” (Commemorative speech for the war dead of the Battle of the Yser, given by Dom Marie-Albert, Abbot of Orval Abbey, Belgium, in 1936 ).
World War I
Just before World War I, Albert complied with a British demand that he not acquiesce to a German request to move troops through Belgium in order to attack Britain’s ally, France, which Germany anticipated was about to declare war on Germany in support of Russia; Britain was one of several European Great Powers guaranteeing Belgian neutrality under an 1839 treaty. King Albert refused passage of the Kaiser’s, his uncle’s, soldiers through his nation. When Germany subsequently invaded Belgium, King Albert, as prescribed by the Belgian constitution, took personal command of the Belgian army, and held the Germans off long enough for Britain and France to prepare for the Battle of the Marne (6–9 September 1914). He led his army through the Siege of Antwerp and the Battle of the Yser, when the Belgian army was driven back to a last, tiny strip of Belgian territory, near the North Sea. Here the Belgians, in collaboration with the armies of the Triple Entente, took up a war of position, in the trenches behind the River Yser, remaining there for the next four years. During this period, King Albert fought with his troops and shared their dangers, while his wife, Queen Elisabeth, worked as a nurse at the front. During his time on the front, rumors spread on both sides of the lines that the German soldiers never fired upon him out of respect for him being the highest ranked commander in harms way, while others feared risking punishment by the Kaiser himself. The King also allowed his 14-year-old son, Prince Leopold, to enlist in the Belgian army as a private and fight in the ranks.
The war inflicted great suffering on Belgium, which was subjected to a harsh German occupation. The King, fearing the destructive results of the war for Belgium and Europe and appalled by the huge casualty rates, worked through secret diplomatic channels for a negotiated peace between Germany and the Entente based on the “no victors, no vanquished” concept. He considered that such a resolution to the conflict would best protect the interests of Belgium and the future peace and stability of Europe. Since, however, neither Germany nor the Entente were favorable to the idea, tending, instead to seek total victory, Albert’s attempts to further a negotiated peace were unsuccessful. At the end of the war, as commander of the Army Group Flanders, consisting of Belgian, British and French divisions, Albert led the final offensive of the war that liberated occupied Belgium. King Albert, Queen Elisabeth, and their children then re-entered Brussels to a hero’s welcome.
Upon his return to Brussels, King Albert made a speech in which he outlined the reforms he desired to see implemented in Belgium, including universal suffrage and the establishment of a Flemish University in Ghent.
Postwar trip to the United States
From September 23 through November 13, 1919, King Albert, Queen Elisabeth of Bavaria, and their son Prince Leopold took an official visit to the United States. During a visit of the historic Indian pueblo of Isleta Pueblo, New Mexico, King Albert decorated father Anton Docher with the Order of Léopold. Docher offered the King a turquoise cross mounted in silver made by the Tiwas Indians. Ten thousand people traveled to Isleta for this occasion.
Introduction of universal suffrage
In 1918, King Albert forged a post-war “Government of National Union” made up of members of the three main parties in Belgium, the Catholics, the Liberals, and the Socialists. Albert I remembered the Belgian general strike of 1913, and the promise following that of a Constitutional reform for an actual one man, one vote universal suffrage.
On April 18, 1893, at the end of the Belgian general strike of 1893, universal suffrage, approved by the Belgian Parliament, gave plural votes to individuals based on their wealth, education, and age, but this was clearly not a universal suffrage.
The King Albert attempted to mediate between the parties in favor of universal suffrage, or those opposed to it, in order to bring about one man one vote universal suffrage. King Albert succeeded in this. Some people have named this the “conspiracy of Loppem” because the one man, one vote suffrage was effected without changing the Constitution of Belgium.
Paris Peace Conference
The Belgian government sent the King to the Paris Peace Conference in April 1919, where he met with the leaders of France, Britain and the United States. He had four strategic goals: 1 to restore and expand the Belgian economy using cash reparations from Germany; 2 to assure Belgium’s security by the creation of a new buffer state on the left bank of the Rhine; 3 to revise the obsolete treaty of 1839; 4 to promote a ‘rapprochement’ between Belgium and the Grand duchy of Luxemburg. He strongly advised against a harsh, punitive treaty against Germany that would eventually provoke German revenge. He also considered that the dethronement of the princes of Central Europe and, in particular, the dissolution of the Habsburg Empire would constitute a serious menace to peace and stability on the continent. The Allies considered Belgium to be the chief victim of the war, and it aroused enormous popular sympathy, but the King’s advice played a small role in Paris.
Albert spent much of the remainder of his reign assisting in the post-war reconstruction of Belgium.
Albert was a committed conservationist and in 1925, influenced by the ideas of Carl E. Akeley, he founded Africa’s first national park, now known as Virunga National Park, in what is now Democratic Republic of Congo. During this period he was also the first European monarch to visit the United States.
A passionate alpinist, King Albert I died in a mountaineering accident while climbing alone on the Roche du Vieux Bon Dieu at Marche-les-Dames, in the Ardennes region of Belgium near Namur. His death shocked the world and he was deeply mourned, both in Belgium and abroad. Because King Albert was an expert climber, some questioned the official version of his death. Nonetheless, rumors of murder have been dismissed by most historians. There are two possible explanations for his death: the first was he leaned against a boulder at the top of the mountain which became dislodged; or two, the pinnacle to which his rope was belayed had broken, causing him to fall about sixty feet. King Albert is interred in the Royal Crypt at the Church of Our Lady of Laeken in Brussels.
In 1935, prominent Belgian author Emile Cammaerts published a widely acclaimed biography of King Albert I, titled “Albert of Belgium: Defender of Right.” In 1993, a close climbing companion of the King, Walter Amstutz, founded the King Albert I Memorial Foundation, an association based in Switzerland and dedicated to honoring distinguished individuals in the mountaineering world.
Celebrating 175 years of Belgian Dynasty and the 100th anniversary of his accession, Albert I was recently selected as the main motif of a high-value collectors’ coin: the Belgian 12.5 euro Albert I commemorative coin, minted in 2008. The obverse shows a portrait of the King.
Monarch Profile: King Albert I of the Belgians
The future third King of the Belgians was born Prince Albert Leopold Clement Marie Meinrad on April 8, 1875 to Prince Philippe Count of Flanders and Princess Marie of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. On the surface he would have seemed unlikely to ever become a monarch. He was the second son out of five siblings in his own family and his own father was the third son of the first Belgian king. However, after the death of the only son of King Leopold II and the death of his father and older brother Prince Baudouin, Prince Albert became heir to the Belgian throne. He was only 16 when his father became heir to the throne but even by that time he had the makings of a great monarch. His parents ensured that he was well grounded and sincerely religious. He was serious and studied hard and from the first moment he knew he would become king someday he set to work preparing himself for that task. The reputation of the Belgian monarchy had suffered during the reign of Leopold II and Albert was determined, even as a young man, to set a new tone.
Part of this new tone was to be the domestic life of the Royal Family. In 1900 he married Duchess Elisabeth of Bavaria in Munich, beginning what would be a very long, happy and fruitful marriage marked by mutual respect and devotion. The succession was also quickly secured as the following year Princess Elisabeth gave birth to the future King Leopold III. In 1903 another son was born, Prince Charles Theodore, giving Belgium an “heir and a spare”. In 1906 the family was completed with the birth of Princess Maria Jose, the future Queen of Italy. Albert was a very devoted husband and father who set a fine example in his private life. This, in itself, was quite significant given the unhappy marriage of King Leopold II and Queen Marie Henriette of Austria. Together, Albert and Elisabeth would project a united front of domestic fidelity.
Prince Albert also made himself familiar with every section of Belgian society. He studied the problems of the working class and came up with recommendations to improve their working and living conditions. A firm believer in the principle of “go thyself”, in 1909 he traveled to the recently annexed Belgian Congo to see the situation for himself and what conditions were like for the natives. He had, perhaps, learned from the experience of his uncle, King Leopold II, that it was not safe to simply take the word of officials as to what life was like in the central African colony. He took seriously his duties to all of his future subjects, Belgians and Africans alike, and when he returned home presented a detailed report and recommendations on improving the lives of the natives and for further modernization in the Congo. His role in the rapid improvement in conditions in the Congo is not often stated but it was significant.
Later that year, in December 1909, King Leopold II passed away and his nephew was formally sworn in as King Albert I of the Belgians. Whereas Leopold II wanted his reign to be known for grandeur and greatness, King Albert I, at least in his own life, was best known for his simplicity and moderation. He was a hard working monarch not at all enthralled by pomp and ceremony. He was also a very humble man, reluctant to accept any praise or adulation no matter how well deserved. He wanted peace, prosperity and contentment in Belgium but he was not blind to the growing threat across the border in Germany. He tried to strengthen the Belgian army and give them more up-to-date weapons but was hampered by an uncooperative government and the fact that Germany itself was the source of most of their rifles and artillery. In 1912 his generals estimated that it would not be until 1918 that the military was fully prepared to successfully defend the national territory. As we know, Belgium was not to have that long.
In August of 1914 the ultimatum arrived from Germany stating that Belgian neutrality would be violated and that if resistance was met Germany would consider Belgium an enemy. No effective resistance was expected. King Albert I, however, boldly rejected the ultimatum, famously stating that “Belgium is a country, not a road”. A very upright and moral man, he had no other option. Belgium was bound to neutrality by treaty and if the Belgians had simply stood aside and allowed the Germans to pass through in order to attack France this would be a violation of that neutrality, not only by Germany but by Belgium as well as they would be passively cooperating in the invasion of France. Despite the impossible odds arrayed against them, King Albert I took command of the Belgian army and led a heroic defense of his country. The tall, serene soldier-king of “brave little Belgium” was tailor-made for the newspapers of the day and he quickly became a hero amongst the Allied nations for the stubborn defense of his country. The German timetable was upset and French and British forces had just enough time to rally in front of Paris to defeat the invasion force at the First Battle of the Marne.
King Albert, after being forced to withdraw from Antwerp, pulled back behind the Yser River and established a defensive line on the last corner of his native soil from which the Germans could never dislodge them. It was important to him to remain at the front, with his soldiers, on Belgian soil. He oversaw the rebuilding of the army which had been shattered in the initial invasion and in time they were better armed and equipped than they were at the outset. This was an extraordinary feat considering that almost the entire country was under German occupation and the sector the Belgians had to defend, the Flanders coast, was easily the most miserable on the western front, low, open and constantly waterlogged. As commander-in-chief he also had to oversee the operations of the Belgian colonial forces in Africa, where they met much success. It was a very trying time for the King, but his deep and sincere faith helped sustain him. A devout Catholic, King Albert impressed the importance of religion on his children and when Pope Benedict XV called for a peaceful end to the war he was the only Allied head-of-state to take the issue seriously. Unfortunately, his efforts to arrange peace with the Emperor Charles of Austria-Hungary were thwarted by the other Allied powers.
In 1918, since Belgian troops could only legally be commanded by their King, Albert was made commander of “Army Group Flanders” made up of the Belgian army and elements of the British II Army and French VI Army and he led these forces in a series of successful advances as part of the overall “Grand Offensive” or “Hundred Days Offensive” which brought the war to a successful conclusion by the Allies. There were wild celebrations in Brussels as the King rode in at the head of his army to liberate the country. However, there was no rest for the King as he immediately set to work rebuilding the devastated Belgian economy. He implemented government reforms such as universal suffrage and at the peace conference in Paris obtained reparations payments for Belgium but also showed his magnanimity by opposing overly-harsh treatment of the Germans. He could see, if none of his fellow Allied heads of state could, that the downfall of the German princes and the dissolution of the Hapsburg empire would dangerously destabilize all of central Europe. Alas, his warnings in this area went unheeded.
The interwar years were a period of recovery and King Albert I was kept very busy. He became the first reigning European monarch to visit the United States, paying tribute to the men of the AEF who helped clinch the Allied victory in the war, he opened the first national park in Africa in the Belgian Congo and he showed solidarity with the Dutch-speaking community of Flanders whose region had suffered the most in the war. He also saw his son Leopold married to Princess Astrid of Sweden and his daughter married to Crown Prince Umberto of Italy. When he did have some time for himself he loved mountain climbing. He was climbing in the Ardennes, near Namur, when, on February 17, 1934 he died in a tragic accident. His sudden death was a cause of great mourning and it is probably accurate to say that he was the most beloved King the Belgians ever had up to that time. He was upright, hard-working, devoted to his God, his family and his country, courageous in the face of disaster and humble in the face of praise and adulation. He was a great man and a great king.