Ripples of Inspiration
“Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.” – Dalai Lama
It’s natural to be curious about what may have inspired Amanda (Bayne) Balph and her sister Jane (Bayne) Teece to dream of leaving the Balph residence to Bellevue Borough to become Andrew Bayne Memorial Library. We may never know for certain as the impetus was likely a combination of multiple factors, but a jaunt through history reveals some clues about people and events that may have been of some influence upon the sisters.
The book Pittsburgh’s Mansions by Melaine Lunn Gutowski’s transports us back in time to envision spectacular residences during the peak of the city’s prominence. The Balph home isn’t featured as it is not located within the bounds of the city of Pittsburgh, but of particular interest is the mention of grand estates that were donated to the City of Pittsburgh in hopes that good public use would be made of the buildings and surrounding land. These donations typically occurred when the owners decided to relocate or died without any heirs. If the building and land was passed onto heirs or sold, often it was later donated when the new owners ultimately realized the costs and difficulties associated with the upkeep. Unfortunately, the city also faced challenges in maintaining these large homes and as a result some were demolished. Fortunately, the land was still of use and in this way several of Pittsburgh’s public parks including Mellon Park and Westinghouse Park came to fruition.
We do know that neither of the sisters had any children and both were widowed. Their older brother Thomas Bayne tragically passed away before them and was also childless. Donating the building and surrounding grounds to the Borough of Bellevue for the use of the community after their deaths is in line with to what was transpiring in regards to other large residences in the Pittsburgh region. We also know that the sisters loved books and reading and wanted to create a memorial to their father by naming the library after him. In addition, the sisters memorialized their own married last names by renaming the streets that border the property as Balph and Teece.
Their brother Thomas Bayne was a prominent politician and he accompanied President Benjamin Harrison and Andrew Carnegie in a private train car from Washington DC to Pittsburgh in February of 1890. All three men were scheduled to speak at the formal dedication of the first Carnegie Library commissioned, the Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny. The magnificent structure by Smithmeyer & Pelz Architects is shown in the background of this stereoscopic image.
President Benjamin Harrison and Andrew Carnegie, along with small group of men including Thomas Bayne arrived in carriages from the Duquesne Club, and passed up the middle aisle ascending the steps leading to the stage for the dedication.
Could Amanda and Jane have been among those gathered as the Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny was dedicated, watching their brother Thomas as he addressed the crowd?
Perhaps they heard the resounding words President Harrison spoke in praise of Carnegie, “I am proud that you have a citizen who could conceive so grand a work as this. I am sure that it will be an example to others, and that his influence will spread until those who have wealth will find it to their greatest happiness to use that wealth for the benefit of mankind.”
Even if neither sister was in attendance, the next time the family gathered this event was likely discussed as it was certainly newsworthy that Thomas had been part of the President’s entourage. The details of the dedication were also featured in local newspapers.
During their lifetime the sisters may have admired Andrew Carnegie’s contribution in the form of libraries and they may have even known the story of how Colonel James Anderson had inspired Carnegie’s generosity. Carnegie used James Anderson’s library as a child, and the free access to the illimitable domain of literature profoundly influenced his life.
“It is, no doubt, possible that my own personal experiences may have led me to value a free library beyond all other forms of beneficence. When I was a working boy in Pittsburgh, Colonel Anderson of Allegheny- a name that I can never speak without feelings of devotion gratitude- opened his little library of four hundred books to boys. Every Saturday afternoon he was in attendance at his house to exchange books. No one but him who has felt it can ever know the intense longing with which the arrival of Saturday was awaited, that a new book might be had. My brother and Mr. Phipps, who have been my principal business partners through life, shared with me Colonel Anderson’s precious generosity, and it was when reveling in the treasures which he opened to us that I resolved, if wealth ever came to me, that it should be used to establish free libraries, and that other poor boys might receive opportunities similar to those which we were indebted to that noble man.” -Andrew Carnegie from the manual of Andrew Carnegie Philanthropic Projects
Photographer Lee Paxton shows Anderson Manor, formerly known as the James Anderson House located in the Manchester neighborhood of Pittsburgh. This is the building Carnegie longed to visit each Saturday to attain a new book.
To perpetuate the memory of Colonel James Anderson, Carnegie erected a monument in front of the Allegheny Music Hall. The noble piece of statuary was unveiled on June 15, 1904 with impressive pomp and ceremony, including a street parade and many speeches.
During the dedication Dr. Levy gave a tribute in regards to the statue, “It manifests a deep spirit of gratitude, a sentiment which is the sweetest flower whose perfume is spread in the human heart.”
The image above by Nicolas Veron shows the overall Anderson Monument with a bronze bust of Colonel James Anderson elevated beyond the bronze sculpture of Labor, a shirtless figure seated upon an anvil draped with fabric. With hat tipped forward, the figure is immersed in the pages of the hefty book held open with his right hand while his left hand rests on the anvil next to a hammer.
Text on the monument reads: “To Colonel James Anderson, founder of free libraries in Western Pennsylvania. He opened his library to working boys and on Saturday afternoons acted as librarian, thus dedicating not only his books, but himself to the noble work. This monument is erected in graceful remembrance by Andrew Carnegie, one of the “working boys” to whom were thus opened the precious treasures of knowledge and imagination through which youth may ascend.”
Approximately 600 volumes from Colonel Anderson’s personal library are preserved in the Oliver Room at the Carnegie Library’s main branch in Oakland. Above is a bookplate from the interior of one of the books, and below are examples of books from the collection.
Colonel James Anderson created far-reaching ripples of inspiration with his library that inspired Andrew Carnegie. As President Harrison’s speech foretold- Carnegie’s influence did spread throughout our region, and we can all hope that Amanda and Jane felt the greatest happiness because like Carnegie, they also chose to use their wealth for the benefit of mankind.
Written 12/30/20 by Linda