Monthly Archives: April 2012

Pittsburgh History with Ginny: Suck it, Harlequin

(Sarah Cordelia Mellon circa 1925)

(Alan Magee Scaife circa 1920)

Today we’re looking into one of the most expensive weddings to ever take place on American soil prior to 1927. While most of us would associate opulent and grandiose fairy tale nuptials with regency England, little did you know that in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, Pittsburgh had quite a social scene that rivaled anything coming out of London at the time.

The wedding I’m referring to is that between Sarah Cordelia Mellon and Alan Magee Scaife, who was not only a Yale Graduate, but also a military man.

Look at all those names. Mellon. Magee. Scaife.

First, background. Sarah Cordelia Mellon was the daughter of R.B. Mellon and the niece of Andrew Mellon, former Secretary of the Treasury for the United States. She grew up in this East End house that I was devastated to learn was razed.

And here’s something else, Sarah Cordelia Mellon would become the mother of Richard “Dick” Scaife, the current wealthy owner of the Tribune Review.

Now, prior to 1927, there was no mention of Sarah and Alan being romantically involved and you’re like, “Ginny. How can you know this. It’s not like there was a journal published that listed such things.” And to you I say, “Oh, but there was!”

Introducing the amazing weekly Pittsburgh Index, a journal that accounted the social happenings of the Pittsburgh wealthy. We’re talking who got engaged. Who traveled to Egypt to summer. Who was hosting what. Who entertained in their home and who they entertained. Who was seen dancing with whom. Who was in whose wedding party. And on and on.


So I hunted and found this in the January 10, 1925 edition that shows Alan and Sarah attended the same cotillion but were spotted dancing with other people, not each other:

On Tuesday, June 23, 1925 the Beatty Mellons had what sounds like the party of the year at their estate of the now-razed home. The guest list included 600 people and being the romantic I am, I assume Alan took one look at Sarah in her dress with tiny mirrors on it and lost his mind. YMMV.

But Sarah must have shunned his adoration because in December of 1926, he was still dancing with other women at cotillions:

But in June of 1927, they served as bridesmaid and usher in the wedding of Molly Miller and William Bacon Schiller and it was at the wedding reception for 500 guests at the University Club that I assume they fell passionately in love and stole away to an outdoor terrace for desperate embraces. YMMV.

Because not long after, on July 23, 1927, the Index had an announcement:

And then the Index waited with bated breath:

The day of the wedding, the newspapers revealed that the wedding gifts received had already totaled over $500,000, which adjusted for inflation is $6,222,000 in today’s dollars. Six million bucks in gifts filling three whole rooms! And that doesn’t include the mystery gifts from Andrew Mellon and the bride’s father, which I assume would be estates in England or their weight in gold bars or maybe the Ark of the Covenant. Who can know?

The events preceding the wedding proved that money can’t buy a wedding free from snags, as not only did the bride and father of the bride have trouble getting to the church due to traffic thanks to crowds hoping to catch a glimpse of the bride, as well as guests arriving late to the wedding:

But the groom was sent to the wrong entrance to the church and found himself standing in the pouring rain, locked out!

Why isn’t this a movie?! It’s brilliant! Frantically trying to get into a church while getting soaked by rain, and then having to crush your way through a throng of celebrity-hungry onlookers is just romantic-comedy gold. Here is the bride calmly arriving at the church, where she was greeted with flashbulbs and a throng of female onlookers:

At 5:30 p.m. on November 16, 1927, the wedding took place at East Liberty Presbyterian Church, joining 27-year-old Alan in marriage to 24-year-old Sarah. Here is how the Index described it:

One of the most elaborate weddings that ever took place in Pittsburgh was that of Miss Sarah Cordelia Mellon, daughter of Mr. and M

rs. Richard Beatty Mellon, and Mr. Alan Magee Scaife, son of Mr. and Mrs. James Verner Scaiffe, which was an event of Wednesday afternoon in the East Liberty Presbyterian Church.

A cloth of gold covered the prie dieu, before which the Rev. Dr. Stuart Nye Hutchison performed the ceremony, orchid velvet draperies formed the background for the altar and concealed the organ and reaching from the side balconies, over the altar, was an arch of magnolia blossoms. Outlining the path of the bridal party were tall gold standards filled with white chrysanthemums. The bride, who was given away by her father, wore a gown of white satin, built on straight lines with uneven hem, with the short skirt sloping toward the back, and having long, close fitting sleeves. Pearl embroidery followed the V-neck line and covered the bodice, extending down into a point on the skirt. Rose point lace edged both the satin court train and the tulle veil, which fell from a coronet of pearls, ending in long points on the train. Lilies of the valley, jasmin and white orchids formed the bouquet.

Now, because I still haven’t gotten down to the Carnegie Library to see if the microfilm is any better quality, this is the best I can do on the bride and groom exiting the church:

The ceremony is described as simple and quite brief. It’s the reception at the R.B. Mellon mansion, which was reportedly themed to resemble Arabian Nights, that will blow you away.

This pavilion cost $100,000, and adjusted for inflation, the pavilion alone would come to more than $1,300,000.

JUST FOR THE PAVILION. Now, it seems the pavilion had three separate terraces or something, and each had its own theme.

Where are the chandeliers now? What happened to them. Seven feet in diameter? Man. And when they say “birds” do they mean real birds? And when they say “gold cages” do they mean real gold? Considering Richard Scaife and Ritchie Scaife famously fought over a solid-gold bacon dish, I assume they mean real gold.

This is the best picture I could find of the tables and what appears to be one of the chandeliers:

I pretty much hate the world right now that there wasn’t hi-res digital color photography in 1927. WHERE IS THAT DAMN TIME MACHINE?!

It was a gusty, rainy night, so it’s a good thing they sprang for the elaborate fake moon, stars, and lake.

You know what houses don’t have enough of these days? Statuaries. We need more life-sized statuaries.

Following the reception, the couple sailed for Europe for a month-long honeymoon and lived happily ever after.

But not really.

First, Alan Magee Scaife? Veritable hottie.

(Alan Magee Scaife in 1938 at age 38)

Besides that, he and Sarah would have two children, Richard Scaife, who we all know, and Cordelia Scaife May, whose own wedding was much simpler than her parents’ famously ornate one. Here are Alan and Sarah arriving at their daughter’s wedding in 1949:

Alan Magee Scaife would die in 1958, at the age of 58.

Sarah, according to her daughter Cordelia, was a long-time alcoholic which resulted in a quite unhappy childhood for Cordelia and Richard.

Sarah Mellon Scaife was “just a gutter drunk,” in the words of her daughter, Cordelia. “So was Dick,” Cordelia Scaife May added of her brother in an interview. “So was I.”

If money was most important in shaping Richard Scaife’s life, alcohol may come second. In a household dominated by his mother’s drinking, Scaife’s childhood was pampered but sad, according to his sister. “I don’t remember any laughter in that house,” she said. The children were raised by nannies and nurses.

Sarah would die in 1965 at the age of 62.

Now I’m sad. Why can’t fairy tales really exist? Why does the reality have to be so sad?

No matter. In my mind, they lived happily ever after.  In my mind, they may have had a falling out, but eventually Alan showed up one day at the palace all, “You complete me.”

And Sarah started sobbing all, “We forgot about the flowers.”

And then he hugged her and she said, “I don’t want sunbursts or marble halls. I just want you.”

And he said, “As you wish.”

I need help, people. I’ma write a movie.

Also, someone check the Scaife warehouses for the Ark of the Covenant.

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There are so many many many ways to die. The Grim Reaper must have an entire library of them organized by the Dewey Decimal System.


Brain-eating amoeba. (Right now my sister Tina Fey is all, “I HAVE ONE OF THOSE EATING MY FRONTAL LOBE AS WE TYPE.”

Cancer. (Ugh.)


Brain aneurysm.

Blood clot. (Right now, my sister Tina Fey is Googling, “I think I have a blood clot. What now?”)

From cute. (Pretty sure it could happen if I looked this picture of a baby hedgehog long enough.)



Ebola. (Right now, my sister Tina Fey is writing on a Post-It, “Avoid Africa at all costs. Also, check daily for bleeding from eyeballs.”)

And there are a lot of ways to intentionally put yourself right in the path of the Reaper. Everest. Suicide. Suicide by Everest. Drugs. Gaining 700 pounds. Posting Facebook or Twitter updates all, “Sigh.” or “YES!” or “I’m over it.” or “Hardest decision I’ve ever had to make.” or any other vague, cry-for-attention words or phrases. I should be allowed to kill those people, right?

But to put yourself in the path of the Reaper in such a bold fashion as these two young teenagers from Butler, is a new brand of spitting in the eye of the Grim Reaper.

Police say two teenage girls who fell asleep while sunbathing on a rural road have been struck by a car.

The Beaver County Police Department told a local TV station that Samantha Schermanhorn and Kaylie George, both 13, were hit by the vehicle Sunday afternoon.

Two of Samantha’s cousins told the station that their 19-year-old brother had stopped at a stop sign and made a turn before striking the girls with his car.

Nicole and Nicholas Beck say the girls were conscious and told them that they had fallen asleep while suntanning.

Was there no other spot of sun anywhere in all of Beaver than in the middle of a road?

Now, the girls will survive, thank God, so I feel confident in using this time to teach them a lesson that really will take them far in their lives from this point on:

The only beings that should sunbathe in the middle of a road are snakes and Vaguebookers.

Makes it easy for me to rid the world of both of those scourges.

Also, someone needs to get these girls some shirts that say, “I bitch-slapped the Grim Reaper, and won.”

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Donora? Donora.

As far as I can tell, Donora is a Burgh-based brother/sister duo and a guy named Jake and they’ve been around a while.

I don’t pay enough attention to the local music scene for sure, and I get tons of emails from promoters all “PITTGIRL. YOU WILL LOVE THIS.” And I rarely bother to check out the links. I hang my head in shame.

I don’t know why I clicked on this one in an email from a promoter, and I honestly was all “Wah?!” for the first twenty seconds of the video, then I kinda loved the song and then I kinda loved the girl and then I kinda was like, “Who knew there were so many badass dudes on roller skates?”

It’s a catchy tune. What do you guys think?

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They’re playing Stage AE tomorrow if you dig it.

You dig?

I’m so lame.

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Random n’at

1. There will be a new history post next week. Over the course of the last week, I have probably put six hours of research time into it and all it has done is give me about 30 other things I want to research about Pittsburgh’s history, particularly the 1885 to 1930 period.

I seriously might need an intervention soon, you guys. Or a time machine.

2. Corporate speak!

Are we stuck in a Dilbert strip? Is that an actual organization? What does it even do?

The preeminent worldwide organization for mergers and acquisitions and corporate professionals.

This reminds me, how is the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Organization for the Actualization of Increased Revenues doing these days?

3. Go check out this picture of a telephone pole in Connellsville, Fayette County.

I refuse to believe that’s real. I have made mud pies that were more structurally sound. And there’s no warning. No caution tape around it. No orange cone. No sign that says “HERE BE CERTAIN CRUSHING DEATH.”

God bless Fayette County.

4. Pittsburgh has an all-girls FIRST robotics team named Girls of Steel made up of female high school students who dress like Rosie the Riveter and take part in robotics competitions and I AM SUPER IMPRESSED! You must go read all about them, check out their awesome build pictures, and be inspired.

As a zombie once said, “Brains are hot.”

(h/t Kelly)

5. A Fayette County prisoner hid a cellphone and a charger in his prosthetic leg.

This is called taking the lemons life throws at you and making lemonade. Just like I can take the lemon life threw at me (being super deaf) and make lemonade (turning my hearing aids off when my kids start whining).

6. Pedro Alvarez looked in the mirror and said, “OMG. You suck. Stop it.”

Or the ghost of Robert Clemente visited him in the night and said, “OMG. You suck. Stop it. Also, give to the poor.” Because Pedro has managed to bring his hilariously atrocious, grotesquely vomitous .067 batting average up to a merely anemic, slightly putrid .156.


But seriously, he seems to have turned the bend and God I hope it’s Roberto showing him the way.

7. Two friend things for you, meaning they are about my friends who I actually used to just know virtually but now I know them well enough to call them a bitch to their faces:

  • Burgh Baby’s Getting Started with Your DSLR photography classes are still going on thanks in part to demand by Burghers interested in learning what all the buttons and doohickeys and numbers mean on their DSLRs.  As you know, I took a class and I can’t even tell you how valuable it was to me. My pictures have life now. Although I still need help getting my white balance right. That’s a killer.
  • Mindy Bakes is my new favorite recipe blog joining Burgher Michelle’s Brown Eyed Baker blog. I made this meatloaf for my family and I can’t even tell you. Best meatloaf ever. MEATLOAF! IT HAS BEER IN THE SAUCE! BEER! And she is so right about not mashing your meatloaf to death. I was totally making that mistake.

8. Dear Lukey, “doohickeys” is actually a word. I dare you to use it in a press release. Speaking of which, three times was the charm because his staff managed to finally put the correct word in the press release. Someone needs to make a shirt all “inclimate inclemate inclement!”

9. CHILLS. From Benstonium:

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10.  A little girl in Children’s Hospital, Lanie, who is fighting leukemia, and hopefully will get some smiles out of all that gaming Make Room for Kids delivered, has a wish … to meet iCarly. You can help by liking or sharing her Facebook page!

You can see that yesterday her parents almost lost her, but she fights on. Would that I could punch cancer in the throat for her.

(h/t Gina)

11. If you’re going to Saturday’s Pittsburgh Power game, be sure to let the Power know that you want your ticket proceeds donated to Team Tassy, which is the nonprofit charity chosen to benefit from this game. Tassy will even be there to do the coin toss!

I wish I could figure out how to buy tickets online, because their webpage is a giant bag of fail on that.

12. I always thought Andrew McCutchen’s hair was in braids. I never realized they were dreads. How unobservant of me. Either way, watch this. It’s kinda swoony and a bit [smolder].

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(h/t MostlyMartha on Twitter)

13. This video is raw footage of Rick Earle touring the Florida house where alleged [snort] murderer Ken Konias was captured. Start at 1:17 in and pay attention to the girl in the background. She is a superstar! Then jump to 2:28. LOL.

3:07, she blatantly eye-bangs the camera.

Get this girl a reality show.

(h/t @thisisunique)

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The zoo’s new baby otter will make it all better

I love baby animals, and as a professional pigeon punter and bird hater and cat hater, you’re probably like “LIAR FIRE PANTS!”

But seriously, sometimes when I need a smile, I just go to Google and type “baby [insert random animal]” and then I’m all fawning and squeeing and I start pronouncing it CYOOOOOOT!

But I will never say adorbs. Promise.

Let’s try it. Baby ………. platypus! (click photos for sources):


See what I mean?

Let’s try another. Baby ………… anteater!


I bet you never thought a baby anteater would make you ovulate like that.

The only animal that is not adorable when it’s born is a pigeon, and that’s how you know Satan invented them. No way God created THIS monstrosity:

Are you trying to kill them with fire too? Just me?

Anyway, the Pittsburgh Zoo is introducing its baby otter tomorrow and my buddy @Herbie got a sneak preview and shared these pictures on Twitter and said I could share them with you!


I’ve named him Poopsie and he is my snugglemuffin.


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