From Pittsburgh Streets

"E. M. Bigelow put out and G. W. Wilson put in: Director of public works office vacated and again filled by councils: Senator Flinn at last victorious: Sensational scenes in councils, the minority making a brave fight, followed by still more sensational climax when new director gets into office by a janitor climbing into the window to let him in." Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, June 12, 1900, pp. 1, 9. 85594209, 85594240.

Director of Public Works Office Vacated and Again Filled By Councils.
Sensational Scenes in Councils, the Minority Making a Brave Fight, Followed by Still More Sensational Climax When New Director Gets Into Office By a Janitor Climbing Into the Window to Let Him In.

Ignoring all appeals for justice, public or private, Pittsburgh councils yesterday condemned and deposed E. M. Bigelow, director of the department of public works. Three hours were spent in rejecting overtures for fair play; in voting down suggestions that embraced propositions to give Mr. Bigelow a chance to be heard; and at the end of that time by a vote of three to one—63 to 21—the office was declared vacant.

His successor was immediately elected, sworn in by the mayor, and forcible possession taken of Mr. Bigelow's offices, general and private. The necessity for forcible entry, it was stated, was the fear that Mr. Bielow [sic] might not recognize as legal the action of councils and refuse to vacate. It was a dramatic sequence to a day filled with sensational incidents.

If the action of councils be legal, Mr. Bigelow ceased to be director of the department of public works at 5:15 o'clock yesterday afternoon, and 15 minutes later George W. Wilson, director of the department of public charities, was elected in his place. This action leaves the charities department without a head, but Senator Flinn said that councils would meet in special session to-morrow, at which time ex-County Treasurer John M. Anderson would be elected as Mr. Wilson's successor. Select Councilman W. J. Ruhlandt of the South Side said that the people on his side of the river wanted recognition and would demand the election of ex-Prothonotary John Bradley, but when told of this Senator Flinn smiled indulgently and declared that Ruhlandt was "only foolin'."

The odds are 1,000 to 1 that Mr. Anderson will disburse municipal charities, for he is "slated," and the events of yesterday demonstrated that when a man is "slated" he will be elected if the town is turned upside down. While captious critics may liken Senator Flinn's methods to those of that member of the Vanderbilt family who was the author of the famous dictum—"the public be d⸺d," there is no gainsaying the statement that the man or men who take issue with those methods—even when backed by a preponderance of public opinion—have found themselves "up against it." It was so yesterday, it will be so to-morrow, and as to the future—that will care for itself.

Procession Headed by Police.

Before the echoes of spirited and emphatic protest, voiced by citizens in mass meeting assembled, had ceased to reverberate through the councilmanic chambers, Supt. of Police A. H. Leslie and a squad of police headed the procession of councilmen into the halls and the program of the day was on. The public was excluded, except from the lobby, which was packed by a perspiring, indignant and excited throng. Members and ex-members, the mayor, city controller, treasurer and heads of departments, and the representatives of the press, the chairmen of each branch announced, were entitled to the floor. This was stretched to include stenographers and certain politicians who had a mission to perform. Director J. O. Brown was the only department head who accepted this privilege. He was the official prompter. On the desk in front of him was the list of members and he was able to tell just how each man was going to vote, and his prediction was absolutely verified. In front of the director sat Kirk Q. Bigham. At various stages of the proceedings Mr. Bigham made an effort to rise. He had something on his mind, but the director muzzled his thought. The program called for but two speeches from the Anti-Bigelow forces and Mr. Brown did not want the limit exceeded. Mr. W. I. Mustin, however, spoiled this by voicing his sentiments, but Mustin has a faculty of doing just as he pleases, regardless of others.

Across the hall, in the private office of City Attorney Clarence Burleigh, there was a notable gathering of well-known men. Senator Flinn, Recorder George von Bonnhorst, Postmaster George Holliday, County Treasurer Thomas G. McClure, Clarence Burleigh, Representative George M. Hosack, Police Magistrate Arch Mackrell, George, Charles and Rex Flinn and Mayor Diehl were there. Messengers were constantly going from this room to either branch. They carried instructions. Director Wilson spent most of the afternoon in this office. Senator Flinn was in high spirits. He knew what the outcome would be, in fact, no one could guess wrong after the statement of Senator C. L. Magee appeared in yesterday morning's Commercial Gazette. Mr. Magee had the last guess, and when he made it a dozen councilmen, or more, looked at the matter differently. Councilman Fleming and Delaney of the First ward were of the number. Sunday night they were vehement for Bigelow. It was different yesterday.

Mr. Bigelow, himself, knew that all was over yesterday morning, and at noon, after looking over the odds and ends in his private papers, he went home knowing that when he looked another look at the department, of which he has been the director for 12 years, it would be as a private citizen so far as the will of the councils was concerned. He said the people were with him, but their representatives were not.

It was 2:30 before the work of impeachment by indirection was started. No charges had been filed, no notice of intent to Mr. Bigelow been given, and his knowledge of impending events had for a source the newspapers and rumor of the streets. Pledges, he said, had been given him by a majority of the members in either branch, but when pressure came promises were forgotten. John Upperman of the Fifteenth ward, fired the signal gun in select, introducing the resolution declaring Mr. Bigelow's office vacant. Common branch was immediately notified. Mr. Douglass gave the first show of opposition by requesting that ex-members be allowed to remain. Chairman McCandless granted this, but not until after the roll had been called. Only two members were absent in common, W. A. Magee and John G. Semmelrock, but the latter arrived before the axe finally fell. There was a preliminary skirmish on the motion to concur with select in the matter of a joint session, Mr. Douglass objecting and making a point of order. Mr. Bigham wanted to get into the argument, but submitted when Max Leslie said:

"For God's sake keep still." Then Director Brown arrived and took charge of Mr. Bigham for the balance of the session. President McCandless ruled that Mr. Douglass' point of order was not well taken, declaring the question to be one of the highest privilege.

It Was a Test Vote.

Mr. Douglass appealed and the first test vote of the day was at hand. A roll call showed 80 affirmatives and 16 negatives on the question of concurrence. Mr. Bigelow was doomed, select having indorsed Upperman's resolution by a vote of 30 to 6, a decisive majority in both branches. There was further sparring between the chair and Mr. Douglass, without parliamentary profit to the latter, and at 3:15 select branch made its appearance.

President Lambie took the chair. J. M. Clark of the Twentieth ward offered a resolution to the effect that Mr. Bigelow be asked to present himself and make any statement he desired. Strange to say when a vote was taken on this resolution one member voted in the negative, Mr. Douglass called attention to this objection which, under the rules, barred the director from the floor. Mr. Upperman made a plea for "regularity." He insisted that the clerk be sent to notify Mr. Bigelow. The chair answered him testily and requested Mr. Clark and Mr. Douglass to act as the ambassadors of councils.

"I decline so disgraceful a mission," replied Mr. Douglass and there was a storm of applause. The clerk was sent and he reported Mr. Bigelow absent from his office.

With trembling voice and hysterical accent Mr. Upperman arose and delivered an oral indictment. His offering was the first official intimation that an excuse was to be offered for the summary action ordered. After charging Mr. Bigelow with having violated the constitution of Pennsylvania and the laws of councils, he became specific, accusing Mr. Bigelow of having in 1899 placed an item of $36,000 in an appropriation for the improvement of Penn avenue, from Point Breeze to the city limit, after the work had been done. Mr. Upperman neglected to state that this item was approved by the finance committee by councils and the mayor before it became available. The entire responsibility, in his opinion rested upon Mr. Bigelow. By innuendo he charged the director with having tampered with the record of a committee, alleging that the director was the only man with a motive for such a change. He recited many other wrongs committed by the director—all prior to the time when Mr. Upperman voted for his re-election last December—and then he lapsed into an outburst of pitiable pathos.

Nooses About Their Necks.

He denounced the director for an alleged statement to the effect that councilmen "wore nooses about their necks," declaring that he, (Upperman) was not a "bondsman" or a "slave," and that his manhood compelled him to refute the charge.

"You don't mean that, John Upperman," cried a voice from the lobby. A panic seemed imminent. The lobby was very troublesome and interjected applause and unkind remarks not welcomed by the majority. A threat was made by the chair to clear it.

Mr. Upperman was permitted to conclude with an earnest statement that his remains will be interred in the Allegheny cemetery and that after he is gone he does not wish posterity to point the finger of scorn at his children, and charge that their father wore a "noose."

Ther [sic] was another outbreak of cheers when W. E. Lang, characterized the proceedings as more arbitrary than those of the czar of Russia. He pleaded earnestly for a postponement of two weeks in order that Mr. Bigelow be given a chance to defend himself. But the appeal fell on deaf ears.

Dr. Sterrett dropped a bamb [sic] by asking when Mr. Bigelow secured a notice of the intention to impeach him.

"He had none," replied Mr. Upperman. Dr. Sterrett, with great indignation, declared it a nice proceeding to discharge a man without notice.

An eloquent appeal was made by Mr. Crawford of the Twentieth ward. He said the issue involved both state and municipal politics; that it was the most important question ever passed upon by councils since he became a member ("You are right," shouted a man in the lobby). Clearly, and incisively, Mr. Crawford laid bare the proposition, taking the high ground that if Mr. Bigelow had been guilty of wrongdoing, charges should be filed and the director fined—a privilege, he declared, afforded all criminals. He deprecated such judgment and begged for careful deliberation before action was taken. His denunciation of summary action was terse and emphatic.

But the motion to postpone was lost by a vote of 60 to 24.

Said It Was Business.

W. A. Magee, Jr., in his address defending the action deposing the director, argued from the standpoint that councils were a board of directors, representing the municipality, and that they had the power to remove any man by them appointed, providing that, in their judgment, he had not done his duty. He paid a tribute to Mr. Bigelow's work in the past, but declared that his usefulness as a public official had begun to deteriorate with the raising of his monument in Schenley park. Councils had stood by Bigelow when he had no friends outside, Mr. Magee declared, and now positions were reversed.

One of the most forceful speeches of the day, in defense of Mr. Bigelow, was made by R. H. Douglass of the Twenty-first ward. He presented the resolution adopted by the citizens' meeting, but councils were indifferent to its protest. He gave a splendid tribute to Senator C. L. Magee, and held that the ties which bound Mr. Magee and Mr. Bigelow were of such a binding character that one could not be attacked without injury to the other The underlying motive of the removal resolution, he declared, was for the pecuniary and material interests of the largest contractor in the city of Pittsburgh.

"Senator Flinn said last night," declared Mr. Douglass, "that he would decide to-day upon Mr. Bigelow's successor. Are you ready, gentlemen, to ratify his choice? I'll tell you who he is. He wil [sic] be simply the chief clerk of the biggest contractor in Pittsburgh."

Mr. Mustin, in a brief address, relieved Mr. Bigelow of responsibility for the Paisley defalcation, and said he would vote against him because he believed all of our great improvements could have been made for less money had not Mr. Bigelow directed them. Mr. Mustin drew the first and only applause in support of the resolution.

Charles S. Crawford asserted that Mr. Upperman had stultified himself by making such severe charges against a man, charges covering a period of 12 years, whom he had voted for six months ago. He also claimed that Senator Flinn had said to him, when the contract ordinance was being considered, that he proposed to bid on the filtration contract, but that he would not do so if Bigelow let the contract. (Sensation.) Mr. Crawford reverted to the fact that Mr. Bigelow had exposed Paisley, saved the city from, what he called park site jobs, and claimed that he was deserving of priase, instead of censure.

Biggest Man in Pittsburgh.

"If you turn him out he will be the biggest man in Pittsburgh," said the speaker. The address was frequently interrupted by vigorous applause.

A vote on the resolution was then called and Mr. Bigelow was deposed by a vote of 63 to 21. Each branch, in separate session, afterwards ratified this action.

At different stages of the proceedings the report of the Paisley investigating committee was taken up, its reading being interrupted by what councils considered the more important duty of firing Bigelow. The report received but slight consideration and its acceptance would have probably gone over until another day, had not Senator Flinn sent word to have it acted upon finally. A little matter like the embezzlement of $52,000 was only a trifling incident yesterday, but it was finally dumped into the law department to be called for by City Attorney Burleigh when he has nothing important on hand. It may fill the gap in a rainy day.

The election of a successor to Mr. Bigelow was a perfunctory function. Another joint session was ordered, Mr. Wilson's name presented and his election made. His resignation as director of charities was accepted. Mr. Wilson was escorted to the chamber and expressed thanks for the honor, pledging himself to discharge the duties for the best interests of all. Mr. Wilson became assistant postmaster when George L. Holliday succeeded Mr. O'Donnell. Upon the death of George Booth, Feburary 16, he was elected director of the department of public charities and now he succeeds Mr. Bigelow, his salary in his new position being $5,000 a year, $1,000 more than he received as director of charities.

Senator Flinn's Expression.

While Senator Flinn and his friends exhibited much pleasure over the retirement of Mr. Bigelow, their expressions were guarded and temperate. The senator said it would be bad taste for him to discuss the action at length. He declared that Mr. Bigelow's mission had been to ruin him (Flinn) in a business way, and that his downfall rested upon his own shoulders.

Director Brown said it was purely a business matter. The directors were the servants of councils and when their services were not satisfactory it was the duty of councils to discharge them. Personally he said he conceded such powers and was willing to abide by them. Mayor Diehl declined to talk. With him it was the hour for action.