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House Speaker Biographies

Photo credit:

"Springdale Man Named For Legislature By Republicans Of Twelfth District." Pittsburgh Daily Post [s.n.] 06 Jun. 1910, 2.

Photo credit:

"Springdale Man Named For Legislature By Republicans Of Twelfth District." Pittsburgh Daily Post [s.n.] 06 Jun. 1910, 2.


George E. Alter

Born: May 8, 1868, Springdale Borough, Allegheny County, PA.  Died: August 18, 1940, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, PA.  Member of the House: Allegheny County, 12th District, 1909-1914.  Affiliation: Republican.

George Elias Alter was educated in the public schools of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County.  After completing grade school, Alter studied shorthand and typing at night school and became a stenographer and law student in the office of a Pittsburgh attorney.   He was admitted to the Allegheny County Bar in 1893 and was appointed as auditor of Springdale Township, his first public office.  Alter was elected and appointed president of the Springdale Borough Council in 1905 and served in that position until 1908.  Alter was married to the former Diana Swanton, with whom he had 4 children: Kathleen E. (Elder), Frances E., George E., and David S.  Alter practiced law in Pittsburgh at the firm of McKee, Mitchell & Alter and continued to do so even upon his election to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.  In November of 1908, Alter was elected to the Pennsylvania House to represent the 12th District of Allegheny County.  He was re-elected to serve 2 more consecutive terms.

Alter was the prime sponsor of 4 pieces of legislation that were enacted in 1909:  House Bill 116, which became Act 48, authorized boroughs to acquire real estate;  House Bill 22, which became Act 59, created a sinking fund commission; House Bill 4, which became Act 47, required that the last will of any decedent be offered for probate within 3 years from the date of death; and finally, he was the prime sponsor of House Bill 84, which became Act 34, which outlined the protection of minor children.

On January 7, 1913, Alter was elected the 107th Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.  During his time as the Speaker, Alter presided over the ratification of the 17th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which would allow for the direct election of Senators.  Also during his Speakership, Act 63 was passed, which created Pennsylvania’s first hunting licensing program.

Alter served as a delegate to the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention of 1920. On December 14, 1920, Alter was appointed State Attorney General by Governor Sproul to fill a vacancy left by William I. Schaffer.  When his term expired, he ran unsuccessfully for Governor of Pennsylvania in 1922 against Gifford Pinchot.  From 1924-1925, he served as president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, and in 1928 he became chairman of the membership committee of the American Law Institute.  In 1933 he was elected to the executive council of the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. 

George E. Alter died August 18, 1940 in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.  He is interred at Homewood Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

Historical Member Biography

To view this Speaker's House Historical Biography, click here.