Born on May 13, 1845, Pittsburgh, John was the son of Henry and Annie G. Upperman, educated in common schools and the Shafer Business College. By age 25, he learned the tanner’s trade and supported the family as a shoe dealer, but later became an undertaker. As the 43rd Allegheny County district belonged to the Magee-Flynn Republican faction, Upperman and contemporary Samuel Stotler “Uncle Sam” Steel became operatives for the group, possessing at least a modicum of political clout. As an important senate liaison for Chrissie Magee, John received support for passage of the “Upperman Bill,” legislation that proposed numerous construction and highway improvements for the city, and ones that amounted to Chris Magee’s legacy upon completion. Nevertheless, as a colleague of the Magee-Flynn faction, Upperman’s political career became fodder for Lincoln Steffans’ critical commentary for a brief period, the senator passing on May 19, 1912.