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10/25/2021 01:39 AM
Pennsylvania State Senate

Christopher Lyman Magee



Session Office Position District Party
1897-1898 43 Republican
1899-1900 43 Republican
 Counties   Allegheny


1848 - 1901

Senator Magee was born April 14, 1848, Pittsburgh, the son of Christopher Lyman Magee Sr. and wife, Elizabeth. The Senator was a powerful and wealthy political boss in Pittsburgh, who, with William Flinn (1851-1924), ran the Republican Party machine that controlled the city for twenty years (1880-1900).  He was educated in Pittsburgh public schools and the Western University of Pennsylvania (Pitt).  He became an office boy for the iron manufacturing firm of Park, McCurdy, and Company; worked in the city controller's office, 1864; and in 1869, worked in the city treasurer's office.  At 22, he was a successful Republican primary candidate for the city treasurer’s position, lost, but won with the next opportunity in the general election of 1873, under the mentorship of Uncle Tom Steele.  Magee’s success at cutting the city’s debt was dramatically swift and caught the eye of all political wire-pullers.  Magee thereafter joined forces with William Flinn to consolidate GOP power in Pittsburgh, both instrumental in changing the city charter, revoking council’s privilege to hire, granting that right to city department heads.  While the modification simply created a new system of corruption eventually, it was nevertheless effective in its immediate purpose of yanking power from state/national party boss Matthew Stanley Quay.  Ultimately, Flinn and Magee’s power fell under the weight of reformers like Lincoln Steffens, who published “Shame of the Cities” in McClure’s Magazine, 1903: 
"Magee wanted power, Flinn wealth.... Magee spent his wealth for more power, and Flinn spent his power for more wealth.... Magee attracted followers, Flinn employed them. He was useful to Magee; Magee was indispensable to him.... Molasses and vinegar, diplomacy and force, mind and will – they were well mated."
The two men, nevertheless, had woven an intricate financial empire through banks and securities; became the darlings of Pittsburgh/Allegheny County industrialism; and were personally responsible for hiring untold thousands of residents.  Eventually Flinn and Magee’s power was subdued by corruption and kickback legislation.  Magee, however, did win two terms in the state senate, made a fortune in the street car (traction) industry; was president of Transverse Railway Company; merged the street car companies into the Consolidated Traction Company, serving as president of the business; and served on numerous boards and non-profit institutions, including hospitals and universities; and in 1895 gave $100,000 to establish the Pittsburgh Zoo. 
He married Eleanor Louise Gillespie in 1878, and the couple built their home, named "Maples," in Oakland, at the corner of Forbes Ave. and Halket Street.  Although the Magee family typically attended the Roman Catholic Church, “Chrissy” Magee was Methodist.   He died on March 8, 1901.