City Bosses in the United States: A Study of Twenty Municipal Bosses

By Harold B. Zink | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
"SENATOR" WILLIAM FLINN

Political bosses have rarely been prominent in the social life of their cities. Neither have they ordinarily stood in the first or genius group of business men. However, the name of William Flinn is to be found listed in the Pittsburgh Social Register for a period of twenty years. Then, too, his large fortune and numerous important business connections indicate his large ability along business lines.1

"Senator" Flinn was born in Manchester, England, on May twenty-sixth in the year 1851. Both of his parents were natives of Ireland and left the isle to escape political persecution. After a period of financial difficulty in England they emigrated to the United States and arrived in Pittsburgh in the year 1851, when their son was scarcely more than six months old. The father, John Flinn, did fairly well with a small contracting business and before his death in the early teens of William became casually known in political circles of his ward. Until 1896, when William Flinn moved with his family to the Nineteenth Ward, the Flinns lived in the old Sixth Ward, famed for its practical politics.2

Young William left school at the age of nine years and hence did not pass beyond the common school grades.3 Nevertheless, he cannot be classed as uneducated, for a keen

____________________
1
See the Social Register, XXXIII, No. 8, 35-36.
2
For additional information concerning the Flinn family, see Smull, Legislative Hand Book and Manual of the State of Pennsylvania, 1900 ( Harrisburg, 1900), p. 1159; Pittsburgh Gazette-Times, February 20, 1924, pp. 1, 4; Pittsburgh Post, February 20, 1924, pp. 1, 3; Pittsburgh Sun, February 19, 1924, p. 4; Pittsburgh Press, February 19, 1924, p. 1; Pittsburgh Chronicle Telegraph, February 19, 1924, p. 1; Encyclopaedia of Pennsylvania Biography ( New York, 1914), III, 840, and A Century and a Half of Pittsburg and Her People, ed. John W. Jordan (-----, 1908), IV, 123.
3
See Mr. Flinn's statement in Smull, Legislative Hand Book and Manual of the State of Pennsylvania, 1900, p. 1159.

-246-

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