The Historical Society of Carnegie – Honus Wagner and More

Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on December 7, 2023.

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We love a good historical society and are fortunate that so many boroughs in the region have modest museums dedicated to their region's history.

Carnegie is no different, and the Historical Society of Carnegie features several gems, including a model of what the city was like in the early 1900s, exhibits to notable citizens, and a small wing dedicated to Honus Wagner- one of the Pittsburgh Pirates' most famous players who called Carnegie home!

Although a visit to this one will be brief, it is a must for anyone who enjoys the borough.

A Trip Through Time at the Historical Society of Carnegie

Historical Society of Carnegie

When you first walk into the Historical Society of Carnegie, odds are good that you will be greeted by a docent who will offer to show you around.

On my impromptu private tour, the first section of the museum I saw was a miniature Carnegie- dozens and dozens of handmade buildings designed to look like the city (particularly Main Street) from many decades ago. 

Miniature Carnegie

Although this one does not span the entire borough of Carnegie that we know today, it covers many buildings that still stand, making for a cool look into the past. Even better was that the roofs of most buildings came off to allow glimpses inside- the banks, movie theaters, and more are designed to show the inside as much as the out!

Soldier Memorial at Carnegie Historical Society

The second section of the museum featured a collection of military uniforms and awards received by veterans of Carnegie. A large exhibit here is dedicated to Colonel Robert Sawhill, who, during the Vietnam War, became a prisoner of war and spent 2,031 days in captivity. 

The docents went on to describe how one of the reasons why his imprisonment was so long was that he insisted married soldiers be released before him- a kind gesture indeed!

Perhaps our favorite wing was the sports section dedicated to Honus Wager.

Honus Wagner Museum

This famous Pirates player was born in Carnegie (in an area of what was Chartiers at the time) and built a professional baseball career with the Louisville Colonels (1897-1899) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (1900-1917) and then moved on to managing and coaching the Pirates as well (active coaching years 1933-1951).

In the exhibit, you can learn about Honus Wagner's time with the Pirates, playing in the inaugural World Series in 1903 (the Pirates lost), a subsequent World Series in 1909 (where they won), and see numerous news clippings and other Honus related memorabilia that has been collected over the years.

One of the most interesting parts of the exhibit focused on Honus Wagner's scarce (and expensive) baseball card. The docent explained why this card is so popular. The prevailing story goes that a tobacco company issued the baseball card, and Wagner stopped production because he did not want kids to buy cigarettes to try and get his card- only an estimated 50-200 cards were ever produced, and most are seemingly now lost.

Honus Wagner Baseball Card Replicas

Although there are other theories as to why Wagner did not want the card to go to print (some argue it is related to not getting enough money), it is still a fascinating story to hear all the same and rounds out a nice exhibit on one of Carnegie's most famous citizens.

While you won't be spending much time at The Historical Society of Carnegie, I was there for maybe 15 minutes at most, it makes for a fascinating stop when you are in the area to get a greater appreciation for this popular borough just outside of the city. Don't overlook it on your next visit if they are open!

The Historical Society of Carnegie is located at 1 W Main St in Carnegie, PA. Visits to the museum are free, but a tip jar is out to help the society keep the lights on. Please donate if you are able when visiting.

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