Respondent
Block, William
Interview Date
May 10, 1994
Abstract
Respondent chairman of <i>Pittsburgh Post Gazette</i> (PPG) born 1915.
[T1S1] Respondent provides names of maternal and paternal grandparents, details parent's background, their marriage, early life in New York City; father's career in national advertising, ownership of Paul Block and Assoc.; father's interest in musical theater. Respondent reminisces about schooling at Hotchkiss, Yale; majored in government and international relations, graduated, 1936; extracurricular activities; family's large home in Westchester; lists members of PPG including, Ray Sprigle, Cy Hungerford, Oliver Keller who visited house. Respondent recounts newspapers that father acquired in 1920s including <i>Toledo Blade</i>, <i>Pittsburgh Sun Telegraph</i>, PPG; mentions Pittsburgh had five newspapers during this time, gives their names.
[T1S2] Respondent continues talking about history of local newspapers; Republican, Democratic newspapers; Scripps Howard bought <i>Pittsburgh Press</i>, William Randolph Hearst helped father buy PPG, comments on extensive dealings with Mr. Hearst. Respondent mentions learning trade at <i>Toledo Blade</i>. Respondent reminisces about attending religious school at Temple Emmanuel in NYC; growing up in NYC; mentors at Yale; tryout for <i>Yale Daily News</i> with John Hersey, Jonathan Bingham, Richard Moore; college activities. Respondent recalls working in father's office before entering Army; working as troubleshooter at father's various newspapers. Respondent recounts father's continued advertising until death in 1941; family selling advertising side of business. Respondent provides detailed information on brother Paul, chemist, graduation from Yale and Ph.D. from Columbia University; interest in synthesis of thyroxin; lists names of Paul's children, their careers. Resondent provides information on his son Bill and grandchildren.
[T2S3] Respondent continues talking about father's illness; death; funeral; mother's life after husband's death. Respondent reviews Army career including assignments in intelligence section, anti-aircraft service. Respondent recalls living off base at Mission Inn; meeting future wife Maxine Horton, a saxophonist at Inn.
[T2S4] Respondent continues talking about their marriage in 1944; military service; son's birth, time spent in Japan. Respondent talks about his 10 months in Korea; his discharge; settling in Pittsburgh in 1946. Respondent describes brothers disagreement with Republican Editor of <i>PPG</i>: Oliver Keller. Respondent recalls difficulties running 6 day-a-week morning newspaper in 1950s; merging with Hearst's <i>Sun Telegraph</i> in 1960; approaching Scripps Howard in 1961 about joint operation agreement which survived until strike of 1992. Respondent describes in detail circumstances of Teamsters Strike in 1992, negotiations with unions; with Scripps Howard; involvement of Justice Department.
[T3S5] Respondent reflects on family history; Pittsburgh flood, its effect on newspaper plant. Respondent elaborates on connection with Hearst, <i>Pittsburgh Sun Telegraph</i>; recalls <i>PPG</i>'s endorsement of FDR in 1936. Respondent discusses in detail McCarthy era; recounts Roy Harris investigation. Respondent recalls Jewish attitude of prep school andYale.
[T3S6] Respondent discusses son Don's position as chairman of Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Program; gives names of son's wife and children.
[T4S7] Respondent recounts mother's background, activities; her interest in stock market, father's funeral. Respondent mentions father was chairman of UJA in 1930s. Respondent speaks of father losing money in stock market crash; interactions with Mayor Jimmy Walker. Respondent recalls going to Albany for hearings of Jimmy Walker and Respondent's father before Judge Seabury: malfeasance in office.
[T4S8] Respondent elaborates on wife's early life, her musical family, their courtship, marriage, honeymoon, birth of first child while in Army, details finding housing, being sent to New Haven, CT
[T5S9] Respondent continues speaking about wife's family, provides names of her parents, siblings, their children, their education, their careers and Respondent's early married life. Respondent lists names of 4 children and their birth dates; their spouses, 2 sons and 2 daughters, their education and careers, gives names of grandchildren. Respondent recalls moving to Pittsburgh, various houses in which family lived, purchase of present house, birth of children; their houses; children's schooling.
[T5S10] Respondent continues talking about children's schooling, careers, marriages. Respondent discusses wife's involvement in community including Pittsburgh Symphony Women's Committee. Respondent talks about limited social life due to professional commitments, enjoys Symphony, Opera and Ballet; notes his sponsorship of Chamber Music Group in Toledo, Ohio
[T6S11] At Respondent's request, interviewer reads from <i>MEMOIRS OF WILLIAM BLOCK</i> regarding travels world wide (1954-1978).
[T6S12] (Interviewer continues to read from <i>MEMOIRS</i> regarding art collecting, helping artists, friendships with Gordon Bailey Washburn of The Carnegie)
[T7S13] Respondent recalls problems with Pittsburgh Symphony board, served on board 40 years, strong supporter of music; chaired Health and Welfare Assoc., subsequently Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh; discusses decisions made regarding relocating from Lower Hill to new housing; problems in connection with school desegregation. Respondent refers to Mrs. Marcus Aaron, president of School board, her difficult task. Respondent refers to involvement with Regional Planning Commission, Gateway to Music: first String Quartet, then other Quartets that followed. Respondent mentions involvement with Western Pennsylvania Historical Society.
[T7S14] Respondent gives detailed information concerning acquisition of <i>PPG</i>: family became involved 1927, father's dealings with William Randolph Hearst: Respondent in New York working in father's office, his move to Pittsburgh., purchase of <i>PPG</i> completed 1937. Respondent discusses negotiations with Pittsburgh. Press. Respondent discusses newspapers bad relationship with teamsters: strike 1950, lasted 47 days; difficult times, November, 1951 snow storm; move to present building: 1961. Respondent explains purchase of <i>Pittsburgh Sun Telegraph</i>: 1960, joint agreement with Scripps Howard, merged distribution and sales.
[T8S15] (Interviewer reads from notes: Respondent continues to detail his community involvements; comments on work with Health and Welfare Agency, Urban Redevelopment and public housing. Respondent notes work with Gateway to Music, discusses work of group and difficulty in obtaining funds; repeats discussion of <i>PPG</i> deal with William Randolph Hearst 1927-present; adds additional comments on strikes, distribution, dealings with Scripps Howard and move to present building. Respondent discusses role as chairman of the board of <i>PPG</i>; son, nephew now co-publishers but Respondent still active. Respondent continues to talk about his children, grandchildren, granddaughter's interest in music and possibility of involvement with <i>PPG</i>; father's rigid Republicanism; great talents of Jews; their importance to cultural, intellectual life of Pittsburgh, discusses various trips to Israel and its economy. Respondent recalls conversations with Teddy Kollek in Israel, 1963; subsequent visits in 1973, 1983; changes he has seen.
[T8S16] Blank.
[T9S17] Respondent continues to describe role of newspaper publisher; ethnic groups including Jews, their often one sided view of Israel/Arab conflict. Respondent discusses anti-Semitism; intermarriage. Respondent recalls his good life; regrets not having more graduate education. Respondent talks about satisfaction received from running newspaper; great partnership between Paul and Respondent; current investments; political views.
Subjects
Advertising; Armed Services; Business; Industries; The Carnegie; Social service; Harris, Roy; Hearst, William Randolph; Journalism; Keller, Oliver; Labor unions; Lawrence, David Leo, 1889-1966 L.; McCarthyism; Memoirs of William Block; Moore, Richard; New York (N.Y.); <i>Pittsburgh Post Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pa.)</i>; <i>Pittsburgh Press</i>; <i>Pittsburgh Sun Telegraph</i>; Pittsburgh Symphony Society; Publishing; Sprigle, Ray; Teamsters Strike; The Carnegie; Toledo Blade; Urban Redevelopment Authority; Walker, Jimmy; Washburn, Gordon Bailey; Yale University
Birth Date
1915
City
New York, NY
Work
owner/publisher Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Residence
Shadyside; New York
Occupation (father)
Owner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Length (hours)
9.5
Interviewer1
Menlowe, Mildred
Interviewer2
Winer, Ruth
Indexer
Berger, Betty
Collateral Materials
Box 100 FF 28
Identifier
ais196440.047
Rights
All rights reserved. University of Pittsburgh