William W. Irwin

William Wallace Irwin (January 8, 1803 – September 15, 1856) was Mayor of Pittsburgh and a Whig member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania.

William W. Irwin
Portrait of William W. Irwin,
c. 1840–1841
United States Ambassador to Denmark
In office
Preceded byIsaac Rand Jackson
Succeeded byRobert P. Flenniken
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 22nd district
In office
March 4, 1841  March 4, 1843
Preceded byHenry Marie Brackenridge
Succeeded bySamuel Hays
10th Mayor of Pittsburgh
In office
Preceded byWilliam Little
Succeeded byJames Thomson
Personal details
Born(1803-01-08)January 8, 1803
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
DiedSeptember 15, 1856(1856-09-15) (aged 53)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Political partyWhig
Spouse(s)Frances Everallyn Rose Irwin (?–1836, her death)
Sophia Arabella Bache (1839–1856, his death)
ChildrenJohn Irwin
Agnes Irwin
Robert Walker Irwin
Alma materWestern University of Pennsylvania
Allegheny College

Early life

William Irwin was born in Pittsburgh in 1803, and as a boy earned the lifelong nickname "pony Irwin" because of his habit of riding a pony everywhere he went. He graduated from the Western University of Pennsylvania, now known as the University of Pittsburgh, in 1824.[1][2] He was also a graduate of Allegheny College. He became a member of the Allegheny County bar on May 6, 1828,[3] and by 1835 was serving as the president of the Western University's alumni association.[4] He ran successfully for Allegheny County District Attorney in 1838.

Marriage and family

Irwin's first wife was Frances Everallyn Rose Irwin (April 1809February 24, 1836), the niece of Illinois Supreme Court justice Theophilus W. Smith and aunt of bridge engineer Charles Shaler Smith. They were the parents of United States Navy Rear Admiral John Irwin (1832-1901).

After his first wife's death, Irwin married again on February 28, 1839 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His second wife was Sophia Arabella Bache, born November 14, 1815 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and died on March 24, 1904. She was the daughter of Richard Bache, Jr., who served in the Republic of Texas Navy and was elected as a Representative to the Second Texas Legislature in 1847 and Sophia Burrell Dallas, the daughter of Arabella Maria Smith and Alexander J. Dallas an American statesman who served as the U.S. Treasury Secretary under President James Madison. She was also granddaughter of Sarah Franklin Bache and Richard Bache, the great-granddaughter of Benjamin Franklin, and a niece of George Mifflin Dallas, the 11th Vice President of the United States, serving under James K. Polk.

Irwin had two children with Bache: educator Agnes Irwin and American businessman and the Kingdom of Hawaii's Minister to Japan, Robert Walker Irwin.

Pittsburgh politics

Upon being elected mayor in 1840 Irwin oversaw the expansion of infrastructure and government in the city to catch up with the regions rapid expansion. Under his administration four additional wards were added to the city.

United States House of Representatives

Irwin used his term as mayor as a touchstone for his race as a representative for U.S. Congress. He was elected as a Whig to the Twenty-seventh Congress. He was not a candidate for reelection in 1842.

Later life

After his term in Congress, Irwin was United States Ambassador to Denmark 1843-1847. He died in Pittsburgh in 1856. Interment in Allegheny Cemetery.


  1. Catalogue of the Western University of Pennsylvania, Year Ending June, 1903. Western University of Pennsylvania. 1902. p. 212. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
  2. "College Journal". 1 (2). Western University of Pennsylvania. November 1869: 3. Retrieved April 23, 2014. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. McCormick, Samuel Black (December 1908). "History of the Western University of Pennsylvania, 1787-1908". University Bulletin. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh. 4 (12): 9. Retrieved April 24, 2014.
  4. Starrett, Agnes Lynch (1937). Through One Hundred and Fifty Years: the University of Pittsburgh. University of Pittsburgh Press. pp. 93–94. Retrieved April 24, 2014.
Political offices
Preceded by
William Little
Mayor of Pittsburgh
Succeeded by
James Thomson
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Henry Marie Brackenridge
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 22nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Samuel Hays
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Isaac Rand Jackson
U.S. Ambassador to Denmark
As Chargé d'Affaires
Succeeded by
Robert P. Flenniken
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