The Evans Family: A Pittsburgh Social Set

Evelyn F. Evans, pictured with fellow “society girls” at Fox Chapel Country Club in 1929.

Before paparazzi, People magazine, and the Internet, Pittsburghers still got their fix of celebrity news. Miss Evelyn F. Evans, granddaughter of the co-founder of the Macbeth-Evans Glass Company, and other “society girls” were often featured in publications like the Bulletin Index and the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph’s Society, Stage and Screen, which provided glimpses into the affairs of the city’s affluent residents. Such public and journalistic attention was a byproduct of her family’s success in the glass industry.

The Howard S. Evans family, pictured here without daughter Laura S. Evans.

Evelyn was the daughter of Howard S. Evans, whose family resided on Beechwood Boulevard in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Evan’s father, Thomas Evans, established in 1869 one-half of what would become the Macbeth-Evans Glass Company. The dawn of the 20th century saw Macbeth-Evans as the country’s largest producer of glass lamp chimneys, shades, and globes, stemming from operations in Indiana, Ohio, Charleroi, Pa., and Pittsburgh. Building on this success in 1910, Howard and his brother, Thomas R. Evans, co-founded the Diamond Alkali Company, which manufactured soda ash used in glass production. The industriousness and success of Evelyn’s grandfather, father, and uncle positioned the family within a prominent element of Pittsburgh’s social set during the first half of the 20th century.

The Evans family was often featured in the society pages.

Devoid of instantaneous media coverage, citizens were periodically updated  on such topics as Evelyn Evan’s debut as a young woman, her athletic endeavors and contributions to fundraising events, educational developments, participation in weddings, as well as family vacations (even if only a weekend getaway to the Atlantic coast).

Appearances in magazine features and newspaper commentaries were far from all Evelyn Evans was recognized for. Indeed, throughout the 20th century, Evans was engaged in philanthropic and civic endeavors. She served in several positions with the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Red Cross (ultimately as vice chairwoman) from the 1940s through the 1960s; volunteered in the maternity ward at Allegheny General Hospital; was the director of the Garden Club of Allegheny County; served as a board member of the Federation of Girls Schools of Pittsburgh; and was active within the Calvary Episcopal Church.

News of Mrs. Howard S. Evans hosting a tea hour, and image of her with her children, from Pittsburgh’s Bulletin Index.

Discover more about Evelyn Evans and her family, as well as the Macbeth-Evans Glass Company in the Evans Family Papers and Photographs at the Detre Library and Archives. Afterwards, visit the Evans House Collection, featuring pieces of furniture, clothing, and decorative items donated from the Evan’s household on display in the Heinz History Center’s special collections

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About Alex J. Toner

I’ve been a project archivist in the Detre Library and Archives since 2011, and started in the department in 2010 as a graduate assistant. Our project is aimed at reducing our archival backlog over the course of two years utilizing MPLP-based strategies. I’m tasked (among other things) with processing collections, creating access documents, and coordinating graduate interns. I earned my MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011, and received a BA in History from Kent State University. Contact me at ajtoner@heinzhistorycenter.org.
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