The Pittsburgh Foundation

Allegheny Relief Fund

Established: 11/20/1950

In October of 1871, prominent citizens of Pittsburgh were attending a ball when word reached them of the Great Fire in Chicago, the famous blaze that legend now says began when a cow kicked over a lantern in a stable owned by Mrs. O'Leary. Fueled by roaring winds, the conflagration burned for three days, destroying 3.3 square miles of the city of Chicago, one of the largest disasters in the U.S. in the 19th century.

Many of the men attending the gala that night left the ball and went about the task of forming a committee to raise money to help the destitute in Chicago. Donations poured in. Others in cities across the country did the same. The nation collectively raised $5 million, far more than what the city of Chicago actually needed at the time.

The unused portion was returned to the Northwest Relief Fund Committee in Pittsburgh, as the Pittsburgh committee was called, a total of $12,799.45. As a result, a charitable organization was created to distribute the funds locally.

Incorporating under the name The Fund for Relief of Destitute, Sick and Poor of Allegheny County in 1873, more money was raised through the years. The fund provided coal for residents living in the 5th Ward of the city one year. In other years, it supported local hospitals and social service agencies.

In 1950, the fund passed to The Pittsburgh Foundation and was renamed the Allegheny Relief Fund. It continues to support health and welfare of programs that serve the poor.

Type of Fund

  • Field of Interest