Anthony McGowan

Anthony McGowan and his wife, Sarah, quarreled frequently. The Irish-born McGowan, who worked at Carnegie Steel’s Carrie Works and owned several rental properties in Rankin, had repeatedly threatened her life. He is also reported to have threatened the lives of at least one of their three children, all of whom had been driven out of the house by his drinking and violent behavior.

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image001 Pittsburgh Press, January 1, 1898

On New Year’s Eve 1897, a drunk McGowan shot Sarah in their Second St., Rankin home. She was able to walk to a neighbor’s home, where she implicated her husband before dying. The police responded and arrested McGowan as he slept. A gun was also found in the home.

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Pittsburgh Press, January 1, 1898

At trial, McGowan claimed self-defense and drunkenness. With two of his children testifying against him, he was convicted on April 28, 1898. After his motion for a new trial was rejected, he was sentenced to death on June 4.

On appeal, his claims that his responsibility were mitigated by drunkenness and self-defense were again rejected (Commonwealth v. McGowan, 189 Pa. 641, 1899).

With his execution seemingly assured, the Pardon Board recommended McGowan’s commutation on May 3, 1899. The Governor supported the recommendation. McGowan’s history of violence created an expectation his execution would be carried out.

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Pittsburgh Press, May 3, 1899

Anthony McGowan was transferred to Western Penitentiary, where he died on June 29, 1919. He was 73.

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Second St., Rankin

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

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