Civil War Colonel, US Congressman, Pittsburg Press Publisher
Thomas McKee Bayne was born in Allegheny City in 1836. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Bayne left his studies at Westminster College and joined the Union Army. As Colonel of the One Hundred and Thirty-sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers, he fought in the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.
After the war, he resumed his studies and was admitted to the bar of Allegheny County in 1866. Four years later he was elected as district attorney for Allegheny County, an office he held until 1874, when he ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the United States House of Representatives. His next bid for
office was successful and he served as the United States
Representative for Pennsylvania’s 23rd Congressional District
from 1877 to 1891.
In 1885, Col. Bayne invested $20,000 to start a newspaper in Pittsburgh, becoming the lead shareholder among several prominent businessmen in Pittsburgh who established The Pittsburg Press. Bayne was listed as the Publisher of the paper, which went on to become the leading newspaper of Pittsburgh at the turn of the last century. Bayne eventually sold his shares to Thomas Johnston Keenan and Charles Houston in 1889, who later sold the paper to Oliver S. Hershman, former editor of the Pittsburgh Chronicle-Telegraph. The Press was acquired by the Scripps Howard Syndicate in 1924 and was shuttered in 1992 upon its sale to the publishers of The Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Local loyalty to the Press was cited as one of the reasons the publisher of The Post Gazette resurrected the Pittsburgh Press as an online publication in 2011.
As a Congressional Representative with a successful newspaper, Bayne kept busy but was also popular in the social circles of both Washington and Pittsburgh. He had easily defended his seat in the House for 13 years but 1890 found him challenged by George Shiras, a newcomer supported by the deep pockets of political factions Bayne had alienated due to his support of the “free navigation movement” as well as his work to reduce tariffs on metals. Despite strong opposition at the beginning of the campaign, Bayne heartily beat his opposition—and then shocked Washington and Pennsylvania by declining the nomination. Bayne retired from public life but remained in Washington, DC.
On the morning of June 16, 1894, Col. Bayne awoke to find blood on his pillow. Later that morning, Col. Bayne committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. Based on interviews with witnesses at the home, the coroner concluded that Col. Bayne took the blood on his pillow to be proof of tuberculosis, a self-diagnosis that moved him to take his own life.
Col. Bayne’s name was in the news again in 1898 when Lt. Friend W. Jenkins was killed in the explosion of the USS Maine. Jenkins had been appointed a Naval Cadet by Col. Bayne in 1882.