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Below is a family biography included in the History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania published in 1889 by A. Warner & Co.   These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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ALEXANDER W. ROOK was born in Pittsburg in 1826. His parents had come to Western Pennsylvania from New York state some years before his birth. He was given the best education then obtainable in Pittsburg, and early showed a bent toward mechanical pursuits. At an early age, having obtained his parents’ permission to learn the printing trade, he entered the job-printing office of Johnston & Stockson as roller-boy and typesetter. At the same time he did not abandon his studies, but continued to attend night-school, and in this industrious fashion he obtained an unusually thorough education. It was clear from the very first that he had a decided preference for the printing trade, and very soon he apprenticed himself for six years, first to the Pittsburg Post, and later to the Chronicle. Even in these early days his work attracted attention, and at the end of his six years’ apprenticeship he was reckoned among the foremost typographical experts in the city. He was not satisfied, however, with local supremacy in his craft, and he successively added to his store of knowledge and experience in the composing-rooms of the Philadelphia Ledger and the New York Herald. About 1850 he returned to Pittsburg, where he became the first local representative of the Typographical Union, then just formed. Two years later he went to Greensburg and bought an interest in the Pennsylvania Argus. This venture did not satisfy him altogether, and in 1854 he returned to Pittsburg and took the place of foreman of the composing-room of the Evening Chronicle. This was the first favorable opportunity he had to show his executive ability, and his success was remarkable. It was acknowledged during the years from 1854 to 1864 that the typographical department of the Chronicle in his hands was the best managed in that part of the country.

In 1858 Mr. Rook was married to Miss Harriett L. Beck, an alliance which had a very marked influence for good upon his career. During the half-dozen years succeeding his marriage Mr. Rook’s rise was remarkably fast. In 1865 he and Daniel O’Neill became partners in the firm of J. H. Foster & Co., then publishers of the Dispatch. That paper was really re-born on the day Messrs. Rook and O’Neill put their brains and energy into its publication. When Col. J. Heron Foster died (April 21, 1868), Messrs. Rook and O’Neill became sole proprietors of the Dispatch. The two partners divided the administration between them, Mr. Rook taking entire charge of the mechanical part, while the business and editorial work fell into Mr. O’Neill’s hands. It was a singularly powerful combination of diverse talents, and the result was brilliant. The Dispatch in a short time was advanced to the first rank of newspapers in Pennsylvania. It was easily the first among the papers of Pittsburg soon after Messrs. Rook and O’Neill took charge of it. The Dispatch owes its reputation of being one of the handsomest papers in the country, typographically considered, to the genius of Mr. Rook. In this way Mr. Rook became one of the leading citizens of Pittsburg. He was a very hard worker, and after the death of his partner, Daniel O’Neill, in 1877, the pressure of his duties began to tell upon him. He continued in active cooperation with Eugene M. O’Neill in the publication of the Dispatch, though his health began to fail, until early in the summer of 1880. The end came swiftly after this, and Aug. 14, 1880, he died from a complication of organic diseases. Mr. Rook was not only respected for his qualities as a business-man, but also for the excellent traits of character revealed in his family and social connections. He was always interested in charitable enterprises, and gave his money and labor to such benevolent schemes as sending the poor children of the city on excursions into the country. In the order of Freemasons and in several other secret societies he held a high place. Mr. Rook’s wife and family survive him. The family consists of Charles A. Rook, secretary of The Dispatch Publishing company; Helen E., now Mrs. C. A. Carroll, and Edwin M. and Harry C. Rook.

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This family biography is one of 2,156 biographies included in the History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania published in 1889 by A. Warner & Co.

View additional Allegheny County, Pennsylvania family biographies here: Allegheny County, Pennsylvania Biographies

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