Joseph Barker (mayor)

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Joseph Barker
17th Mayor of Pittsburgh
In office
Preceded by John Herron
Succeeded by John B. Guthrie
Personal details
Born 1806
Died August 2, 1862 (aged 55/56)
Manchester, Pennsylvania

Joseph Barker (ca. 1806 – August 2, 1862) was an American local public figure of the 1840s and 1850s remembered for his nativist and anti-Catholic activism which marked his brief term in public office as mayor of Pittsburgh.

There are no reliable historical accounts documenting Joseph Barker's early years, and, despite his association with Pittsburgh, there is no specific indication that the city was his birthplace. Important, although sparse, details are provided, however, in the information collected by the Census of 1850. Barker is listed therein as 44 years old and living in Pittsburgh's Fifth Ward with his Irish-born wife Jane and three children. His birthplace is described as being in "Pennsylvania", and his occupation is given as "Mayor".

Barker gained public attention and notoriety as an illiterate street preacher inveighing against Catholics. In September 1849, following one of his tirades, Pittsburgh mayor John Herron had him arrested for "obstructing traffic" and "using lewd and indecent language". Although the charges resulted in a fine and a 12-month jail term, the next mayoral election was fast approaching, and Barker's nativist supporters circulated a write-in petition during his imprisonment which resulted in his election as mayor to succeed Herron. Reports of Barker's one-year 1850–51 term describe it as a period of religious and nativist strife.

Barker lived for eleven years after leaving the mayoralty and despite a number of additional attempts, never again held public office. He was in his mid-fifties at the time of his decapitation in a train accident in the neighboring town of Manchester (a part of Pittsburgh since 1908). Interment was in Allegheny Cemetery.

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Preceded by
John Herron
Mayor of Pittsburgh
Succeeded by
John B. Guthrie