Robert McKnight was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He attended the common schools and a private school at Xenia, Ohio. He graduated from Princeton College in 1839. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1842 and entered into a partnership with Henry S. Magraw in Pittsburgh. McKnight was hired to be a solicitor for the Bank of Pittsburgh in 1846. He was a city councilman from 1847 to 1849.
- "McKnight, Robert (1820-1885)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
- Justham, Kristin. "Robert McKnight Diaries Finding Aid". Archive Service Center, University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
- Kestenbaum, Lawrence. "McKnight, Robert (1820-1885)". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
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