Department store owner, philanthropist (Buhl Foundation)
Henry Buhl, Jr. was a second generation American born into a Bavarian-German family that had settled in Zelienople, Pennsylvania. One of nine children, Henry, Jr. was only 21 when he and his 24 year old Russell Boggs moved to Old Allegheny and opened a dry goods store in 1869. The store, said to measure roughly 18 square feet, made Henry, Jr. the tenth generation of the Buhl family to make a mark as a merchant.
Boggs and Buhl were famous for their work ethic—7 day weeks, especially in the early days, were common—and they successfully cultivated a reputation for excellent service and top quality goods. As Pittsburgh evolved into an industrial powerhouse, Boggs and Buhl enlarged their store and catered to both the old and new wealth of Pittsburgh, and elite clientele, commonly referred to as the “carriage trade.” Partners Russell and Henry grew older and wealthier and they did so together. Russell married Henry’s sister, thus making their partnership an actual family business. And as much as the Buhls were a family of merchants they were also a family that advocated civic involvement. Henry somehow found time to work long hours and still serve, at various times, as director of The Allegheny General Hospital, The Western Pennsylvania Hospital for The Insane and The Tuberculosis League and as a trustee for Grove City College. On the social side of things, he maintained memberships in both The Duquesne Club and the Highland Country Club.
Henry Buhl, Jr. married in 1880, at point by which he and his business were both well established. Louise C. Miller was a Pittsburgh native, described in the 1888 publication, The Social Mirror, as, “young and fond of social visiting.” This description does little justice to a woman that Buhl described in his will as, having “lived a good and useful life” based on “Christian faith…” While little is written about Henry Buhl, Jr., even less is available concerning Mrs. Buhl. Her name appears as a donor of nominal gifts in support of playgrounds on the North Side, and she is also listed as a member of the Civic Club of Allegheny County and as an auxiliary worker during WWI for the Red Cross—in short, the very type of causes a lady of means would be expected to support in the first decades of the 20th century. While Mrs. Buhl has left little information about herself for the 21st century, her husband credits her as the inspiration for The Buhl Foundation.
Buhl had very specific ideas about the Buhl Foundation; how it should be run and what it should accomplish. He rewrote his will on several occasions to ensure his plans would outlive him. At the time of his death in 1927, his will was famously described by Dr. Frederick P. Keppel of the Carnegie Corporation as, “a model for an endowment broadly conceived as to purpose but with special reference to the needs of a given locality.” Greater Pittsburgh Magazine estimated Buhl’s estate as having provided $15,000,000, mostly in “liquid assets,” to establish The Buhl Foundation.