The humble beginnings of Pop artist Andy Warhol are worth revisiting because like so many Americans and Pittsbugh residents born in the 20th century, he was the son of immigrants.
His real name was Andy Warhola. His parents, Julia and “Ondrej” or Andrew, were Eastern European immigrants from the Carpathian Mountains, just north of Transylvania.
Andy’s father traveled to America in the early 1900s and worked as a coal miner in Pennsylvania. In 1909, Mr. Warhola returned to Eastern Europe and proposed to his future wife, Julia, who was one of 15 children. They married that year.
In 1912, Mr. Warhola immigrated to America, leaving his bride behind. Nine years passed before she joined him in Pittsburgh in 1921. Their first son, Paul, was born in 1922 and their second son, John, arrived in 1925. Andy arrived in 1927.
The Warhola family lived in Soho at 73 Orr Street in a two-room, tar paper shack and used an outhouse in an alley. When their youngest son, Andy, was two, the Warholas moved around the corner to a home on Beelen Street that had its own commode. The family attended church at St. John Chrysostom Eastern Rite Russian Greek Catholic Church, which was two miles from their home.
By 1934, the family moved to 3252 Dawson Street in lower Oakland, a step up from the working class neighborhood of Soho. When he was 10, Andy Warhola’s fifth grade teacher recommended him for Saturday art classes at the Carnegie Museum. That’s where he came under the profound influence of Joseph C. Fitzpatrick, a legendary art teacher.
Mr. Warhola worked for the John Eichleay Company, which moved houses and did construction. But he knew his youngest son had talent and set aside $1,500 in a postal bond for Andy to go to college. He died in 1942, seven years before Andy Warhola moved to New York City to make his name and leave an indelible impression on the art world.