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Drunk Driving Campaign: A Sub-Group of the Honorable Michael A. Musmanno Collection

Identifier: MSs 011

Scope and Contents

This collection is a part of a greater collection entitled The Honorable Michael A. Musmanno Papers. This collection consists mostly of papers of various kinds concerning Musmanno’s efforts to eliminate the drunk driver from the streets of Pittsburgh. By far, the largest series in this collection consists of the correspondence. These show an overwhelming support for Musmanno and his crusade. There are also numerous speeches and other public addresses of one kind or another, including several radio addresses and performances by Musmanno himself. Newspaper and journal articles, and other various printed materials make up a large segment of this group. First, an explanatory piece entitled Why I Send All Drunk Drivers to Jail provides a first person account of why Musmanno began his crusade against the drunk driver, and why he dealt with drunk drivers so harshly and consistently. The large number of public statements also provides insight into Musmanno’s mindset as it pertained to the drunk driver. Second, the large amount of correspondence shows a great deal of support from ordinary Pittsburghers for Judge Musmanno and his crusade. An interesting folder is the “City of Pittsburgh Drunk Driving Reports,” box 5 file folder 43 in which the reports concerning accidents show how the drivers were all unable to perform the sobriety tests yet the arresting police officers did not consider any of the drivers to be intoxicated. In the pre-blood alcohol level-testing days, this depicts the problem police officers had in interpreting what was considered intoxicated and what was considered having consumed alcohol. Finally, a piece of extraneous interest is a White House parking pass from Musmanno’s visitor there in 1937, and a newspaper article written by him about the visit. One of the weaknesses of the collection is the handwritten notes that are virtually unintelligible. Additionally, many of the items did not have exact dates. All of these records are relevant to the life of Judge Michael A. Musmanno because of his instrumental role in the legal persecution of drunk drivers. The collection is organized into 9 series; Statements, Legal Documents, Morgue Oaths, Speeches, Correspondence, Published Materials, Unpublished Materials, Government Documents, and Miscellaneous.


  • 1927 - 1955
  • Majority of material found within 1930 - 1940

Biographical / Historical

Michael A. Musmanno was born April 7, 1897, in Stowe Township, Allegheny County, PA. In 1923, he was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar and worked several years as an attorney. He served 4 years in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and, in 1932; he began his lifelong career as a jurist. In 1951, he became a Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. During the World War II, Captain Musmanno served as naval aide to General Mark Clark, Fifth Army, during the Italian invasion. Musmanno led the U.S. investigation to determine if Adolf Hitler died at the end of the war. He served as a presiding judge at the Nuremberg War Crime trials and retired from active duty as a rear admiral. During his postwar career he was elected as a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Judge, a position he held until his death. In 1964 Musmanno ran an unsuccessful campaign for United States Senate. Aside from his political career he was a prolific writer, publishing 16 books, including Ten Days To Die, Black Fury, Across the Street From the Courthouse, The Story of Italians in America, and Columbus Was First as well as a number of short stories and articles. Judge Musmanno passed away at the age of 71 on Columbus Day, October 12, 1968.


1.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The personal papers and library of the former Pennsylvania State Supreme Court justice, congressional representative, and author Michael A. Musmanno are located in the University Archives at Duquesne University. Documents include papers from Musmanno’s time as a defense attorney in the Sacco & Vanzetti trial, judge in the Nuremburg Trials, witness in the case against Adolf Eichmann, and interviews with Hitler’s associates. The collection also covers papers related to campaigns to end the Sunday Blue Laws, illegalize the Communist Party and to disband the Coal and Iron Police. This particular collection is an extension of these holdings, containing the papers from Judge Musmanno and his crusade against drunk driving in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Michael A. Musmanno because a county Judge in 1932 and soon after he became President Judge of the Criminal court. He felt that drunken drivers were careless and negligible and that by taking the wheel after drinking they became potential killers and as a judge in these cases he would have the power to prevent it. By the 1930s, much attention was given to the startling statistics of highway accidents and fatalities. Musmanno was convinced that many of these could be prevented if people would be made aware of the dangers of driving while intoxicated. It was his belief that drunk drivers should be held more accountable for their actions and made aware of the potential dangers and damage that can be caused by driving under the influence of alcohol. Musmanno imposed what were considered, at the time, stiff sentences for drunk drivers. It appeared he had littler tolerance for anybody who could not control their drinking, and even less when they got behind the wheel. He went as far as developing an oath that he made all guilty defendants pledge publicly in the county morgue as they looked upon the faces of those whose lives were claimed by violence. They pledged never again to drive an automobile after taking a drink of intoxicating liquor. Musmanno felt that because drunk drivers were “potential murderers” they deserved sentences equivalent to those of murderers. His campaign against drunk driving did lower the number of cases in Pittsburgh but not without some controversy. Many, including his fellow judges, felt the sentences were too harsh and that Musmanno was extending the limits of his judicial powers. Musmanno was undaunted and continued his crusade.

Processing Information

Reprocessed and updated by Elizabeth Williams, August 2010

Processed by Joseph Gilette, April 1999

Drunk Driving Campaign
Duquesne University Archives and Special Collections
Joseph Gilette
April 1999
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Edition statement
Processing Information: Reprocessed and updated by Elizabeth Williams, August 2010 Processed by Joseph Gilette, April 1999

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository