Member Biography

John Paul Harris 


Portrait: Senate Memorium, 1926 

Sessions Office Position District Party
1923-1924       45 Republican
1925-1926       45 Republican

COUNTIES: Allegheny  


12/04/1871 - 01/26/1926

John Paul Harris (R45) Allegheny (Part) County 1923-1926

Early Life: 

John Paul Harris, born December 4, 1871, son of John and Bridget Gaughan Harris; pioneer, entertainment industry; director, Washington Trust Company; president, Boston Doves Baseball Club, 1910; director, Pittsburgh Baseball Club; vice president, Harry Davis Enterprises Club; elected, Republican, Pennsylvania State Senate, 1923-1926; married, Eleanor Davis Harris, 1895, children, Nelle Harris zurHorst, Geneva Harris Hahn; died, January 26, 1926, (aged 54) heart attack, Speakers Rostrum, Floor of House, House of Representatives, Main Capitol Building, Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania; interment, Calvary Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

Early Career:

President of various Amusement Companies; owner, first multi-state theater chain, including Nickelodeon theaters, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

Professional titles; business ownership; board memberships; local government; club memberships:

Member, Saint Philip’s Roman Catholic Church, Crafton, Pittsburgh; Knights of Columbus; Chartiers Height Country Club; Union Club; Pittsburg Athletic Association; Friars Club of New York; Manufacturing Club of Philadelphia; Catholic Club of New York; Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks; Fraternal order of Eagles; National Vaudeville Artists; Vaudeville Managers Association, Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce.    

Pennsylvania Politics: 

Elected, Republican, Pennsylvania State Senate, 45th district, Allegheny (Part) County, 1923-1924; vacancy, death, Norman Whitten, November 7, 1922; reelected, 45th district, 1924-1926, Allegheny (Part) County; committee assignments, Banks and Building and Loan Associations, Canals and Island Navigations, Education, Elections, Exposition Affairs, Judiciary Special, Legislative Apportionment, Mines and Mining, Municipal Affairs, Public Health and Sanitation, Public Roads and Highways. Served one year and one month until his death in office, January 26, 1926. Succeeded in the Senate by his brother Frank Joseph Harris.   


On June 19, 1905, Harris and Harry Davis opened a five-cents-admission movie theater in a Pittsburgh storefront, naming it the Nickelodeon and setting the style for the first common type of Movie Theater.

On its first day of business, 450 customers lined up for five-cent tickets and a fifteen-minute film; on the second day, 1,500 customers attended.

Pittsburgh mayors celebrated the theater's history in 1929 and again at its 50th anniversary in 1955, and a plaque by the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania sits near its former site at 433-435 (now 441) Smithfield Street. "This was the beginning of the motion picture theater industry," it says.

A hundred years later, that plaque, near a Sbarro pasta franchise, is about all that is left of that history.

Brother, Frank Joseph Harris was in the House of Representatives Gallery when he died, January 26, 1926. Elected, as his replacement, Pennsylvania State Senate, 45th district, Allegheny (Part) County 1927-1936.  Frank Joseph Harris  - Pennsylvania Senate Library (


Cox, Harold. "Senate Members H"Wilkes University Election Statistics Project. Wilkes University.

The Pennsylvania Manual, (1923-1924). Whitmore, R.E., (Compiler). Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, pages 984, 989, Biographical Sketches of Senators, page 962.

Portsmouth Daily Times - Google News Archive Search

Boston Evening Transcript - Google News Archive Search

The Pittsburgh Press - Google News Archive Search 

Timothy McNulty (June 19, 2005). "You saw it here first: Pittsburgh's Nickelodeon introduced the moving picture theater to the masses in 1905". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) Sunday, June 19, 2005, Page 49. 

The Harris Theater (

John P. Harris Society | Point Park University (

The Evening News (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) Wednesday January 27, 1926, Page 1.

Pittston Gazette (Pittston, Pennsylvania) Wednesday, January 27, 1926, Page 7. 

John Paul Harris (1871-1926) - Find a Grave Memorial