Every Pittsburgher knows that the polio vaccine was developed here, the Big Mac invented right down the road, and the Giant Rubber Duck paid us a visit in 2013. But I’m going to skip over those well known facts and dive right into some hopefully lesser known pieces of information for you to enjoy.
1. Sits at the confluence of two rivers, the Allegheny River and the Monongahela River, that combine to form a third, the Ohio River.
2. Allegheny City, now known as the North Shore, used to exist across the river until its annexation into the city of Pittsburgh in 1907.
3. Pittsburgh’s early industries were coal, timber and limestone. Easy access to the area’s waterways made Pittsburgh a desirable location to do business.
4. Steel production in Pittsburgh began in the 1850s, with Andrew Carnegie adding his name to the mix in 1875.
5. With nearly 500 bridges within its city limits, Pittsburgh is known as the “City of Bridges.”
6. Steel was Pittsburgh’s main industry until its collapse in 1985-86. As a result, a mass migration of residents away from the city began.
7. In the decades since the steel collapse, Pittsburgh reinvented itself. It soon became a place for manufacturing, technology, electronics, aluminum and glass. Its glass industry has been around since 1815.
8. There was a fire, called the Great Fire of 1845, with damages to rival that of the great Chicago Fire of 1871. By 1845, the population of Pittsburgh had reached near 20,000 residents.
9. The downtown area of Pittsburgh was once a combination of industry and patchwork of residential areas: “The furnaces driving Pittsburgh’s iron and glass industries had filled the air with coal dust and soot, as an 1823 observer reported, coating the walls and leaving the men working in the streets “as black as Satan himself.”
10. At one time, during World War II, the city’s steel mills produced much of the steel used in the war effort. “This resulted in the highest levels of air pollution in the city’s almost century of industry. The city’s reputation as the “arsenal of democracy” was being overshadowed by James Parton‘s 1868 observation of Pittsburgh being “hell with the lid off.”
11. Pittsburgh has 90 neighborhoods, many of which are historical in nature and played important roles throughout the decades.
12. Pittsburgh’s North Side is home to many local attractions, including the National Aviary, PNC Park and the Allegheny Observatory, just to name a few.
13. In the 1700s, Pennsylvania saw vast immigration, with many individuals ending up in Pittsburgh. These peoples include German, Italian, Hispanic/Latino, Lithuanian, African American, Jewish, Irish and many other European nationalities. Pittsburgh is a true representation of the American “Melting Pot” effect.
14. The area boasts a plethora of museums, including the Heinz “family” of museums: the Heinz History Center, the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, the Fort Pitt Museum and the Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village.
15. The famous Heinz company has its beginnings in Pittsburgh’s South Side with Henry Heinz. “Heinz’s first move out of the fresh produce business was bottled horseradish. It set the course for his illustrious career. Most bottled goods then were served in green or brown bottles, the natural color of glass. Other producers sometimes cheated their customers by hiding inferior ingredients such as leaves or wood chips in their opaque bottles. Young Heinz used clear glass bottles” (source)
16. Labor unrest was a common happenstance in the early days of Pittsburgh: “In July of 1877, all hell broke loose in Pittsburgh. The Pennsylvania Railroad cut wages by 10 percent. The men struck, and violence ensued. National Guard units were sent from Philadelphia. Twenty-nine strikers and guardsmen were killed, and property damage was in the millions. It was the worst labor unrest in Pittsburgh until the Homestead strike.” (source)
17. It was General Forbes who renamed Fort Duquesne in honor of William Pitt: “Forbes wrote Pitt: “I have used the freedom of giving your name to Ft. Duquesne.” Thus we became Pittsburgh with an official birthday in 1758.” (source)
18. Much literature about Pittsburgh is currently in print today. These include An Alternative History of Pittsburgh by Ed Simon, Allegheny City by Dan Rooney and The History of Pittsburgh by Sarah H. Killikelly, just to name a few.
19. There are many historical preservationists who currently operate in Pittsburgh. They are the PTS Archives, the Architectural Archives, the City of Pittsburgh Archives and the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Special Collections and University Archives. Many of these have resources open to the public.
20. In 1877 a rail line was built from Youngstown to Pittsburgh by the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad. This addition to Pittsburgh would soon give rise to Station Square, a huge terminal for both passenger travel and freight transportation.
21. The wildly popular game of Bingo was invented by Hugh J Ward in the 1920s.