Andy Warhol Museum
The following is by Ed Galloway and Miriam Meislik, Society of American Archivists
The rise of an industrious city was inevitable at the confluence of the Monongahela, the Allegheny and the Ohio rivers. Prior to European settlement, many Native American tribes, including the Delaware, the Iroquois and the Shawnee, made their habitation in the area of the three rivers. They recognized the value of the land for its abundant natural resources, strategic location and ease of transportation provided by the water routes.
Western Pennsylvania and the Ohio Valley became an area of great conflict in the 18th century, especially as the French and the British fought to control the "Forks of the Ohio." In late 1753 Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia dispatched a young major by the name of George Washington on an expedition to investigate French activities in Western Pennsylvania. The importance of the Point and the converging rivers was not lost on the future president. Upon his recommendation, the British sent Captain William Trent to begin the construction of a fort at the Point in early 1754.
The British, however, would not complete the fortification. In April French and Native troops captured it without bloodshed, finished its construction and named it Fort Duquesne in tribute of the French colonial governor. Within a year, the new settlement had 60 residents. Four years later the British regained possession of the Point when General John Forbes drove out the French, destroying their fort. Forbes erected a new fort named Fort Pitt in honor of British Prime Minister William Pitt in September 1759. A brick blockhouse, completed outside the fort's walls, still stands today. Within five years John Campbell produced the first town plan for "Pittsbourgh."
Early efforts by the British to restrict settlement in the region failed as settlers arrived in droves following the Revolutionary War. While many early settlers worked the land, the economy rapidly moved beyond farming to iron, glass and boat manufacturing. Mostly populated by Irish and Scottish immigrants, Pittsburgh became a shipbuilding capital and departure point for people traveling down the Ohio River anxious to explore the lands to the west. Lines of steamboats docked along the Monongahela Wharf delivered people and goods to Cincinnati, St. Louis and even ports as far as New Orleans. It was during this period that Pittsburgh proudly bore the title of "Gateway to the West." Between 1800 and 1816 the population increased from 1,500 to over 10,000 residents.
Pittsburgh's strategic location and wealth of natural resources, combined with a steady flow of immigrant labor, spurred its commercial and industrial success. As early as the 1760s, residents mined coal from the side of Mount Washington and "Coal Hill," now known as the Hill District. The construction of a blast furnace by George Anschutz in 1792 was the forerunner of the iron and steel industry soon to dominate the economy. Between 1763 and 1850, the city became the leading maker of American glassware because of its abundant supply of sand, coal and clay. As many as 62 glass factories sprung up in the City of Birmingham on the south bank of the Monongahela River, later to be known as the South Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh. On the north bank of the Allegheny River, Allegheny City (today known as the North Side) comprised numerous residences, small businesses and breweries.
The city of Pittsburgh continued to grow rapidly as evidenced by its incorporation as a borough in 1794 and then as a city in 1816. This was in addition to being named county seat in 1788. The building of rail lines and a canal connecting Pittsburgh to the eastern seaboards opened up greater opportunities for trade and travel. Not even disasters, such as the annual flooding of the rivers and the great fire of 1845, could halt Pittsburgh's prosperity. The city's population in 1840 more than doubled by 1850 to over 46,600.
By the time of the Civil War, the iron industry in Pittsburgh was thriving with its constant supply of bituminous coal and limestone located throughout the region. The war gave a tremendous boost to the city's economy with increased iron production and a supplier of Union armaments from Lawrenceville's Allegheny Arsenal and the Fort Pitt Foundry. In addition to being dubbed the "Iron City," Pittsburgh also earned the nickname "Arsenal of the Union." By war's end, over one-half of the steel and more than one-third of all U.S. glass was produced in Pittsburgh. The 1860s also marked the beginning of the petroleum industry in America when Edwin L. Drake struck oil near Titusville, a city north of Pittsburgh.
Throughout the 1800s Pittsburgh continued to prosper. By 1870 it had over 86,000 citizens which grew to over 156,000 ten years later. Industrialists such as Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, Andrew W. Mellon, and Charles M. Schwab built their fortunes here. George Westinghouse, credited with such advancements as the air brake and alternating current, founded over 60 companies in Pittsburgh, including Westinghouse Air and Brake Co. (1869), Union Switch and Signal (1883), and Westinghouse Electric Co. (1886). Banks played a key role in Pittsburgh's development as these industrialists sought massive loans to upgrade plants and fund technological advances. In particular, Thomas Mellon and Sons Bank, founded in 1869, helped finance an aluminum reduction company owned by Alfred Hunt and Charles Hall, which became known as Alcoa.
With the explosion of industry came the desire for fair wages and safe working conditions by the laborers. A turning point in the U.S. labor movement occurred as a result of the deadly Homestead Steel Strike of 1892. A contract dispute between the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers and Henry Clay Frick, Carnegie's Homestead Works Superintendent, produced one of the bloodiest labor battles ever. Although Frick was simply carrying out Carnegie's instructions to break the union at the plant, Carnegie never forgave him for the disaster that resulted when Pinkerton guards were called in. The fighting which broke out resulted in the death of seven townspeople and three guards; many others were injured and later died. A few weeks later, Frick was nearly killed when Alexander Berkman, a Russian anarchist seeking revenge for the disaster, shot and stabbed Frick in his downtown office.
Carnegie, who rose through the ranks as railroad telegrapher to a superintendent in the Pennsylvania Railroad to steel magnate, found himself one of the world's wealthiest men after selling his mills to J.P. Morgan for $250 million in U.S. Steel bonds. He once wrote that a man who dies rich dies disgraced. Whether it was to appease his conscience for the brutal method of acquiring his fortune, or from true generosity, Carnegie devoted the remainder of his life to building thousands of public libraries, establishing trusts and foundations, and endowing universities and cultural centers. In Pittsburgh he founded the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) and the Carnegie Museums of Natural History and Art.
During the mid-1800s, Pittsburgh witnessed a dramatic influx of German immigrants, including a brick mason whose son would make the family name synonymous with pickles and ketchup. In 1869 Henry J. Heinz and a friend partnered to sell homemade horseradish in clear glass bottles designed to "reveal its purity." Although this first venture failed, Heinz was determined to supply the burgeoning city with fresh food condiments, later founding the H.J. Heinz Company. With an offering of more than 60 products, Heinz, nonetheless, dreamt up the slogan "57 Varieties" and introduced the legendary "pickle pin" at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. As a large employer of women, Heinz was at the forefront of massive reform efforts to improve working conditions, hours and wages. In honor of his mother, he founded the Sarah Heinz House, a forerunner of modern day community centers.
To escape the soot of the city, many of these wealthy tycoons lived in the Shadyside and East End neighborhoods a few miles east of the city. Fifth Avenue was dubbed "Millionaire's Row" because of the countless mansions lining the street. The Oakland neighborhood became the city's predominant cultural and educational center, including four universities, museums, a library, music hall, botanical conservatory, veterans' memorial, and several religious buildings. Oakland's University of Pittsburgh erected North America's tallest educational building, the 52-story Cathedral of Learning. It towered over the former Forbes Field where the Pittsburgh Pirates played from 1909-1970.
Immigrant labor has always played an important role in Pittsburgh's diverse workforce. Thousands of European immigrants flocked to the Pittsburgh area to find employment in the steel mills, coal mines, coke ovens, pipe works, glass factories and foundries. They introduced new religions, customs and traditions, architecture, language and food to the city. Ethnic neighborhoods emerged on the densely populated hillsides and valleys with names like Polish Hill, Bloomfield and Squirrel Hill, home to one of the country's largest Jewish populations. Between 1870 and 1920 the population of Pittsburgh quadrupled to over 588,500, about two-thirds of which comprised immigrants and their children. A visit to the Strip District, the city's produce distribution center, showcases many of the languages, traditions and delicacies of generations of Pittsburghers. Along with restaurants and clubs, the Strip contains fresh food, exotic ingredients and all kinds of unusual items to delight the imagination.
The years 1916-1930 marked the largest migration of African-Americans to Pittsburgh. Known as the cultural nucleus of Black Pittsburgh, Wylie Avenue in the Hill District was an important jazz mecca. Jazz greats such as Duke Ellington and Pittsburgh natives, Billy Strayhorn and Earl Hines, once played here. Two of the Negro League's greatest rivals, the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Homestead Grays, often competed in the Hill District. The teams dominated the Negro National League in the 1930s and 1940s.
The topography of Pittsburgh was then, and continues to be, a great challenge for moving people and goods because of its many hills, valleys and rivers. Before tunnels were carved through the giant hillsides, inclines were constructed to transport people, horse carriages and cars up the steep slope. The Monongahela Incline (1870) and Duquesne Incline (1877) still operate today along Mount Washington. One of the earliest bridges constructed across the Monongahela River, the Smithfield Street Bridge (1881-1883), carries automobile and pedestrian traffic from downtown to the South Side today. Here the headquarters of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Terminal stations and offices were completed in 1900. This historic building complex, now known as Station Square, contains offices, shops, and restaurants, most notably the famed Grand Concourse.
Pittsburgh and the surrounding region are home to architectural masterpieces designed by such noted architects as Henry Hobson Richardson (Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail), Henry Hornbostel (Carnegie Tech campus), Frank Lloyd Wright (Fallingwater), and Ralph Adams Cram (East Liberty Presbyterian Church). In fact, some of the most important architectural sites in Pittsburgh include places of worship, such as the Heinz Memorial Chapel, St. Paul's Cathedral, Trinity Cathedral and the stunning Rodef Shalom Synagogue, designed by Hornbostel.
Pittsburgh continued to be a world dominating force in the production of steel for most of the 20th century. The population of the "Steel City" peaked in 1950 at over 676,000. As a result of its concentration of heavy industry, however, Pittsburgh gained the reputation of being dirty and smoky, or "hell with the lid off" as penned by journalist James Patton. It was not unusual for street lights to burn 24 hours a day or for businessmen to change their shirts at noon. The city's industry was poisoning the air and water, causing many of its citizens to literally choke to death.
The post-World War II era brought ideas of renewal and revitalization as well as the desire for clean air and water. Mayor David L. Lawrence and financier Richard King Mellon attempted to put aside their political differences to usher in a "renaissance" of urban planning. Old buildings were demolished, streets were moved, and new buildings erected. The Point, home to Pittsburgh's exposition buildings and a series of railroad terminals, was razed to build a beautiful park and fountain, symbolic of the city's rebirth. The city's new banks, department stores, hotels, office buildings and theaters are now concentrated in this modern business district known as the "Golden Triangle."
Even as Pittsburgh was losing ground to foreign steel production and decreased demand throughout the 1980s, the process of building a better Pittsburgh continued. Under the leadership of Mayor Richard Caliguiri, Pittsburgh commenced "Renaissance II" and embarked to revitalize neighborhoods as well as Pittsburgh's downtown cultural district. During this second renewal, the city led efforts to restore two of its older theaters, thus gaining magnificent Heinz Hall and the Benedum Center. The 1990s brought revitalization to the Fulton Theatre, now completely restored and renamed the Byham Theatre. Distinct modern office buildings presently dot the landscape, including the glass structure of PPG (Pittsburgh Plate Glass) Industries, the exposed steel structure of the USX Tower, and Gateway Center.
Pittsburgh's transformation continues. High technology enterprises, including robotics, computer software, biotechnology and environmental engineering, have supplanted iron and steel as major industries, and the city still ranks as a large corporate headquarters. Pittsburgh's three rivers remain an important commercial transportation route ranking as the largest inland port in the nation. The new $700 million Pittsburgh International Airport serves over 20 million passengers each day to connections throughout the rest of the world. Today the greater Pittsburgh region claims over 2.3 million people. Even residents are moving back into the city to live in downtown loft-style apartments. As Pittsburgh moves into the 21st century, new stadiums for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers, as well as a new convention center and cultural attractions, are planned for construction. Pittsburgh continues to demonstrate its ability to adapt and change to meet the demands of its residents and the world.