History of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania

A few of Pittsburgh's old nicknames are "The Smoky City" or "Steel City" and I find that when I tell people that I'm from Pittsburgh, they think that it's still a smoky, dirty city with factories and steel mills everywhere. This could not be farther from the truth. As you can see from the beautiful picture on the main page, Pittsburgh is a gorgeous and very livable city. However, this was not always the case.

steel mills Picture by Susan Donley

In 1875, Andrew Carnegie opened the Edgar Thomson Works which produced a lot of very cheap steel quickly. He was able to do this by hiring engineers to figure out how to change the way steel is made so that Carnegie could employ thousands of cheap, unskilled workers. At that time, Henry C. Frick was in the coke mining business. Coke is just a form of coal that is needed to make steel. Frick joined the Carnegie Steel Company and that became the nations first modern corporation. The people that worked in these factories were treated very badly with twelve hour shifts, dangerous conditions, and highly underpaid wages. The famous story that most people learn in history is of the strikebreakers in 1892. The company cut the employees already low wages and when the workers got upset and demanded higher wages in a strike, they were locked out. The company called Pinkerton guards to let in other workers called "strikebreakers" that would work for the lower pay. When they tried to get in past the original workers with the guards, a riot broke out which made the strikers look bad in the end. This caused the labor movement to slow to a stop until around 1930 when the work conditions finally started to improve somewhat.

steel mills

One of the three rivers that run through Pittsburgh, the Monongahela River, was at that time known as "Steel Valley". The Carnegie Steel Company moved their offices into the Carnegie Building which was Pittsburghs first skyscraper. The city was able to build these skyscrapers because of the cheap steel from its factories. In the early 1900s, downtown Pittsburgh became very economic as many banks and corporate offices were built. That area of Pittsburgh is now called the "Central Business District". Another important person from Pittsburgh is George Westinghouse who started the Westinghouse Electric Company which "transmitted the first commercial radio broadcast of the 1920 presidential election returns". (WQED)

first skyscraper Very First Skyscraper in Pittsburgh

Eventually, Carnegie Steel Company became US Steel when it was sold to J.P. Morgan. At this point, pollution was a huge problem in Pittsburgh. Smoke was so heavy that the city looked like night time all the time. Even the beautiful rivers you see today were filthy and polluted with chemicals. This is when the city started to come up with ideas of what needed to be done to clean up, but with the Great Depression and World War II, they didn't really have time to fix this problem. In 1945, after the war, they finally began to clean up the mess and start some new projects. Pittsburgh's steel and iron industries eventually became unprofitable because of high labor costs, not enough spending on new technologies, all the costs of the clean up projects, and cheaper competition from foreigners. In the late 1970s all the factories began closing down. As thousands of people became unemployed, the population of Pittsburgh decreased by fifty percent.

building of skyscrapers Building the Skyscrapers

So in the end, Pittsburgh did an excellent job at transforming itself into a clean, beautiful city but it needed to work on finding a new niche for itself so that it could be prosperous and give people a way to make a living. Pittsburgh is an exciting and constantly changing city that is always trying to find new ways to better itself.

~The information and pictures on this page are credited to: www.wqed.org
...or for information about Pittsburgh, go to www.pittsburgh.net