The History and Evolution of Pittsburgh… In 8.25 Seconds

The History and Evolution of Pittsburgh… In 8.25 Seconds

Sep 16, 2019Keith Cathcart

Yes, we now have shorter attention spans than goldfish. Look it up! But first, read this super summarized (and quite generalized) version of Pittsburgh’s past.

The Native Indians were doing their thing, trading with other Indians. Then French explorers came and bequeathed them disease. When the British found out about this wonderful land, the Europeans then gifted them war as they fought for ownership of the land. Finally, the war ended in 1763 but the French were mad so they burned down some forts on their way out.

The remaining Brits and other immigrants picked up agriculture, mainly because a shipment of other things was difficult over the Allegheny Mountains. But then they realized they needed stuff so they learned useful trades (like blacksmithing and tanning), then coal mining, then glass manufacturing, then boat building. Pittsburgh’s location and its people’s boat-making skills were so amazing that it became known as the “Gateway to the West.” In 1816 there were enough residents to make the city of Pittsburgh official, and it continued to grow. The Civil War in the 1860s spurred major further development as they were cut off from supplies from the East Coast and the Pennsylvania Railroad had opened in 1854 which made easy travel to the West.

Steel production began in 1875, leading Pittsburgh to be called “Hell with the Lid Off” and “The Smoky City.” Do you have any idea how much coal they had to use to make the steel? On top of what they were already using? The city was covered in a black smog through WWII since they couldn’t stop making stuff, especially not during the war! But after the war, people figured it was time to clean up the city – the Renaissance Project. This is when many public parks and the Gateway Center were built, among other cool places. All that while, though, Pittsburgh acted like a magnet for immigrants and African Americans, with its rivers and promise of work. Each culture found an enclave within Pittsburgh’s boundaries, making it quite ethnically rich and diverse.

The 1970s and 1980s brought a decline in both the steel industry and residents (likely steelworkers and their families). But hardy Pittsburgh said, “Well, what are we going to replace the steel with?” and focused its efforts on services like banking, technology, and medical research. Since then, the Renaissance Project has had a second wave, seeing the old and run-down industrial buildings converted into shopping, dining, and entertainment districts. Today’s residents are proud of their hard-earned heritage, sports teams, cuisines, and especially the city’s current moniker: The World’s Most Livable City.

Dang, that was more like two minutes! Oh, well, Pittsburgh deserves it fully.


Helpful Resources we used during our research:

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