Margaret J. Krauss


Margaret J. Krauss produces 90.5 WESA Celebrates Inventing Pittsburgh, a series that explores the lesser-known history of the city and region.

A freelance multimedia journalist and researcher, Margaret learned the nuts and bolts of radio as a 2013 newsroom volunteer. Before moving back to the nation's most livable city, Margaret worked as an editor for National Geographic KIDS magazine in Washington, DC.

When she isn't geeking out over a good story, Margaret can be found biking the city's streets or swimming its rivers.

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Kristi Jan Hoover

A black and yellow helmet sits on the floor of Janet Hoover’s kitchen. It’s perched on top of a pair of boots and an old miner’s lamp. The helmet label reads, “Fasloc: Keeps the Roof Over Your Head.” 

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Don Zeiler stands on a wall in the middle of the Monongahela River. In work boots and a bright orange jacket, the lockmaster at Braddock Locks & Dam is dressed for dance.

“When you’re dancing with your partner you take a step, they need to know where to go: when I’m doing this, then you do that, then I’ll do this, then you do that. So that’s basically what locking is,” he explained.  

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

The love Steelers fans have for their team is the stuff of legend: hordes of faithful waving Terrible Towels, wearing logo-emblazoned pajama pants, cheering in one of the nation’s more than 700 Steelers bars. So I figured the best way to learn the back-story of the logo was to go right to the source: Heinz Field, on a Sunday, an hour before kickoff.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Anchored at the corner of Fifth Avenue and McKee Place in Oakland, Hieber’s Pharmacy sports a glass block window that reads, “We Create Medicine For Your Family.” Inside, white cabinets hold powdered chemicals and a rainbow assortment of empty capsules waiting to be filled.

Hieber's is a compounding pharmacy.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

 It would be easy to breeze past the mountain goats on their sliver of vertical cliff in the Hall of North American Wildlife or to step around the black rhino milling about in the hallway. But these are not just any animals: they’re animals remade by humans.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

It’s hard to miss the four brick stacks of the Liberty Tunnel Fan House towering over the houses on Secane Avenue in Mount Washington.

“There are two exhaust shafts,” said Bill Lester, Assistant Director of Construction for PennDOT’s District 11, pointing them out. “And there are two intake shafts where we draw fresh air in from up here. We push it down into the tunnel and then we turn around and we drag the bad air back out.”

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Let’s get this out of the way: The stuff you put in the recycling bin does get recycled.

“Yes, we do. We recycle. That’s the name of the game,” said Robert Johns, plant manager of a single-stream material recovery facility, MRF, owned by Waste Management.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Georgie Kovacosky leaned on the fence surrounding a sunny enclosure on her 230-acre farm in New Bethlehem, about 60 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.  

The Childs Family Collection on Daisy Lampkin, 1924-1997, MSS 657, Detre Library and Archives, Heinz History Center

It was October 1916. The Brooklyn Robins, later the Dodgers, played the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, making it possible to forget, for a little while, that summer was over and Europe was at war. Pittsburgh newspapers posted the scores in their office windows and so many people crowded the streets to keep tabs that City Council supposedly passed an ordinance prohibiting the papers from doing so.  

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Michael Joyce started working at Homewood Cemetery in 1978, cutting grass.

“I live real close to here so it was just a summer job,” said Joyce, now the tie-wearing superintendent of the more than 200-acre spread. He’s responsible for everything that happens outside.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

After a long day of moving goats around the city, Doug Placais stood – sweaty, covered in dirt – a mile from Downtown Pittsburgh at Arlington Acres, the one-tenth of an acre urban farm he owns and operates with Carrie Pavlik.

“Well, UPS is funny because, you know, they ask you what’s in there. So the first time I said, ‘goat blood,’ and he actually didn’t blink, to his credit. I don’t know how he held a straight face.”

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Richard Williams glances at the request sheet from behind a chest-high counter and gives the book in front of him a quarter turn. With a pair of pliers, he latches onto a metal wire and pulls, flopping open its spine stacked high with crinkly, worn pages. 

“What I find fascinating, especially in these handwritten ones, is the lack of errors,” Williams said. He regards the long page covered in careful, legible script as he steps toward the copier, deed in hand.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Stephanie Wellons sings as easily as most people talk.

As though it were a parenthetical statement, Wellons changes from speech to song, climbing the first hill of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

More than 3,000 bikes line the floors and walls at Bicycle Heaven in Chateau. Just inside the entrance hangs a bike made entirely of wood.

“It’s called a boneshaker bicycle,” said owner Craig Morrow.

Past the gleaming Schwinns and Raleighs and the spot usually home to Pee-wee Herman’s iconic ride (it’s being repaired right now), Morrow points out two bikes from the turn of the 19th century, both with “lights” suspended from the cross bars.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Gus Kalaris is an economy of motion. Shaded by a rainbow umbrella and unconcerned by the flock of dozy bees hovering around the 12 flavor bottles, he stands in the cockpit of a small cart.

Kalaris leans on the counter with his left hand. With his right he grips the Gilchrist 78, an ice scraper that was last available for sale around 1950, he said. He looks over his shoulder to ask again, ‘What flavor?’ then nods, and pushes the scraper into a gleaming block of ice, bringing up small, medium and large cups of melting fluff.

FBI via AP

Behind the locked door of master violin maker Phillip Injeian’s shop, his dog Cocoa sleepily monitors the passersby on Penn Avenue, and copies of The Strad magazine, “essential reading for the string music world since 1890,” hang on the wall.

Injeian said people often contact him, thinking they’ve found an instrument made by Antonio Stradivari.

Used with permission from Carlino Giampolo and the Panther Hollow homepage.

Boundary Street runs through Panther Hollow in the shape of an inverted L. The houses cluster on the northern and western sides of the street and all face inward toward a stretch of grass and trees. They aren’t numbered chronologically, though the first few homes begin ordinarily enough: 1, then 1 ½, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9. Then 523, 525, 12, 14, 17 and 40.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

  From the highest elevations of Mt. Washington — about 1,200 feet — you can take in the whole sweep of the river valleys, each about twice as wide as the rivers running through them, said Charlie Jones, lecturer in the University of Pittsburgh’s department of geology and planetary science.  

“So then the question is why is the valley wider than the river? And the answer is: the ice ages,” he said. 

Notable Men of Pittsburgh and Vicinity

 The years between 1860 and 1910 were among the beardiest in recorded history. No one escaped bare-chinned: not Uncle Sam, not Jesus, and certainly not Pittsburgh’s mayors.

On the fifth floor of the City-County Building, Gloria Forouzan, office manager for Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, walks a long, central hallway punctuated by the 56 portraits of mayors past. Fourouzan pauses under each one and describes their grooming choices, frozen forever in brass.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

On a side street in Bloomfield, not far from Pittsburgh’s “automobile row,” on Baum Boulevard, Tom Lynn points out the cars and parts of cars that make up his business, Flop Custom.

“There’s a ’30 Ford that I chopped, another ’30 Ford, a ’31 Roadster, a ’32 truck,” he said, turning in the small space.

Lynn builds and restores antique cars, specializing in metal work. Surrounded by the sheet metal of the early 1900s, Lynn said it’s amazing what those automakers could do, describing the six-story, 300-ton press needed to stamp out the car panels.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

In a chemical engineering lab at Carnegie Mellon University, Matt Cline and William Alba stand in front of three rectangular packets made of tinfoil. An arm’s length away from the range hood, they use their thumbs to eclipse the flash they know is coming.

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Infrastructure decisions affect the public every day — which sewer should be repaired first, which pothole should be filled next—but it’s rare to be asked to weigh in on those decisions. However, an online poll will help decide the future color of the "Three Sisters" bridges, as well as a question of regional identity.

Library of Congress

Most days, Henry Clay Frick liked to take a late lunch with friends at the Duquesne Club, just a short distance from his Fifth Avenue office at the Chronicle-Telegraph building. He’d just returned to his desk on Saturday, July 23 1892, when anarchist Alexander Berkman, wearing a brand new black suit, pushed the door open.  

“Berkman rushed in, drew a .38 caliber revolver, and fired two quick shots right at Frick, point blank,” said Andy Masich, president of the Heinz History Center.

The first shot hit Frick in the shoulder, the second in the neck. As Frick’s associates wrestled Berkman to the ground, he fired a third time, hitting the ceiling. Berkman reached for the dagger in his pocket and struck at Frick’s legs. That dagger remains on display at the museum.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

 Each night at 6:59 p.m., the state-run lottery conducts a live drawing at the studios of WITF in Harrisburg. From behind the three cameras that face a Pennsylvania-festooned background and drawing machines, it’s possible to hear the control booth.

“Stand by ready to roll red in 5…4…3…2…1. Cue music.”

Johnstown Area Heritage Association

On May 31, 1889 the South Fork dam in Cambria County failed, sending a flood wave through Johnstown that killed 2,209 people.

After a month of rain, a particularly heavy storm hit Johnstown on May 30, filling the streets with a couple feet of water by noon the next day. Flooding was nothing new, though: The city was built on a floodplain, at the base of mountains denuded by industry, at the confluence of three rivers. So people moved to their upper floors to wait.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

A joke made its way around the Internet this winter that time-travel is possible in Pittsburgh — if you look into a pothole, where layers of cobblestone and brick snuggle under asphalt blankets. But on Roslyn Place in Shadyside, the past doesn’t hide.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Humans have lived in the region for close to 16,000 years. One of the few remaining vestiges of those early residents can be sought in McKees Rocks.

Mark McConaughy is a regional archeologist for the Pennsylvania Bureau of Historic Preservation. He stands on the edge of the Bottoms neighborhood with his back to the railroad tracks that skirt the Ohio River’s high embankment, looking past silos of asphalt aggregate and trucks driving in and out.   

"If you look real closely you can see where they’ve drilled through the rock to put in their dynamite and blast it out," he said. "That’s where the mound would have been."

He points up to the exposed rock of the bluff.

"There’s no mound left up there, at all."

Rob Long / Clear Story

To see some of Pittsburgh's most stunning artwork doesn't require a trip downtown but up a hill, to Millvale's Saint Nicholas Catholic Church. In two eight-week periods, one in 1937 and one in 1941, Croatian artist Maxo Vanka painted 25 murals that fuse faith and protest.

A fire burned Saint Nicholas to the ground in 1921. The new church might have been mistaken for the old except for the blank, white walls. The soaring expanse gave then-pastor Albert Zagar an idea, said Aaron Ciarkowski, docent at the Croatian parish.

90.5 WESA

This year, six-year-old Sean Stanley was finally tall enough to ride Phantom’s Revenge, a roller coaster at the 117-year-old Kennywood Park in West Mifflin. 

Standing outside the coaster’s gate, Sean sported the preoccupied look of the newly infatuated.

“It was like a hurricane because there was lots of wind,” he said, describing the ride.

Via The Associated Press

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The letter appeared in The New York Times on April 29, 1940. It was brief — a couple of column inches — mixed in with opinions on higher subway fares, workers’ rights and risky mortgages. But the headline was hard to miss: “Reward for Hitler Capture.”

"He offered a million dollars to anyone 'who will deliver Adolph Hitler, alive, unwounded and unhurt, into the custody of the League of Nations for trial before a high court of justice for his crimes against peace and dignity of the world.'”

The letter appeared in The New York Times on April 29, 1940. It was brief — a couple of column inches — mixed in with opinions on higher subway fares, workers’ rights and risky mortgages. But the headline was hard to miss: “Reward for Hitler Capture.”

"He offered a million dollars to anyone 'who will deliver Adolph Hitler, alive, unwounded and unhurt, into the custody of the League of Nations for trial before a high court of justice for his crimes against peace and dignity of the world.'”