Essential Pittsburgh
4:02 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

Arsenals & Agreements: Pittsburgh's Role in WWI & Reshaping Europe

The Pittsburgh Agreement historic marker sits at the corner of Penn Avenue and Seventh Street in the Pittsburgh Cultural District
The Pittsburgh Agreement historic marker sits at the corner of Penn Avenue and Seventh Street in the Pittsburgh Cultural District
Credit Joseph / flickr

Seeds of Independent Czechoslovakia Began in Pittsburgh

Behind the doors of the Czechoslovakian Nationality Room in the University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning is a copy of the 1918 Pittsburgh Agreement.

The little-known document outlines the desires of Czech and Slovak community members to form an independent Czechoslovakian nation. E. Maxine Bruhns, director of the University of Pittsburgh Nationality Rooms and Intercultural Exchange Programs, celebrates the city as the founding region for Czech independence.

The arrival of the Agreement’s primary author, Thomas Masaryk, spurred what Bruhns says was the “largest political rally of its time.” He came to Pittsburgh to seek support for the new nation.

Following his successful visit, the document was sent to President Woodrow Wilson, who began to recognize an independent Czechoslovakia.

Pittsburgh in World War I: Arsenal of the Allies

An abundance of steel material, city workers with diverse skill sets and a loyal devotion to the Allied war effort placed Pittsburgh at the forefront of artillery production during World War I.

In her book Pittsburgh in WWI: Arsenal of the Allies, LaRoche College Archivist Elizabeth Williams, says while some immigrant residents found themselves divided over commitment to homelands involved in the First World War, the city was eventually united in their efforts.

“There was this real sense of, okay, now that the U.S. has entered, we have to throw everything behind the U.S.”