American History

Mark Tamsula and Richard Withers / Album Art by Kathy Borland

Long before the rise of the radio and the advent of the record player, the hills of southwestern Pennsylvania rang with the music of fiddle and fife, with old melodies first brought to the New World by immigrants from Britain, Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

Many of the players couldn’t read music, so the tradition spread aurally from one generation to the next. Thriving communities of fiddlers fueled the local dance halls in places like Derry in Westmoreland County and Dunbar in Fayette County, and fifers played traditional marches in holiday parades.

Marketing The Founding Fathers In Modern Culture

Apr 5, 2016
Dodge / Youtube

There's a public lecture taking place tonight on Penn State's New Kensington campus with a rather unusual title; "Muscle Cars, Lattes and Rooftop Grilling: How We Sell the Founders and Why It Matters." We'll talk with the speaker, Bowling Green University professor Andy Schocket. He says: "For a long time, we have slapped the names and images of the founders on products and services from life insurance to beer to plumbing. What is fairly new is how these recent advertisements, like so many facets of our lives, have become politicized."    

A Story of McCarthyism in Pittsburgh

Jan 7, 2015
United Press / Library of Congress


"I have here in my hand a list of 205,” said Senator Joe McCarthy during a speech given in 1950.

“A list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department."

What the senator said was completely untrue, but it didn’t stop his tactics- which came to be known as McCarthyism- from spreading across the country.

The nation was gripped by a communist panic, and baseless accusations were soon flying in both the public and private sphere.

Sixty years ago, five employees at the Westinghouse Electric Corporation’s East Pittsburgh plant were fired for being named in McCarthy’s Washington hearings as “undesirable”. Historian and author Charles McCollester stopped by Studio A to recall what happened.

Johnny Appleseed: Beyond the Myth

Sep 25, 2014
Rudolf Vlček / Flickr

You may not recognize the name John Chapman from your history books. The pioneering American nurseryman is better known as Johnny Appleseed, who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio and the Midwest. We’ll mark the 240th anniversary of Johnny Appleseed’s birth and his connection to Pittsburgh with culture contributor Joe Wos.

Forty years ago tomorrow, President Gerald Ford appeared on national television declaring he had granted former President Richard Nixon a full pardon for his involvement in the Watergate scandal.

While the infamous investigation has been extensively publicized and analyzed, Ford’s reasoning behind the pardon mostly remains an untold story.

That’s according to Ken Gormley, Duquesne University’s Dean of Law, who is coordinating Monday’s event along with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, at which major players in Ford’s decision recount their involvement.

Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution has been referred to as "America's attic." It is home to many iconic objects that have shaped the history of our nation, from industry to culture. In his book, History of America in 101 Objects, author and Smithsonian curator Dr. Richard Kurin chronicles and pinpoints these national treasures by focusing on key objects in the vast collection. 

Here are some of Kurin’s favorite objects related to the Pittsburgh region: