history

NEW series!
3:42 pm
Sun November 9, 2014

What Do You Want to Know About Pittsburgh's Past?

An early map of Pittsburgh.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

We are starting a new series called 90.5 WESA Celebrates Inventing Pittsburgh and we need your help!

What about the city and Southwestern PA are you curious about? Do you know someone who has lived through important Pittsburgh events? Are you doing amazing, awesome things with historical data of Pittsburgh or the surrounding area? Do you have a shoebox full of old Pittsburgh photos and don't know what they are?

We want to help answer your questions about Pittsburgh history.

Fill out our short form below or email celebrates@wesa.fm and we may use you and your idea.

90.5 WESA Celebrates Inventing Pittsburgh is supported by UPMC.  

 

    

Arts & Culture
4:30 pm
Wed October 29, 2014

Rivers of Steel Honors Regional Artists, Storytellers

Cathleen Bailey's quilt "Deathly Hallows Destruction."
Credit Cathleen Bailey

Sam Robinson doesn’t consider himself to be an artist, but he sure can tell a story.

“I kind of got used to asking questions and learning about things from my father,” he said. “So certainly that heritage has made it easier for me…”

The 64-year-old tour guide is one of 12 regional artists and storytellers being honored by the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area Wednesday for their work in preserving history and culture.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:19 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

An in depth Discussion of Flight 93 with Author Tom McMillian

Credit Mike Renlund / Flickr

The book "Flight 93: the Story, the Aftermath and the Legacy of American Courage on 9/11" is an in-depth look at the events and people involved in the United Airlines plane that crashed in Shanksville, PA. Joining us to discuss this detailed account is journalist Tom McMillan. Regarding the recent news of a fire at the Flight 93 memorial, McMillan explains that fortunately the damage was minimal, and no one was injured. 

He later talks about his research process for his book and what makes this story interesting. 

"... This wasn't New York City, it wasn't Washington D.C. I was fascinated about how this story was different because it was in small town America." - Tom McMillan 

Essential Pittsburgh
3:01 pm
Fri September 12, 2014

Tales of Lawrenceville: Commemorating a Neighborhood Bicentennial

Established in 1814, the Lawrenceville community celebrates its 200th anniversary this Friday.
Credit Joseph A / Flickr

The neighborhood of Lawrenceville was established 200 years ago, by the father of Stephen Foster. In that time the riverside area has seen an interesting range of people, events and industries which helped shape American history and culture.

On Friday the 200th anniversary will be commemorated with movies and lectures presented by the Lawrenceville Historical Society, at the Row House Cinema. Community Historians Carol Peterson and James Wudarczyk join us to chat about Lawrenceville history and share a few lesser known stories.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:22 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

Drawing Connections Between WWI and Climate Change

Credit Imperial War Museum / Wikipedia

While there is little doubt in the scientific community that the globe is getting warmer, many countries balk over climate regulations given the perceived cost of such action.

David Titley, the director of Penn State's Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk, believes there is connection between the climate battles of today and World War I, the world’s greatest danger a century ago.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:22 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

The Devil's Arithmetic, a Tale of Time Travel and the Holocaust Brought to Life on Stage

Young cast members in the Prime Stage play, The Devil's Arithmetic. From left to right: Victoria Perl as Esther, Lily Lauver as Shifre, Julia Zoratto as Hannah and Megan Krull as Rachel
Credit Rebecca S. Antal / Prime Stage

The Devil’s Arithmetic is an award-winning historical novel about time travel and the Holocaust by author Jane Yolen.

The book has been adapted for the theater by Lancaster, PA resident Barry Kornhauser. This weekend Prime Stage Theater gives the first performance of the adapted play, at the New Hazlett Theater on the North Side.

The story centers on Hannah, a modern day teenager who is mysteriously transported back to the time of the Holocaust. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:51 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

A History of America in 101 Objects and Pittsburgh's Contributions

Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 Space Suit
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:

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:25 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

Preserving Pennsylvania’s 333-Year-Old Birth Certificate

"Charter Day" was first celebrated in 1953 when Governor John Fine declared the official date March 14th.
Credit Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission

Over ten thousand people visited historic sites in the Commonwealth this week to celebrate Pennsylvania’s history. This year marks the 333 birthday of the Pennsylvania Charter given by King Charles of Great Britain to William Penn on March 4, 1681.

Howard Pollman, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, says the Charter is meticulously preserved at the State Museum in Harrisburg and reveals much about the zeitgeist of the era. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
7:04 pm
Mon February 17, 2014

Pennsylvania's Only U.S. President and His Neutral Stance on Slavery

James Buchanan's home, Wheatland, in Lancaster was purchased by Buchanan in 1848.
Credit Jim Bowen / Flickr

While the White House is located on Pennsylvania Avenue, only one Pennsylvanian has ever occupied the executive office; Lancaster area native James Buchanan, the fifteenth President of the United States.

Patrick Clarke, Director of President James Buchanan’s home Wheatland, believes that Buchanan’s childhood in the Keystone State helped him develop into the leader he would become.

“There are some historians that believe growing up so close to the border of Virginia, today of course the border belongs to West Virginia, but some believe it kind of shaped him and his thinking.”

Buchanan's presidency was at a time when the nation was in growing turmoil.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:40 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

The 50th Anniversary of The Beatles' Big Night

A screenshot of The Beatles performing on the Ed Sullivan Show nearly fifty years ago.
Credit CBS / Wikipedia

Fifty years ago this Sunday, February 9, 1964, the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.

It was a live performance of several of their songs that had been hyped extensively and preceded by their hit song "I Want to Hold Your Hand" rising to the top of the American pop charts. WYEP Music Director Mike Sauter talks about the impact of the Beatles performance that night.

“It’s just an absolutely unique and remarkable phenomenon. The adulation that the Beatles instantaneously received, not just here in the US, but preceded by the UK and other countries subsequently around the world. It was just a very unique phenomenon to have happened and there’s no one reason why you can say why it happened in any one country or happened at that particular time or place.”

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:18 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

Lincoln Highway: The Nation's First Coast to Coast Highway Turns 100

One of the original concrete bridges on the "Lincoln Highway" in Tama, IA
Credit Carl Wycoff / Flickr

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States is recognized in currency with statues, a monument in DC and many other areas along the way.

One commemoration includes the Lincoln Highway. Brian Butko is director of publications for the Heinz History Center and an expert on the highway's history, which celebrates its centennial this year.

Butko's knowledge of the Lincoln Highway begins even before the highway was started.

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Essential Pittsburgh
1:49 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

George Washington's Near Death Experiences in Western PA

Historic markers along Washington's route through the Western Pennsylvania countryside. They mark a driving route that follows young George Washington's first military and diplomatic venture in the Fall and Winter 1753 - 1754.
Heather McClain 90.5 WESA

260 years ago this month, a 21-year old major in the Virginia militia named George Washington had two brushes with death in the Pittsburgh area, which could have dramatically altered the course of American history. Decades before he became the father of our county, Washington was on a dangerous diplomatic mission in the Western Pennsylvania wilderness.

We explored this little known chapter of Washington's life with historical re-enactor Daniel Nehrer, and retired Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Martin J. O'Brien at the Harmony Museum, not far from where Washington was on December 27, 1753, at the boundary of French and English territory.

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Government & Politics
4:48 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

PA House Bill Would Require Schools to Display 'In God We Trust'

A bill that would require all public school buildings in Pennsylvania to display the national motto, “In God we trust,” passed in the House Education committee Wednesday morning.

Republican Rick Saccone, who represents parts of Allegheny and Washington counties, is the bill’s sponsor. He said the bill is meant to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the U.S. mint printing the motto on our nation’s currency.

Saccone called the tale of how the motto got onto the currency “a Pennsylvania story.”

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History
4:36 pm
Mon October 21, 2013

80-Year-Old Atlas Gets a Digital Facelift

According Rob Nelson, guest lecturer at Duquesne University’s annual History Forum and director of the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond, the last great historical atlas was published in 1932. It was called "The Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States," and it included a series of maps that illustrated how the nation changed over time.

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History
7:45 am
Thu September 19, 2013

Meet Julia Parsons, Pittsburgh Native and WWII Code Breaker

During World War II, Julia Parsons was a member of an all-women’s German code-breaking team. It would be years before the Pittsburgh native would share the details of her experience with her family.
Ryan Loew 90.5 WESA

Imagine your mom, or your grandmother, maybe even your great-grandmother, with a secret past. Perhaps you know that she’s lived through some major historical events like World War II.

Now imagine finding out she not only lived through it – but was an integral part of secret military operations during the war.

That is part of Pittsburgh native Julia Parsons’ story. She was part of an all-women’s German code-breaking team.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:04 pm
Fri September 13, 2013

Tuskegee Airmen Honored with a New Pittsburgh Monument

One of the famous "Red Tail" planes, flown by the Tuskegee Airmen in WWII
Credit Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

This week marks the opening of the Tuskegee Airmen Exhibit at the Pittsburgh airport as well as the installment of a memorial at Sewickley Cemetary, commemorating those who served during World War II in the all black branches of the Army Air Corps. More than 100 members of the 332nd fighter group and 477th bombardment group came from the Western Pennsylvania region.

Wendell Freeland, one of the four surviving local Airmen, considered his fellow soldiers “the best and brightest.” And despite their completion of intensive military training, along with racial discrimination, the 477th bombardiers never saw combat.

“We were very disappointed. In fact, the whole group was almost completely demoralized because we were looking forward to helping our country overseas. When that bomb dropped, it killed our chances,” says former bomber pilot Edward Harris, referring to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:02 pm
Fri September 13, 2013

Night Football Returns To Its Place of Origin

The 1892 Mansfield football team hosted the first night game.
Credit Mansfield University Blog

One hundred and twenty-one years ago the first night football game was played in Mansfield, Pennsylvania. The game was between Mansfield University formerly known as Mansfield State and Wyoming Seminary.

The teams played with the help of a new promotional lighting device from General Electric, the light bulb. The setup involved a string of lights wrapped around a wooden pole placed in the middle of the field.

Steve McCloskey, Director of Athletic Operations and Sports Information, says the lighting post “proved to be a detriment” to the game, as multiple “players ran face first into the pole because they had trouble seeing it, or it just kind of snuck up on them.”

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New to the 'Burgh
12:03 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

The Glass City: Pittsburgh's History as the Center of the U.S. Glass Business

The Heinz History Center exhibition, "Glass: Shattering Notions," features one of the best regional collections of glass made in western Pennsylvania. These flasks are one of the common items that would have been made in Pittsburgh in the 1800s.
Haldan Kirsch 90.5 WESA

The identity of Pittsburgh is synonymous with the steel industry. The city’s largest skyscraper is the U.S. Steel Tower. Its football team is the Steelers, and to the nation, it's the Steel City.

But what about the city’s other industries? Before the rise of steel businesses in the region, western Pennsylvania was the center of glass sales in the United States.

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History
5:28 pm
Mon July 1, 2013

What You Might Not Know About the Gettysburg Battlefield

Gettysburg National Military Park has undergone many changes since the famed battle 150 years ago.
Credit Matt Paul / witf

Ceremonies and re-enactments this week are marking the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Three days of fighting in July 1863 on the rolling hills of Gettysburg claimed the lives of 51,000 men in what many historians call the turning point of the Civil War.

Now, 150 years later, work is underway to ensure the hallowed ground looks nearly identical to how it was when Union and Confederate troops met on those fields. But Gettysburg National Military Park has undergone many changes since the famed battle.

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History
11:06 am
Mon July 1, 2013

With 150th Anniversary, Gettysburg Comes to Life

On this day 150 years ago the Battle of Gettysburg began. By the time the three-day battle was over, nearly 8,000 Americans were dead and another 40,000 were wounded or missing. But the battle changed the tide of the Civil War. 

This week, thousands of spectators will gather in Gettysburg to mark the anniversary, as Civil War re-enactors play out some of the key skirmishes that made the three-day battle so memorable. That means Gettysburg Chief Historian Scott Hartwig will be busy.

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History
3:04 pm
Fri June 21, 2013

At 249 Years Old, the Block House is Holding Strong

The Block House in Point State Park is approaching 250 years old is said to be in good condition.
Credit Roy Engelbrecht

The oldest man-made structure in Pittsburgh is looking pretty good, according to a local architecture firm hired to assess the Block House in Point State Park.

The building will celebrate its 250th year in 2014, and its owners are hoping to spruce it up a bit before blowing up the balloons and cutting the cake.

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Speaking Volumes
9:20 am
Tue May 21, 2013

Speaking Volumes on Essential Pittsburgh: Patrick Dowd

Find our which books Councilman and former historian, Patrick Dowd recommends
Credit Heather McClain / WESA

Pittsburgh City Councilman Patrick Dowd started out as a historian and while he's no longer in academia his reading still reflects that background. Dowd talks with WESA Morning Edition Host Josh Raulerson about his  reading selections which include historical nonfiction mixed with fiction "with a historical bent."

Speaking Volumes
3:30 am
Mon May 20, 2013

A history lesson with Prof. Patrick Dowd

Book recommendations from Councilman Patrick Dowd
Credit Josh Raulerson/90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Councilman Patrick Dowd started out as a historian, and while he's no longer in academia, his reading still reflects that background. These days Dowd reads historical nonfiction mixed with fiction "with a serious historical bent." 

Edwin Coddington, The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command

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