Joe Wos

'Peanuts' Legacy Continues 65 Years After Debut

Nov 17, 2015

This is a big year for Peanuts. Charles M. Schulz’ classic strip debuted in newspapers 65 years ago. Charlie Brown and company are in their first theatrical movie in 35 years. Also, the annual Christmas special turns 50 this year. Joining us for a look at the Peanuts gang is cartoonist and pop culture contributor Joe Wos who was the first resident cartoonist for the Charles M. Schulz Museum.

The Legacy Of Pittsburgh Magician Harry Albacker

Nov 2, 2015
Joe Wos

Magician Harry Albacker claimed to have been born a few minutes after famed illusionist Harry Houdini died in 1926, even suggesting that he was the reincarnation of the long-adored magician. But Albacker's greatest claim to fame was not through slight-of-hand; he is the credited inventor of polka-dot paint. Pop culture contributor Joe Wos joined us for a look at this little-known Pittsburgher.

Communicating Black And Gold To The Red Planet

Oct 15, 2015
Joe Wos

Are we alone in the universe?

It’s a question that has plagued mankind for hundreds of years. But in the early 20th century, a Pittsburgh inventor attempted to solve that problem. Pop culture contributor Joe Wos sat down with Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer to tell the story of inventor, Alexander Foster Humphrey.

The tale begins in 1899 with famed inventor Nikola Tesla receiving a message, believed to be from Mars, consisting of three dots. While Tesla was largely ignored at the time, Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi announced he received a similar message in the 1920s.

A Century Of Steel City Cinema

Oct 5, 2015
Stephan / flickr

Pittsburgh is no stranger to the cinema.  From blockbusters like “The Dark Knight Rises” to the cult classic, “Night of the Living Dead,” the Steel City has a long and close relationship with Hollywood.  Pop culture contributor Joe Wos says the region’s film industry has been strong for a century, beginning with the production of the feature “Cupid’s Garden Party.” 

The Unforgettable Trial of Harry K. Thaw

Aug 20, 2015
New York American / wikipedia commons

Long before O.J. Simpson, the court case referred to as the trial of the century involved a Pittsburgher. Harry K. Thaw stood trial for the murder of famed architect Stanford White as a result of his jealousy over the relationship between his wife,  model and chorus girl, Evelyn Nesbit, and White. We’ll mark the centennial of this trial with our pop culture contributor Joe Wos.

AP Images

Today is the deadline for Pennsylvania lawmakers to submit a budget to Governor Tom Wolf. With no compromise in sight, many legislators have already prepped for negotiations to continue into the week. Pennsylvania House Majority Leader David Reed provides his thoughts on the big issues standing between the Republican party and the governor's office.

Reed responds to the accusations that Democrat input was not included in the house budget:

"It’s just not a situation where there’s complete agreement on how to move forward...we have taken the responsibility to meet our June 30th deadline very seriously, so we put together a budget proposal that had majority support in the House and the Senate on increasing funding for education, balancing the budget, and doing so without any new taxes going forward, and we will send it to the governor later on today." -David Reed   

Also, the U.S. Women’s World Cup team heads to the semi-finals, including a Pittsburgh-area player. We'll examine soccer's growing fan base in Pittsburgh, then Joe Wos takes a classic and adds a Pittsburgh twist in his new book The Three Little Pigsburghers. 

Fibonacci Blue / flickr

The six Baltimore police officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray have been charged with a number of crimes, including murder and manslaughter. Pitt Law Professor David Harris joins us to explain the details behind the charges and what they mean.

Considering the charges, Harris explains how they figure into the usual categories of homicide charges:

"In the universe of homicide charges, there are different possibilities. One is first-degree murder, one is second-degree murder, then you go to manslaughter and then, maybe, negligent homicide. ... Both of the types of homicide charges involved here do not involve intentional killing. They involve degrees of reckless behavior." -- David Harris

Also in the program, Nazila Fathi talks about her book "The Lonely War," which paints an intense and intricate portrait of post-revolution Iran, and Pittsburgh cartoonist Joe Wos explains Mazetoons, his newly syndicated puzzle/cartoon hybrid.

Essential Pittsburgh: Re-Drafting 'You and The Police'

Apr 1, 2015
macwagen / flickr

The original version of the pamphlet titled "You and The Police" has been around since the mid-1990s, published after Jonny Gammage's death during a traffic stop. Now, the Pittsburgh police bureau has collaborated with the Black Political Empowerment Project, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Citizen Police Review Board on an updated version of the brochure, which they hope will be distributed in public schools and churches across the city. The handout offers tips on how to handle interactions with the police at traffic stops, within a private home and during an arrest. B-PEP Founder Tim Stevens, ACLU Legal Director Vic Walczak, and Executive Director of the CPRB Beth Pittinger explain the new information and why the city believes the pamphlet's re-introduction is necessary.  Walczak cautioned that, though he thought the brochure is helpful and would minimize negative police interactions, it wouldn't completely solve the problem. 

"There's no silver bullet. No matter how good the brochure is and how wide a distribution you put out, it's not a guarantee that everything is going to be hunky dory. You're going to have misunderstandings. Some employees, like in any business, are not going to follow the rules or do the right thing."- Vic Walczak

Also today, Joe Wos presents the story of the "world's greatest liar" (a Pittsburgh-er, of course) in honor of April Fool's Day. 

Film Censorship in Pittsburgh: A History

Jan 23, 2015
Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research / Wikipedia

Last month the motion picture "The Interview," garnered headlines due to terroristic threats. This led Sony pictures to withhold the movie's release. The saga of "The Interview" is the latest story in the history of film censorship. A legacy with ties to Pittsburgh as pop culture contributor Joe Wos explains.

"The Interview" might be a recent example of self-censorship, but the film industry has a long history of both bowing to government pressures and constructing its own rules and standards. According to Wos, this can be traced back to the premiere of the controversial film "The Birth of a Nation" in 1915. Wos says Pennsylvania was on the forefront of the film censorship movement.

Becky Stern / Flickr

The International Consumer Electronics Show, held in Las Vegas, is history for another year. Our pop culture contributor Joe Wos was one of the many people in attendance and had a front-row seat to see the next big gadgets that could be changing our lives.

Untold Stories behind Holiday Songs

Dec 17, 2014
Pamla J. Eisenberg / Flickr

From “Jingle Bells” to “White Christmas,” many of our most popular holiday songs have interesting stories behind them. Pop culture contributor Joe Wos tells us the stories behind some of our favorite holiday songs.

Wos singles out “Jingle Bells” as possibly the first Christmas pop song. Originally intended as a Thanksgiving song, “Jingle Bells” became a popular drinking song and ultimately became associated with Christmas.

Where Does Halloween Come From?

Oct 31, 2014
Matt Niemi / flickr

Halloween is the second biggest consumer holiday after Christmas. But what are its origins? Pop culture contributor Joe Wos joins us to provide a history of All Hallow’s Eve and how it’s been celebrated in the Steel City.

A Brief History of Hysteria and Public Panic with Joe Wos

Oct 20, 2014
revjdevans / Flickr

The spread of the Ebola virus is the latest news issue receiving widespread coverage. From the Y2K panic, to killer bees and more, pop culture contributor Joe Wos joins us to discuss the history of public panic and hysteria.

Exploring the End of Saturday Morning Cartoons

Oct 3, 2014
Dex1138 / Flickr

For years, Saturday morning network television was the domain of the younger set. However, like penny candy, pay phones and Life Magazine, Saturday morning cartoons are a thing of the past.

Pop culture contributor Joe Wos joins us for a history of these weekend staples and why the broadcast networks are no longer carrying them. 

Does the City's High Self-Esteem Create New Problems?

Sep 10, 2014
Flickr user jmd41280

There’s no doubting Pittsburghers take pride in their city. However, can that civic pride result in turning a blind eye to ongoing issues such as race, transportation and poverty? We pose that question to Joe Wos, executive director of the Toonseum and Chris Potter, editor of the Pittsburgh City Paper.

Read the City Paper article that inspired this segment.

Marcus Charleston / WESA

Resistance is futile. Geeks have taken over the world, according to Joe Wos, executive director of the Toonseum, and Pittsburgh is a huge part of the takeover.

“In 1960, a woman named Dirce Archer, who is from Pittsburgh, brought World Con to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania," Wos said. "This is in 1960. This woman just bulldozed right through the science fiction community and said, ‘We’re bringing this to Pittsburgh.’ Despite at that time, 1960, Pittsburgh wasn’t known as a tourist attraction. And it was at that con where comic fandom had its first seeds planted.”

This 1960 conference is historic, as the World Con had the first people dressed up as superhero characters. These costumes led the way to creating conventions for comic book fans.

This weekend Pittsburgh is hosting its own science fiction and comic convention, Steel City Con.

The Steel City Con is at the Monroeville Convention Center Aug. 8, 9 and 10. Single-day tickets are $15 and three-day passes are $30.

The Golden Legacy of Little Golden Books

Jun 4, 2014
Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

For generations of children, Little Golden Books have served as an introduction to reading. The first set of 12 books was released on October 1, 1942, selling for 25 cents apiece. Since then, the series has sold more than two billion books worldwide in a variety of languages. They feature characters from all across the children’s pop culture spectrum drawn by many accomplished illustrators.

Having played such a significant role in the lives of children everywhere, several of the books were included in the Smithsonian Museum’s Division of Cultural History. This month selected artwork from the series will be on display at the Toonseum in Pittsburgh. Essential Pittsburgh visited the exhibit and talked with Joe Wos, the museum’s executive director. He explained why the books have remained timeless.


Visitors to the City County Building this February may find themselves captured by the rich history of Pittsburgh-based African American cartoonists.

In a new exhibit titled Beyond the Funny Pages: The Works of Arts and Life Captured in Comics, Toonseum collaborates with the City Parks office of special events to create a time capsule of art by black cartoonists living in the Steel City. 

Guaraldi / Wikipedia

A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and How the Grinch Stole Christmas are holiday television staples.

They are aired every single year despite being filmed several decades ago. So why do they still endure?

Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

If you are a resident of Pittsburgh, you have undoubtedly heard about the enormous 40 foot tall rubber duck that is now floating majestically in the river. But where does this iconic bath toy originate from?

According to Joe Wos, Executive Director of the Toonseum, it goes all the way back to the late 1800’s, when regular Saturday baths first became popular. In order to be clean for church on Sunday, the entire family would gather to take their one and only bath of the week. Wos says dips in the tub went from oldest to youngest, Dad went first, then oldest brother, down to the youngest child.

Drawing a Crowd At The Pittsburgh Comic Arts Festival

May 22, 2013
Joe Wos

In the world of comic strip art, The Reuben Awards, are on par with the Oscars. Named after Rube Goldberg, the Reuben has been awarded by the National Cartoonists Society to artists such as Charles Schulz, Chester Gould and Bill Watterson.