Pittsburgh History

Oscar Winner Rylance Co-Writing Battle Of Homestead Play

Jul 5, 2017
Matty Sayles/Invision / AP

As an Oscar- and Tony Award-winner and one of the leading Shakespearean actors of his day, Mark Rylance knows a great story when he hears one.

He's captivated these days by the story of the historic 1892 Homestead Strike, when thousands of steel workers and townspeople clashed with Pinkerton guards hired by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie and industrialist Henry Clay Frick to end a labor dispute that turned deadly.

James Benney III / General Photograph Collection, Detre Library & Archives Heinz History Center

Even before Pittsburgh was topping “most livable” listicles and getting attention as the “next Brooklyn,” it attracted travelers from around the country.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Most Pittsburghers are familiar with the narrative of mid 20th century urban renewal in neighborhoods like East Liberty and the Hill District: displacement of longtime residents to make room for large publicly funded projects or revitalization efforts. 

Virginia Alvino / WESA

The City of Pittsburgh honored the life and career of former Mayor Bob O’Connor on Thursday, the ten-year anniversary of his death.

Mayor Bill Peduto organized the memorial on the front steps of the City-County Building, bringing together friends, family and colleagues of the late mayor. Some guests wore original t-shirts and buttons from O’Connor’s campaign.

Peduto said he met O’Connor 25 years ago, early in his own career.

Davelyn/Google Maps

Huffington Post recently named Pittsburgh one of the top ten cities that techies should move to. Last year, Zagat named Pittsburgh its top food city. And Vogue just ran an article about the Ace Hotel in East Liberty.

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A tall, stovepipe hat.  A buffalo skin fur coat.  A peg leg and bushy beard. A Pittsburgh icon. 

Charles Orton, better known as the XX Cough Drop Man, sold cough drops rain or shine on the corner of Market and Diamond Streets for forty years.  A native of Allegheny City, presently known as the North Side, Orton was not only a cough drop salesman, but a walking history book, sharing stories of Pittsburgh neighborhoods through the years. 

Joe Wos, Maze Toons creator and Essential Pittsburgh contributor says everyone in the late 19th century Pittsburgh knew Orton, but his story is much less well-known among Pittsburghers today.

Pittsburgh's 'Ghost Bomber' Still Missing After 60 Years

Jan 26, 2016
Filmet Inc.

The Bermuda Triangle may be legendary for disappearing boats and aircraft, but the Golden Triangle has its own mysterious disappearance. 60 years ago, a B-25 Mitchell bomber sank beneath the waves of the Monongahela River. It has not been seen since. Andy Masich, President and CEO of the Heinz History Center, told Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer about the history of the so called “Ghost Bomber.”

Balancing Privacy And Security On A Global Scale

Jan 26, 2016
Global Panorama / flickr

Public disclosures related to government surveillance capabilities and activities, and subsequent reforms, have brought the privacy versus security debate front and center. How should the U.S. balance privacy and national security? We'll talk with Sina Marie Beaghley, Senior International Policy Analyst for the Rand Corporation.

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.

On July 6, 1917 the Courier Junior of Ottumwa, Iowa published a short essay from Mary Elizabeth Champney, age seven: 

Now that everybody is talking about war and every little boy and girl loves our flag, the stars and stripes, I want to tell you about the Fort Pitt block house of Pittsburgh, Pa., that was built many years ago in 1764...[The caretaker] said all the people of Pittsburgh loved it and that hundreds of people visited it every year. They loved the name of Washington and that made the block house dear to them. 

What Miss Champney doesn’t mention, and likely didn’t know, is that just ten years earlier, the Block House had only narrowly escaped destruction. That the last surviving remnant of the French and Indian War still stood was due to the Fort Pitt Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Detre Library and Archives Heinz History Center

"90.5 WESA Celebrates Inventing Pittsburgh" is a new historically focused series which airs during "Morning Edition" and on "Essential Pittsburgh." Over the next year, producer Margaret J. Krauss will capture stories from Pittsburgh’s more than 250-year history, connecting the steel city's past to its present.

Krauss previews the new project for us, first by explaining how an expensive rug led to the political downfall of Charles H. Kline, the last elected Republican mayor of Pittsburgh.

By illegally purchasing an item for the city that was over $500 during the Great Depression, he and his rug became a symbol of corrupt city government. 

Krauss says it is small stories like this that illuminate Pittsburgh's roots, and the series is meant to connect the dots:

If you look hard enough, there is a Pittsburgh connection everywhere, but more importantly, Pittsburgh leads everywhere in the sense that it is connected to all these world trends. You can find our [Pittsburgh] DNA across the United States.”