Culture

Stocks & Pedestal, Spring/Summer 2006

There is a tide in the affairs of leaders. A rising tide, the saying goes, lifts all boats. It’s a low tide that you have to survive, and rare is the leader who doesn’t face one. Jim Rohr’s low tide came in 2002. After the stock market bubble had burst, America was looking for people …

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From the Publisher, Spring/Summer 2006

Before we get to the second issue of Pittsburgh Quarterly, I’d like to thank the many people who have passed along ideas and kind words either in person or in letters or e-mail about the first issue. All considered, we couldn’t have been happier with it and with the response. The magazine is resonating with …

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Three Places That Found Redemption

A story of redemption is a story of profound change that we make ourselves. Time won’t redeem us, nor will promises or fond memories. When our cherished world has collapsed in front of us and we stare into the abyss, the choices are stark: keep walking straight ahead and fall into oblivion, take one tentative …

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The Pace of Progress

In the game of Monopoly, sometimes you land on Community Chest. If fate smiles, you draw a little yellow card that says “Advance to Go” or “Bank error in your favor,” and you collect $200. The worst card shows the mustachioed Monopoly man stooped over, carrying a pick and shovel with the words “You are …

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Whatever Happened to the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit?

In 1955, Sloan Wilson wrote a groundbreaking novel on the trials of working in the 1950s. “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” became a hit film starring Gregory Peck and tells the story of how a young executive works tirelessly in what would become known as the white-collar world. Wilson’s protagonists are Tom and …

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Song of Squirrel Hill

“Jews are just like everybody else, only more so,” Wyoming Benjamin Paris* liked to say. He was an authority on the subject of chutzpah, and the star of his Hill District basketball team — a team with no uniforms or name. In 1919, the year of his bar mitzvah, he hopped a streetcar from Downtown to …

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The Story of Society

“What rage for fame attends both great and small. Better be damned than mentioned not at all!” So noted John Wolcott in the mid 1800s, and not much has changed since. But today Wolcott might wonder what rage for society news has taken the nation by storm. One is hard pressed to open a newspaper or …

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Ukiah: In Pittsburgh!

Of the thousands of materials that fill the Pennsylvania Room of the Carnegie Library in Oakland, all are of local interest, being by or about Pennsylvanians. Hundreds of these are works of fiction; nearly a third of which take place in Pittsburgh. A surprisingly high percentage of the same are mysteries.

Art Collector G. David Thompson

What might be described as the great collections built up by Pittsburghers — those of, say, Henry Clay Frick, Gertrude and Leo Stein, Duncan Phillips, Andrew and Paul Mellon respectively, and Walter Arensberg — are perhaps best understood as being financed by Pittsburgh. The actual collections were built up elsewhere. That is not true of …

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George Westinghouse: The Mystery

It was a dreary fall day when, on a friend’s suggestion, I visited the George Westinghouse Museum in Wilmerding. It is housed inside the former Westinghouse Air Brake offices, a gray stone building with a hint of the medieval, appropriately named “the Castle.” The edifice was built by a man who lived 68 years and …

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Stocks & Pedestal, Winter 2006

The dubious distinction of being the first to be placed in the rusty, old Pittsburgh Quarterly stockade goes to the local Republican Party. We’re putting the party in the pillory for essentially being a no-show in city politics. If ever there were a time when the Republicans should have recognized and seized an opportunity, it …

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Welcome to the First Issue

Pittsburgh is a major industrial, cultural and intellectual center. Thick with history, it is both the home and the exporter of great Americans and great ideas. Pittsburgh Quarterly will be the magazine for people who know this city and for those seeking to know it better. It will be the magazine about the myth and …

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The Pennsylvania Society

The setting could hardly have been more festive: New York City at Christmas with its crowds, carols, shopping, bright lights and snow. No wonder then that Pennsylvania politicos and business seekers by the thousands tore themselves away for the 107th annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Society. As they roamed through the Waldorf-Astoria seeking the next …

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Shadows on a Wall

The increasingly popular genre of creative nonfiction has taken a new turn with the publication of “Shadows on a Wall: Juan O’Gorman and the Mural at Patzcuaro” by Hilary Masters (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005, $24.95). This book-length essay combines fact and fiction with artistic metaphor, autobiography and imaginative technique to describe an episode from …

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Song of the South Side Slopes

If you went any higher, you’d need a harp. Yard Way on Pittsburgh’s South Side Slopes is only about half a dozen blocks long, one would say. One would say that if it were in another city. In Pittsburgh, one would be more apt to say it’s half a dozen blocks high, considering the breathtaking …

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Entrepreneur

Oscar Levant, pianist, composer, actor and native Pittsburgher, once quipped: “There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.” You don’t need to spend a lot of time with entrepreneurs to realize that many of them have at least smudged the line. For every Willie Loman there are five Willy Wonkas. …

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What is Pittsburgh?

Before Pittsburgh became a place, before it was an idea, before its stories, its heroes, its villains, its tales of exploration, adventure, discovery and struggle became part of the popular imagination and American life, it was a space defined only by the movement of water through mountains, valleys, forests and a dark wilderness. A young …

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There is Life Underground

On a recent Friday evening, the balcony in the South Side’s Rex Theater was at a near fever pitch. Amid a buzzing crowd, models were sipping cocktails and slipping into their custom-made outfits while a new rock band, Magdalene, jammed on the stage below. The evening was conceived as a debut concert for Magdalene, but …

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