History

Waking Up on the Wrong Side of History

On Friday morning, June 24, 2016, the entire Euro-​American establishment woke up to find that, contrary to their strict instructions, the British had voted to leave the EU.

Oakmont Camping, circa 1910

For Pittsburghers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Oakmont offered the next best thing to paradise.

What Happened at Thompson’s Island?

Were you to launch a canoe at the U.S. Forest Service Buckaloons boat ramp, where Brokenstraw Creek enters the Allegheny River, then float down toward the borough of Tidioute, the setting would appear much as it must have to a party of Seneca Indians paddling the same route in the…

Exploring the Maridon

Most people do not associate Asian art with Butler, Pa. However, the only museum dedicated to ancient and contemporary Chinese and Japanese art and culture in western Pennsylvania is tucked away on a residential street in this city of around 14,000 — epitomizing the concept of “hidden gem.”

Mount Oliver Incline, Circa 1895

When the mount oliver inclined railway was built in 1872, it was Allegheny County’s second incline, and an average one-​way ride cost six cents.

Light in Darkness

I can’t really say if I found Ernie, or if Ernie found me. When I volunteered for a writing project at the Pittsburgh Holocaust Center in 1992, he was the first person I met. An engaging, bespectacled gentleman in his early 70s, Ernie was one of about 200 Holocaust survivors…

Wabash Park ice skating, 1917

On the wintry afternoon of Jan. 20, 1917, pittsburghers of all ages enjoyed ice skating at Wabash Park in Pittsburgh’s West End. Regularly a grassy swath, it was apparently flooded and frozen for the season. The park is still there, as are a number of the park-​facing homes along Wabash…

Home Library Group

Coke oven smokestacks loom as members of a boys’ reading club pose in an what is likely a factory slum along the Monongahela where workers lived to be near their jobs at the Jones & Laughlin Steel Mill in Hazelwood.

Heinz, 1903

The H.J. Heinz company was founded in 1888, and by the turn of the century had a vast processing plant on Pittsburgh’s North Side.

The Little Block House That Could

The first question a visitor usually asks is: “So… what was this place?” As curator of the 250-​year-​old Fort Pitt Block House, sometimes I feel that I have the most interesting job in the world. I get to take care of the only structure left of Fort Pitt and the…

Vox Humana

I met the great oral historian and journalist Studs Terkel when I was 18 years old. I didn’t know much about Studs back then, only that he was a writer and a pretty famous one, and since I wanted to be a writer, too, it was probably a good idea…

The formidable Frick

One hundred and twenty five years ago, the eastern side of Pittsburgh’s East End — its grand villas powered by electricity and surrounded by gleaming motorcars — was arguably the richest and most tech-​savvy neighborhood in the country. Within a half-​mile stretch between Point Breeze and Wilkinsburg dwelt a dazzle of shrewd self-​made millionaires:…

Louis vs. Lewis

Joe Louis was the man. Everyone in the country knew his name. He was heavyweight champion of the world when the title was the most prized crown in all of sports and carried more prestige than the biggest Hollywood star.

Clan Carnegie

The fact that the Carnegie Museum complex in Oakland happens to be located on Forbes Avenue wouldn’t be particularly noteworthy except that Andrew Carnegie and Brigadier General John Forbes both hail from the small town of Dunfermline, Scotland.

The Watery Part of the World

The standing watch was sent below for wet– weather gear, and the clattering of their feet on the ladder awakened me. I headed above deck, blinking in the light and trying to align the fair skies behind us and the gentle roll of two-​foot waves with the urgency of the…
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