The US city of Pittsburgh is popular for the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers. The city, just like any other city in the world, has a tale to narrate. The history of the city is rich in monumental incidents that make it an interesting read especially for history students and people interested to get cultural knowledge. The history of the Pittsburgh city can be divided into four sub-headings :early history, the 19th century, the 20th century, and the 21st century.
Many people believe that the history of the Pittsburgh last dated on records from the time when Colonel George Washington first arrived in the city in 1755 while exploring the regions in and around the US. But before George Washington’s arrival, the Native Americans like the Shawnee, Lenape, and Seneca had already recognized the potential of the city which was then covered by French as well as British. During the expedition, Washington desired to install a small group of engineers, who later developed Fort George, at the site where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers meet. His desire was overthrown by French who later established Fort Duquesne. In 1758, the British built Fort Pit on the site where the Fort Duquesne was once developed. This was followed by the signing of a treaty that ended a dispute between the French and Indian War. The Fort Pit was named in the honor of William Pitt, the then Prime Minister of France.
The city was first inhabited by the British settlers with agriculture being their prime occupation. Since it was difficult to travel all through the Allegheny Mountains the settlers made their own goods rather than relying on outer sources.
Around 300 inhabitants are recorded to have settled in the city by the late 1790s. The inhabitants included shoemakers, cabinetmakers, brewers, blacksmiths, tanners, and other craftsmen. Through successful cultivation and great agriculture skills, the residents of the land were able to produce whiskey in good amount. The whiskey thus produced was later sold for monetary gains. But, this was condemned by the nation’s Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton for being a way to pay off the national debt. People selling the whiskey were requested to pay the tax which however led to protect by locals against the taxation of whiskey. In 1794, President Washington sent around 13,000 militia men to put an end to the protest which later was known as the Whiskey Rebellion.
The 19th Century
The rivers flowing in the Pittsburgh invited many to its land and also served as the debarkation point. At the beginning of the 1800s, the land was visited by many who wanted to escape to the westward through the rivers. In 1811, Pittsburgh got its first-ever steamboat which was built by Robert Fulton. The steamboat named “the New Orleans” navigated the waters between Natchez and New Orleans.
The land has been popular for rivers as well as natural deposits like steel, coal, natural gas, and limestone. A fight in 1812 pushed the demand of iron which saw foundries, mills, and forges dotting the land. It was in 1816 when Pittsburgh was officially announced as a city. Later in 1854, the Pennsylvania Railroad opened making it convenient for everyone to travel to the city.
The city also turned out to be a significant manufacturer of Mecca by late 1800s. The Civil War and railroads connecting Pittsburgh to the rest of the world led to industrialization. The economic expansion of the city was supported by abundant deposit of coal. By the end of the century, about 70 glass factories were recorded of having operations on the South Side of the Pittsburgh city. These industries or factories burnt coal for operations which led to lots of smoke and pollution in the city. The area with such factories notoriously became popular as the ‘Smoke City’.
In 1875 the Edgar Thompson Works by Industrialist Andrew Carnegie was incepted. The Edgar Thompson Works produced cost-effective steel and the land helped Industrialists like George Westinghouse, H. J. Heinz, Andrew Mellon, and Charles M. Schwab to make their fortune. The personality in return gave the city libraries, universities, cultural centers and more.
The 20th Century
The proliferation of industries attracted immigrants to the land in search of food, shelter, and employment. The immigrants were later found to be the reason for the population within the land. Besides, many ethnic enclaves formed on the hillsides, preserving languages, cuisine, and traditional sites. The early 1900s saw immigration of African-Americans too.
Over the time, Pittsburgh turned out to be the topmost supplier of steel and reaped great results for the same. Steel was in high demand, especially during World War II. The city provided tones of steel for the war purpose, but after the war, the city experienced a renaissance. Smoke became one of the major issues as it significantly lowered the air quality. As a result smoke controls were established to clean up the air and shape up new modern city. The city also witnessed the launch of the world’s first civic auditorium ‘the Civic Arena’ in 1961. 1970 it saw the opening of Three Rivers Stadium. The most prolific steel industry of the city collapsed in the late 1970s and late 1980s. The city remodeled its outlook as a service-based city. And now it provides great medicine, education, technology, and banking services to others.
The 21st century:
In 2008, Pittsburgh turned 250 years old. It was the time when its structure was redesigned with many industrial complexes making their way to the city opening doors for shopping, entertainment, food industry, and more. In 1922, the Pittsburgh International Airport was opened. From being the top supplier of steel, Pittsburgh welcoming accepted industrialization from the world which gave it Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers; The Carnegie Science Museum; and PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The city, over the centuries, has acquired many nicknames such as – The Gateway to the West, The Smoky City, The Steel City, The City of Champions, The City with a Smile on Its Face etc. It is the world’s most livable city and for thousands, Pittsburgh is a synonym of home.