Category: History

  • Independence

    Colonial flag with One PPG Place

    Something like this might still be our flag but for some good luck and a great deal of help from the French. This colonial-era British Red Ensign flies at Point State Park near the Blockhouse.

  • Liberty National Bank

    This cover design “from a beautiful, dignified and readable booklet designed by Arthur C. Gruver, Pittsburgh,” was picked out by a printing trade journal as an outstanding example of design in 1919. It appears to show the original ground-floor front of the Romanesque Liberty Building on Penn Avenue.

  • The Full Expression of Richardson’s Mature Power

    Allegheny County Courthouse

    Henry Hobson Richardson’s design for the Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail, from the book Henry Hobson Richardson and His Works, published shortly after Richardson’s death. The last paragraph of the lengthy description of this work, Richardson’s greatest, is worth quoting.

    “Taken as a whole the design of this vast and complex structure, both inside and out, is a marvel of good sense as well as of architectural beauty. None of the faults which appear in some of Richardson’s other buildings can be found in this. It seems as simply yet completely right in execution as in first conception. We may take the Court-house as Richardson wished it to be taken—as the full expression of his mature power in the direction where it was most at home. Had he not lived to build it his record would still have been a surprising one and would still have entitled him to be called a man of genius in the full meaning of the term. But it would have been an incomplete, a broken record, while now we see the best of which he himself felt capable; and seeing it we believe that no possible problem which a long life might have brought him would have been too difficult for him to solve. It proves that he was more firmly convinced than ever that in the precedents of southern Romanesque he could find his best inspiration, but that he had worked his way to a very different attitude towards them from the one he had first assumed. The Court-house is the most magnificent and imposing of his works, yet it is the most logical and quiet. It is the most sober and severe, yet it is the most original and in one sense the most eclectic. Although all its individual features have been drawn from an early southern style, its silhouette suggests some of the late-mediaeval buildings of the north of Europe, and its symmetry, its dignity and nobility of air, speak of Renaissance ideals. To combine inspirations drawn from such different sources into a novel yet organic whole while expressing a complex plan of the most modern sort—this was indeed to be original. There is no other municipal building like Richardson’s Court-house. It is as new as the needs it meets, as American as the community for which it was built. Yet it might stand without loss of prestige in any city in the world.”

  • Carnegie International Medal of Honor

    The first Carnegie International was held in 1896, and it immediately became one of the most important exhibitions of modern art in the world. Andrew Carnegie believed in encouraging artists by collecting the old masters of tomorrow, and many priceless works have been acquired for the Carnegie’s collection from International exhibitions.

    This Medal of Honor was designed for the Carnegie by Tiffany & Co. It was reproduced in the catalogue of the 1899 International, which is a beautiful publication from the golden age of American printing.

  • Frank & Seder

    Kaufmann’s was the Big Store, but Frank & Seder, facing Kaufmann’s across a whole block of Smithfield Street, was hardly small. The building is now under restoration.

    The restoration has peeled away later accretions, and we can see the shadows of an old sign at the corner of Forbes Avenue.

    Two layers of ghost signs still memorialize the old department store to pedestrians on Fifth Avenue.

    Compare the photograph to this illustration of the store in 1927.

  • Night Scene on the Monongahela

    “Night Scene on the Monongahela River Near Pittsburgh, Pa., Showing a Portion of the Plants of the Pittsburgh Steel Co.” A striking view from a booklet published by the Pittsburgh Steel Company in 1911.

  • Why You Can’t Fight City Hall

    Because City Hall knows everything, as we can see from this 1892 view of one of the filing rooms in the old Pittsburgh City Hall. It came from a catalogue from the Office Specialty Mfg. Co, which supplied the filing cabinets.

  • Ruud Building

    This was the place where the marvelous Ruud water heaters were produced. We take hot running water for granted today, but in this 1908 catalogue, the novelty is brought out in the “instructions” at the front of the book:


    Note carefully the instructions
    for operating the Ruud
    Water Heater


    You may add hot water in your home to the list of innovations for which Pittsburgh is responsible.

  • “Steel Preferred” Films in McKeesport

    “Taylor Allerdice was accustomed to meeting all kinds of situations but here was something entirely different. So far as he knew, it had never been done before, except in the making of an occasional educational film, but this man didn’t look as though he were concerned in making just the short length educational subject.

    “ ‘What kind of a picture?’ he asked.

    “ ‘What we call a feature presentation, Mr. Allerdice. I have brought a company of players, including the principals and important members of the cast, cameramen and the necessary crew to handle the mechanical end, across the continent to picturize in its actual locale Herschell. S. Hall’s Saturday Evening Post story Steel Preferred. The plant at the National Tube Company seems to be the one best suited to the requirements of the story.’ ”

    The entire article, “On Location in a Steel Mill,” appears in The Director for July, 1925.

  • The Train Shed—Pittsburgh

    An art photograph by W. W. Zieg from Pictorial Photography in America, 1922. This was the train shed of the Union or Pennsylvania Station, back when it had a huge and magnificent train shed.