Posts tagged history.

Pittsburgh Pirates fans celebrate victory in the World Series, October 1960. George Silk for Life magazine

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August 28, 1963: "The March on Washington"

The first special train arrived at Union Station in Washington D.C. before 7 a.m. and carried 535 marchers from Pittsburgh. Next came a train from Cincinnati. People were coming by bus, plane, automobile, bicycle and foot. The whole affair was giving the nation’s capital a case of the jitters. Alcohol sales were banned. Hospitals and jails made room for an onslaught of arrivals. More than 5,000 police were on hand. Many expected riots and looting.

Instead, the “March for Jobs and Freedom” had the peaceful atmosphere of a church picnic. Known now as the “March on Washington,” the event drew more than 200,000 people to the capital and became a defining moment in the nation’s Civil Rights Movement.

The march itself was fairly short — nine blocks, from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, where formal ceremonies were held. In the front ranks were the Pittsburgh delegation, singing marching songs and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Men removed their coats in the summer heat. The chant of “freedom, freedom” filled the air. At the Lincoln Memorial, speakers and musicians awaited the start of the official program. Not everyone was pleased with President John F. Kennedy’s pending Civil Rights legislation. Two Kennedy aides stood by, ready to pull the plug on the sound system should any of the speakers get out of hand.

Of course, The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech was the day’s highlight. It was carried live on television and is today considered one of the most important and moving speeches in American history.

Before the march, the Pennsylvania delegation met with Rep. William S. Moorhead, a Pittsburgh Democrat. Over coffee and breakfast rolls, Moorhead confided that passage of Civil Rights legislation then before Congress was by no means certain — blunt assessment that “mystified and dismayed” Moorhead’s fellow Pittsburghers, according to the Press.

“Do you think our coming here has helped the bill?” one marcher asked.

Probably, Moorhead replied. The march, in fact, is now credited with providing the political momentum that ensured passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

— Steve Mellon

On This Day in Pittsburgh History: August 6, 1928 

Andrew Warhola is born in Pittsburgh. 

On This Day in Pittsburgh History: July 9, 1962 

Andy Warhol debuts his paintings of Campbell’s Soup cans at The Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; High 50

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July 1, 1913: Former enemies come together at Gettysburg

The white-haired men came together with the enthusiasm of young boys on a vacation, according to an account in The Pittsburgh Press. They laughed with giddy abandon, flung their arms around each other and made silly jokes.

But as the sun began to set, the men remembered they were old. They remembered how, as young men, they had tried to kill each other on the very ground on which they stood now. They remembered the dying and the suffering, the courage and cowardice. The men then grew somber and talked in whispered tones.

A century ago this week, veterans who’d fought in the greatest battle ever waged on this continent gathered to commemorate the event’s 50th anniversary. Thousands of old soldiers descended on Gettysburg. At first, they overwhelmed the small town and the government’s efforts to care for them. Stooped men exhausted by long train journeys hobbled from camp to camp, looking for places to rest, only to discover all tents were occupied. Many could find nothing to eat. The heat was merciless. During the gathering, nine died from heat exhaustion and heart ailments.

But these were men accustomed to hardship. They’d survived the battle, the war and the half century that had passed since then. Now in their final years of life, they were determined to see this thing through. They knew it would be the last great gathering of those with memories of the horrors unleashed in places such as Little Round Top, Devil’s Den, Culp’s Hill and the Wheatfield.

Over the next few days, these former enemies tottered arm-in-arm over the fighting ground, pointing out the locations of regiments and brigades, sharing stories and memories. “Brother,” they called each other. Blue and gray.

In time, death would take them all. But they would leave behind proof that men once charged with destroying each other could, years later, achieve not just forgiveness, but something close to grace.

Learn more about the Gettysburg battle in a PG special interactive presentation.

(Top picture: Survivors of Pickett’s Charge reenact the event)

— Steve Mellon

Entrance to the Harris nickelodeon, Smithfield Street in Pittsburgh, 1919. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (via

On This Day in Pittsburgh History: June 19, 1905 

The “Nickelodeon,” the country’s first all-motion picture house, was opened by Harry Davis and John P. Harris at 433-35 Smithfield Street with the showing of two short films, “Poor but Honest” and “The Baffled Burglar.” It was a great success, with people flocking to the place and marveling at the moving figures. [Historic Pittsburgh

Related: “You Saw It Here First: Pittsburgh’s Nickelodeon introduced the moving picture theater to the masses in 1905,” by Timothy McNulty for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2005. 

Lifeguard teaching boy to swim, with Thomas Strawder and Thomas McDaniels to left of lifeguard, in Highland Park swimming pool, 1951. Teenie Harris. [Carnegie Museum of Art]

On This Day in Pittsburgh History: May 13, 1929 

Pittsburgh county detectives and the homicide squad began a joint probe into the death of Rose Collins, 25, the first woman to be granted an aviator’s license in Pennsylvania. [The Pittsburgh Press

She helped to host Pittsburgh’s Aero Club ball in March and was in the news in April as part of a photoessay The Pittsburgh Press had done on the increasing numbers of women aspiring to be pilots. 

In July 1929, The Pittsburgh Press reported that Collins had died of peritonitis several days following “an operation.” Before she died hospital attendants and physicians made attempts to divulge the name of the person who performed it, but she refused. Her fiance testified to investigators that he had urged Collins “to marry him and not undergo the operation.” No arrests were made. Rose Collins was a clerk at the Pittsburgh Country Club in Beechwood, where she resided.

On This Day in Pittsburgh History:  May 1, 1969 

Fred Rogers, host of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” appeared before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Communications to oppose significant proposed cuts to funding for PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. [Youtube

Opening statement

Sen. Pastore: All right, Rogers, you’ve got the floor.

Mr. Rogers: Sen. Pastore, this is a philosophical statement and would take about ten minutes to read, so I’ll not do that. One of the first things that a child learns in a healthy family is trust, and I trust what you have said that you will read this. It’s very important to me. I care deeply about children.

Sen. Pastore: Will it make you happy if you read it?

Mr. Rogers: I’d just like to talk about it, if it’s alright. My first children’s program was on WQED fifteen years ago, and its budget was $30. Now, with the help of the Sears-Roebuck Foundation and National Educational Television, as well as all of the affiliated stations — each station pays to show our program. It’s a unique kind of funding in educational television. With this help, now our program has a budget of $6000. It may sound like quite a difference, but $6000 pays for less than two minutes of cartoons. Two minutes of animated, what I sometimes say, bombardment. I’m very much concerned, as I know you are, about what’s being delivered to our children in this country. And I’ve worked in the field of child development for six years now, trying to understand the inner needs of children. We deal with such things as — as the inner drama of childhood. We don’t have to bop somebody over the head to…make drama on the screen. We deal with such things as getting a haircut, or the feelings about brothers and sisters, and the kind of anger that arises in simple family situations. And we speak to it constructively. (more

On This Day in Pittsburgh History: March 17, 1936 

Regional flood controls fail as Downtown is inundated with water in what will become known as the infamous St. Patrick’s Day flood, claiming at least 150 lives. Floodwaters reached a crest of 46.4 feet, the highest in the city’s history.  

On This Day in Pittsburgh History: March 14, 1989

Edward Abbey, environmentalist, anarchist and author of “Desert Solitaire” and “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” dies in Arizona.

"My loyalties will not be bound by national borders, or confined in time by one nation’s history, or limited in the spiritual dimension by one language and culture. I pledge my allegiance to the damned human race, and my everlasting love to the green hills of Earth, and my intimations of glory to the singing stars, to the very end of space and time." 

Confessions of a Barbarian: Selections from the Journals of Edward Abbey, 1951-1989

On This Day in Pittsburgh History: January 25, 1890

Journalist and Pittsburgh native Nellie Bly completed her trip around the globe in 72 days, 6 hours and 11 minutes. [Historic PittsburghWikipedia

On This Day in Pittsburgh History: December 23, 1972 

In the first Steelers playoff in 25 years (and their first postseason win), Franco Harris salvages a Terry Bradshaw pass in the greatest NFL play in history—to beat the Raiders 13-7 at Three RiversArt Rooney and Bob Prince miss the play while in the elevator to the locker room. [Wikipedia; Pro Football Hall of Fame]

On This Day in Pittsburgh History: November 20, 1985

Kimberly Fuller, 9, becomes the youngest American to undergo lung-heart transplant surgery in a 5.5-hour operation performed by Dr. Bartley Griffith and Dr. Robert Hardesty at the Children’s Hospital. [Historic Pittsburgh; The Pittsburgh Press

Fallingwater under construction, 1936 

On This Day in Pittsburgh History: October 15, 1935 

Frank Lloyd Wright is retained to construct Fallingwater for Pittsburgh magnate Edgar Kaufmann. [Wikipedia