Category: Zoom Back

Contains one or more high resolution photos that allow you to zoom in and play a spy drone from the future.

1907 Halloween, Illegal Crossdressing, General Mischief

Originally posted 2015-10-21 14:03:14. Republished by Blog Post Promoter


1908 Postcard catches boys stealing a gate as a common Halloween prank.

1908 Postcard catches boys stealing a gate as a common Halloween prank.

Halloween can be a terrible time for defenders of order and morals.

Has it always been so? Let’s pick a  date and go back. How about 1907 in Pittsburgh ?

The Pittsburg Press can take us back.

Oh my! It is much worse then than now.

The newspaper reported scores of men arrested for dressing as women. Similar numbers of women were arrested for donning men’s clothes — some ladies even tried getting into saloons that way.

Okay, so crossdressing doesn’t offend you.

How about hugging strangers?

Police officers dutifully rounded up people, probably drunken, who were caught hugging people they didn’t know.

The biggest problem, though, was when men and boys linked themselves together arm-in-arm and marched wedge-like down the street to plow up or over whomever they encountered.

Many ended up in hospitals.

It is a common practice going back to ancient times. Whenever males sense they have enough numbers to take on a mob, they form a wedge.

It was outlawed by Pittsburg,  Allegheny and many surrounding communities in 1908. (yes, that’s how Pittsburgh was spelled at the time.)

Also banned was the annoying and often dangerous practice of thrusting ticklers (feather dusters) into people’s faces along the Halloween parade route.

 Throwing talcum powder or flour into an unsuspecting face also was popular. Probably the result of watching too much vaudeville.

All of this and much more can be found in a single issue of the Pittsburg Press here.  Samples of the reported Halloween mayhem follow:

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Zoom In, Zoom Back

Originally posted 2015-12-16 23:03:30. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

[media-credit name=”Library of Congress” align=”aligncenter” width=”3300″]SHORPY_4a25743a[/media-credit]

It may not look like much from a distance, but there’s plenty  to see here, if you zoom in — into Pittsburgh’s past.

Go ahead. You are a spy satellite from the future. Click on the photo and when you come back, I’ll tell you what I see.

Today's view of the Pittsburgh skyline as seen from a similar angle.

[/media-credit] Today’s view of the same skyline as seen from above and behind PNC Park.

What I See

We are on Monument Hill looking out over Exposition Park toward downtown Pittsburgh. According to my watch, it’s a little before 1910.

I immediately notice that in those days wild sumac trees crowded undeveloped slopes.  Wait a minute. They still do that now.

Something else hasn’t changed much. A lot of space is dedicated to baseball.

PNC Park today sits a little to the left of its predecessor. Exposition Park hosted the first World Series in 1903 between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Americans.  PNC Park still awaits its first World Series game.

The Pirates played their last game at Exposition Park on June 24, 1909,  in front of 5,545 people. That may be what we are watching here. The stadium could seat 10,000. The next day, they moved to Forbes Field newly built in Oakland. It could hold twice as many fans.

That was good because a thousand or more fans were relegated to standing in the outfield during big games. They formed a gallery similar to those at golf tournaments.  Ball into the crowd? No problem. Automatic double.

It was also good because the Allegheny River tended to stand in the outfield, as well. There are accounts of players in knee-deep water, of them making diving catches that were . . . well, rather splashy.

Semi-professional teams used the field after the Pirates left. The players at the well-attended game outside the stadium do not appear to be children, but the small outfield makes one wonder.

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How Pittsburghers Misplaced a Diamond

Originally posted 2016-01-06 09:22:58. Republished by Blog Post Promoter


Shhhhhh!  Be vewy, vewy quiet.

We’re hunting a diamond.

Once again, it’s time to zoom in and zoom back in time.

Click on the high-resolution photo below until it enlarges to its maximum. Then, scroll around like a spy drone from the future.

After that, come back and I’ll tell you what I saw.

You’ll be going to downtown Pittsburgh in 1909.

Nothing unseemly is going on through the office windows, so feel free to peek.

 It’s how we learn about Pittsburgh’s past. You may see your great-grandfather talking to his horses, or a great-aunt sweeping sidewalks with her long hemline. diamondbldg&wabash

What I Saw

First of all, is anyone not wearing a hat?

I don’t think so.

Don’t count the modern-looking guy next to the two wagons on the left. He is wearing a small cap.

Besides, he is one of the Now Then, Pittsburgh readers who went beyond just looking into the past. He actually went.

If you check later today or tomorrow,  another time traveler may be walking there. Probably someone with a cell phone and leggings.

Diamond Bank, the focus of this photo, is a forerunner of PNC Bank. It still stands as an office building even as skyscrapers crowd around it.

PNC  built several of those at PNC Plaza, but no longer owns this building.

It’s name does not come from the gem stone or someone named Diamond. It comes from Market Square.


Well, the Scots who layed out this city saw things differently than  English settlers who came a little later in greater numbers.

Scots saw a square of public ground not as a square, but as a diamond. Same shape, tilted view and a different name. Continue reading

Exploring the Belly of the Burgh in 1866, Part 2

Originally posted 2015-11-09 21:49:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

James Parton

James Parton

We are accompanying James Parton, a well-known author in his day, as he explores Pittsburgh 149 years ago.

He has already experienced a day with only about 30 minutes of daylight. Parton’s fame as a biographer would fade with time, but he is about to go to the Hill District where he will be inspired to write one line remembered to this day.

Let’s join him.

Parton continues:

There is one evening scene in Pittsburg which no visitor should miss. Owing to the abruptness of the hill behind the town, there is a street along the edge of a bluff, from which you can look directly down upon all that part of the city which lies low, near the level of the rivers.

On the evening of this dark day, we were conducted to the edge of the abyss, and looked over the iron railing upon the most striking spectacle we ever beheld.

The entire space lying between the hills was filled with blackest smoke, from out of which the hidden chimneys sent forth tongues of flame, while from the depths of the abyss came up the noise of hundreds of steam-hammers.

There would be moments when no flames were visible; but soon the wind would force the smoky curtains aside, and the whole black expanse would be dimly lighted with dull wreaths of fire.

Two boys enjoy the view of the Strip District from the North Side in 1925, 59 years after Parton viewed it from the Hill. That's a lot of carbon wafting into the atmosphere.

[/media-credit] Two boys enjoy the view of the Strip District from the North Side in 1925, 59 years after Parton viewed it from the Hill. That’s a lot of carbon wafting into the atmosphere.

It is an unprofitable business, view-hunting; but if any one would enjoy a spectacle as striking as Niagara, he may do so by simply walking up a long hill to Cliff Street in Pittsburg, and looking over into — Hell with the lid taken off.

Okay, that’s the line. Hell with the lid taken off.

It’s particularly loved by those marketing or otherwise emphasizing the city’s transformation. A headline in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette two years ago is typical:

‘Hell With the Lid Off to Most Livable’ — How Pittsburgh Became Cool.

The story notes that today it’s almost commonplace for sources that bestow best-of titles to home in on Pittsburgh’s finer qualities, giving high marks on everything from bars and ballparks to fun places and real estate prices. It adds that the region repeatedly rates among the best places for brains, roller coasters and robotics, starting a business, buying a house, raising a family, retiring and more.

But, some around the country are tired of hearing Pittsburgh gloat about its transformation. They no longer question  it’s livability, so they question if it was really all that bad to begin with.  They just want to respond to the city’s marketers, so they say Parton’s nighttime description is a love letter to the city — not a criticism.

While it is certainly more positive than one might expect, those seeing it as a compliment must not have read much of Parton’s travelogue. If they had, they may have gotten attuned to the subtleties of Victorian sarcasm.

But, let’s rejoin the author:

Pittsburgers Shrug at the Smoke

Such is the kind of day of which Pittsburg boasts. The first feeling of the stranger is one of compassion for the people who are compelled to live in such an atmosphere.

When hard pressed, a son of Pittsburg will not deny that the smoke has its inconveniences.

He admits that it does prevent some inconsiderate people from living there, who, but for the prejudice against smoke in which they have been educated, would become residents of the place.

He insists, however, that the smoke of bituminous coal kills malaria, and saves the eyesight.

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Odd Bits

Originally posted 2016-07-20 21:19:43. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Sorcerer’s Gun Control


Don’t Be Evil-Eying My Guns!

Many Americans see government regulation of guns as a curse, but there was a time when they thought curses controlled their weapons.

Thomas Mellon, father of Andrew Mellon, explains such peculiar habits of German farmers  in his 1885 memoirs, “Thomas Mellon and His Times”:

9780822955726_lLore to Live By

“The old and wise men among our Dutch (Deutsch) neighbors possessed abiding confidence in the folk-lore of their ancestors. They would admit that the active practice of witchcraft had generally ceased, but most of them claimed having had, at one time or another, personal experience of its effects.

Many of them in their youth had been great hunters; even in our day, Peter Hill and other old Germans were accustomed to make their annual winter excursion into the then wilderness of Clarion and Forest counties, and would each bring home a sled load of venison. And they all expressed undoubting belief that no matter how unerring the aim, if some one with an evil eye or possessed of the power of sorcery should happen to put a spell on their gun, no game could be killed until the spell is taken off. This was done by marking a human figure on a tree to represent the witch, and shooting a silver bullet into it with the gun supposed to be affected. The bullet was usually the smallest silver coin battered into the proper shape. Old Philip Drum and our neighbor Peter, who were great hunters, usually took the precaution of ridding their guns of these sorceries before setting out on the hunt; taking it for granted that if the gun was not affected the purification would do no harm.

Hex sign to ward off  "evil eye."

Hex sign to ward off “evil eye.”

“. . . The signs of the Zodiac in the Dutch (Deutsch) almanac afforded an indispensable guide for farm work . . . Our neighbors generally entertained these beliefs and only pitied the presumptuous ignorance of such as ourselves who disregarded them. Science had not as yet greatly disturbed their thoughts . . .”


Zoom In, Zoom Back

This week we stroll down the alley of Pittsburgh's past, picking up a few odd bits. This is Banner Way in Lawrenceville in 1908 as it gets paved in brick. Asphalt covers it now, but the buildings remain. See photo below.

Click on this 1907 photo to zoom into the past of Banner Way in Lawrenceville. My money says the man under the derby in foreground is a salesman. Note the bi-racial crew paving the alley in brick. Also check out the flame in the gas street light, the lack of telephone lines and poles, and the girl in the window with the best view.  Asphalt covers over their work now,  but the buildings remain largely intact 110 years later. Google provides a modern view of Banner Way below. This old photo and thousands of others can be seen at:

Historic Pittsburgh Images Collection


Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 12.13.05 PM

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