OMG! Txtng in 1800s PGH

Originally posted 2016-07-13 20:26:39. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Currier&Ives print is an imaginary scene showing technological advances of the 19th Century, but for all intents and purposes, it could be Pittsburgh. The telegraph figures prominenty. Steam, as manifested in trains, river boats, and even a printing press, powered Western nations into the 20th Century.

Currier&Ives print is an invented scene showing technological advances of the 19th Century, but it could well be Pittsburgh. The telegraph figures prominenty. Steam, as manifested in trains, river boats, and even a printing press, powered Western nations into the 20th Century.

Securing the Steam-Age Internet

Back before most people had indoor toilets, Pittsburghers were texting and encrypting business emails.

Here’s a sample: Maudlin bigamy angel cart.

That’s a secret text message to sell 50,000 gallons of oil in the speculative futures market, and do it fast.

Electronic messages back then were called telegraphs.

It was the start of the telecommunications industry, the Internet, the information age.

Before the telegraph, messages could travel no faster than people — unless you had a really loud voice and a really big megaphone. Or, a reliable pigeon to tie notes to.

Then, as now, some people argued that we didn’t need to communicate any faster. If we did, it would change the world we live in. And so it did.

A portrait painter saw the need.

Death Motivates Invention

He received a week-old letter in Washington, D.C., saying that his wife was ill back home in Connecticut. A day later, a second letter came saying she was dead.

He immediately suspended his painting of the Marquis de Lafayette, a French hero of the American revolution, and rushed home.

“Rush” back then was limited to how fast a horse could gallop and pull a carriage. When he got there, his wife was already buried. He never got over it. It shifted his vocation from painter to communications pioneer.

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Unwelcome Immigrants

Originally posted 2015-12-09 23:55:36. Republished by Blog Post Promoter


“Within a few blocks of the skyscrapers of the Point, I have seen a company of Syrians weaving almost unceasingly for four days (doing) a desert dance that celebrated the return of one of them to Jerusalem.”


What? Have Syrian refugees arrived in Pittsburgh? Has Mayor Bill Peduto made good on his pledge to welcome them here,  even if fearful Pittsburghers do not.

No, refugees are not dancing at the Point just yet.

The opening quote comes from a comprehensive study of Pittsburgh immigrants and their working conditions, which was done in 1907.

So, what other “foreigners” did the writer see? Let’s look at his complete description. It includes the grandparents or great-grandparents of most Pittsburghers today:

Greek Orthodox Priest

Pittsburgh Greek Orthodox Priest

“You do not know the Pittsburgh district until you have heard the Italians twanging their mandolins around a construction campfire, and seen the mad whirling of a Slovak dance in a mill town lodge hall; until you have watched the mill hands burst out from the gates at closing time; or thrown confetti on Fifth Avenue on a Halloween.

“Within a few blocks of the skyscrapers of the Point, I have seen a company of Syrians weaving almost unceasingly for four days a desert dance that celebrated the return of one of them to Jerusalem. (An Irishman thought it a wake).

“A possum swings by the tail at Christmastide in front of that Negro store on Wylie avenue; long-bearded Old Believers (Russian Orthodox) play bottle pool (a form of billiards) in that Second Avenue barroom; a Yiddish father and five children lie sick on the floor of this tenement; an old Bohemian woman once cleaned molds as a girl in the ironworks of Prague.

“That itinerant cobbler made shoes last winter for the German children of the South Side, who were too poor to pay for them, and stuffed the soles with thick cardboard when he was too poor to buy leather. Here is a Scotch Calvinist, and there a Slavic free thinker; here a peasant, and there a man who works from a blueprint; engineers, drag outs, and furnace-men from the mill district; there a Russian exile with a price on his head.”

Immigrants Not Wanted

But, America has never welcomed  immigrants. They come anyway. They are desperate. and they are needed. They can earn a living.

In 1907, factory owners wanted them in the worst kind of way. They didn’t have enough workers to keep up with demand for steel, glass, tin, bottles, cigars, you name it.

Factory workers already here, they hated immigrants.  They passed it on to their families around the dinner table and their neighbors on the stoops. Why?

According to Alois B. Koukol, secretary of the Slavonic Immigrant Society in 1907, they didn’t like how Slavics acted.

“The bosses know them chiefly as sturdy, patient, and submissive workmen; their fellow workmen hate and despise them largely because of this patience and submissiveness to the bosses and their willingness at the outset to work at any wages and under any conditions,”Koukol explains in the study.

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One Weekend in 1884

Originally posted 2016-07-06 22:07:56. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Monday, Sept. 29, 1884, was an ordinary day in Pittsburgh. It followed an ordinary wild weekend.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 9.43.13 PM

True, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show happened to be in town, but a glance at the newspaper shows the performers were hard-pressed to be any wilder than the people already living here.

It’s all too evident in that Monday edition of the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette. 

Looking for information on the Wild West show, I was obliged to scan all the news. In the process, I found numerous briefs that, taken together, paint a clearer picture of Pittsburgh’s past than I have yet seen.

I offer them to you now.

By the way, if the professional demeanor of 19th Century reporters seems overly jaded and flippant, it may only be that we are accustomed to the overly serious, shocked tone of modern journalists.

Let’s begin with the most common stories: drunkenness. It’ll be easy for you to see what led to the temperance movement and Prohibition.

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A Commotion Raised by a Woman’s Leap from a Carriage

Quite a commotion was raised on Sixth street Saturday night by the dash a woman made for liberty. A carriage came along Sixth street with a policeman on the box and a man with a well-dressed woman inside. Midway between Penn and Liberty avenues the door of the carriage opened and the woman sprang out. She struck on her head and rolled over and over through the mud until stopped by the curb stone.

The street was crowded and there was a rush of people for the prostrate woman. The carriage kept on up the street until the officer on the box had his attention attracted by the rush down the street. He glanced down, saw the open door and was off the box without waiting to stop the horses. When he got back the woman had disappeared in a store, but she was recaptured and taken to the Central Station. There she registered as Mollie Brown. The charge against her was drunkenness, and she was allowed to put up $15 and go.

Miss Brown, as she chose to call herself, is well known in the city. She was hunting a man and making herself conspicuous on Penn avenue and this led to her arrest. She was only slightly bruised by her jump from the carriage.

Think she got off easy? $15 was the equivalent of $400 or $500 today. Presumably she was a prostitute drinking on the job. Her name reflected the large number of Irish living in the city. Immigration from eastern Europe was only beginning. The man with her? Client? Pimp? We’ll never know.

 He Will Probably Die

Mr. McKee, of Liberty street, was arrested on Saturday night for drunkenness. He had fallen on the pavement and received a severe cut. He was taken home yesterday and erysipelas has set in and his death will probably result.

Erysipelas is a bacterial infection that can result from alcoholism, but would not kill him before something else did.

Two Houses Raided

The police made a raid on Dave Holmes’ place, corner of Fourth avenue and Liberty street, last night, and captured five women and three men. An information has been made.

A fight started in Dickenbach’s saloon, on Diamond street, last night. Chief Braun sent the proprietor word to shut up, and he refused. The place was raided and four men captured.

The first raid, of course, would have been at a house of prostitution on what is now Liberty Avenue. Diamond street, where the second occurred, is now Forbes Avenue. When the chief told Dickenbach to shut up, he was telling him to shut down — not to be quiet.

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Logstown4: Indian Land Grab Increases

Originally posted 2018-07-11 12:01:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

George Washington came to Logstown, just downriver from modern-day Pittsburgh,  several times to add to his substantial land holdings.


When he died, he was holding more than 52,000 acres. All of it, of course, had at one time been Indian land.

Sound like alot of acreage?

That paled (a rather appropriate verb) compared to land scouted and surveyed by a later visitor.

Meriwether Lewis made an unwilling stop at Logstown just as he was beginning the famous Lewis&Clark expedition to explore what white men could do with 530 million acres of Indian land America just bought from the French.

But, before we get into that, let’s take a quiz to review information about Logstown covered in the first three parts of this series.


Do You Know Logstown Yet?

1. A hollow tree on the river bank at Logstown was so large that:

2. Logstown is best described as:


3. George Washington's Seneca name was Conotocaurious, which means:


4. Members of many Indian nations lived at Logstown, including the Shawnee and Lenna Lenape (Delaware), but the two chiefs in charge at the village represented who?

5. French companies and their employees wanted continued access to furs in this region. English companies, their customers and freelancing settlers wanted land. What did Indians want?


How did you do?

If you got all five right, you can treat yourself to a free keg of rum at the trading post.

Lewis & Pittsburgh

If not, don’t worry about it.¬†You know enough now to read how Meriwether Lewis got past Logstown to become one of America’s biggest celebrities, and likely its first celebrity suicide.

His Corps of Discovery expedition boat was built in Pittsburgh. That was a mistake.

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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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