Kissing Fish and Pittsburgh

It Looks Romantic, but It’s About Dominance

Let’s splash cold Monongahela River water on romantically inclined Pittsburghers.

Traditionally, they see the Smithfield Street bridge as a symbol of long-lasting love, the Kissing Fish Bridge.

That’s because the profile of the city’s oldest span looks like two osculating fish. Many photographers take loving couples out to the bridge to join in and record the moment forever.

The Smithfield fish started kissing 133 years ago. An adjacent pair joined them a few years later, making the bridge wider. In this 1882 photo, the bridge is under construction while an older, lower bridge remains in use.
“Why don’t you close your eyes when you kiss me?” Kissing Gouramis from Southeast Asia are popular aquarium fish. People like them because they seem so affectionate. People are wrong.

Why would two fish kiss?

Well, they wouldn’t.  At least not in any affectionate way. It is more in a mobster way. A demonstration of dominance.

The Kissing Gouramis from Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia are freshwater fish with big, toothy lips. They bully each other by locking lips and pushing each other around. Sorry, no romance there.

By the way, neither the bridge nor the street are named after someone named Smithfield. It conjures up someone classy who smoked a pipe and had an English accent.

They are named after a field, which was owned by man named Smith.

Neither the field nor the man were around longer than a springtime dalliance, but the name ineffectively commemorating both has been around 233 years.

The following plan from 1784 divides what had been Fort Pitt, the adjacent King’s Garden and  surrounding fields  into 490 lots. 


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