Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Old Burgh Mayoral Matters - circa 1850

And I thought Providence had a lock on odd mayors of old; the "elevation" of Joe Barker to Mayor of Pittsburgh in 1850-1851 was pretty crazy.   Here is Jimmie Owens' take on it, looking back from 1903:


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Old 'Burgh Balls

I didn't realize Pittsburgh supplied the balls for the War of 1812....from Volume 4 of the Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine (1920), Reminiscences of Early Pittsburgh:


Friday, September 25, 2009

Grab a Broom & Get Back to Work

Pittsburgh's original G-20

RSC in the lead cleaning up...

Do you think they threw all that litter on Fifth Avenue for the photo op, or was it really that bad?

Monday, September 21, 2009


The capital and surplus in Pittsburgh banks was greater than the combined capital in the Bank of England, Imperial Bank of Germany, and the Imperial Bank of Russia.  Doesn't seem possible...

And the city got an arch for its 150th birthday.  All we got for our 250th was this lousy t-shirt.    I can't figure out where the Arch was located...Liberty and Fifth (with the Arch on Liberty?)


Then again, this was the view looking down the Ohio from the Point in that a casino taking shape on the North Shore?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Old German

I'm looking for the first instance in recorded history of visits to Pittsburgh from G-20 nation reps...Here is maybe the first visitor from Germany:

I found no trace of "Diamond, East" on the North Side...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Old Writer's Block

From the long view of history department, a different perspective on Pittsburgh's current moment in the creative sun:  Clearing the skies (sort of) helped to clear our heads (sort of)?

From "Psychological Aspects of the Problem of Atmospheric Smoke Pollution" (1913)

Old Soho

Who knew Pittsburgh once had our own Soho?   If we ever get around to creating a new transit line between Downtown and Oakland it should be called the Soho Line...

From Early Land Marks and Names of Old Pittsburgh (1923)

Photo of the "Soho Curve" in 1893 from Flem's Views of Old Pittsburgh (1905) (click to enlarge)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Old Runaway Finds a Home in Pittsburgh

I came across another remarkable old Pittsburgh memoir on, this one written in 1903 by then 76 yr old James Owens.  He ran away from home in Ireland at age 6 (!) and at the age of 18 ended up in Pittsburgh (by way of Jamaica and Cuba).   Lots of incredible stories about Pittsburgh in the 1850s and during the Civil War (check out page 101 for the story of how Mayor Joe Barker got elected).

 James Owens, circa 1903
This story about a delegation's trip to Harrisburg to raise funds for the city during the Civil War may be instructive to some local folks concerning the current pension predicament:


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Old Funicular

Who knew? Looks like there was an incline from the Strip up to the Hill District in 1902.

Image excerpted from T.M. Fowler's drawing of Pittsburgh.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ghosts in an Old Terrestrial Room

Speaking of haunted houses in Pittsburgh: Can we get copies of Martin Aurand's The Spectator and the Topographical City into the hands and minds of every G-20 visitor?

From Charles Rosenblum's review in the City Paper three years ago:
And the spectacle is both historic and cosmic. The Point is not simply a convenient site to fulfill military or transportation needs; it is Pittsburgh's omphalos, a site of founding to be interpreted in the cosmic order and compared with Athens or Jerusalem or Rome. Likewise, Grant's Hill, the now-lowered location of Grant Street, was to the early, and perhaps the present, Pittsburgh as a variety of sacred mountain, which "served as a central stage for drama, ceremony and power." Aurand, as a result, chronicles the lowering of Grant Street wryly. Still, from these pivotal locations grow a series of buildings as temples and watchtowers: factories as primordial cauldrons and roads as armatures for epic journeys, all enhanced by the sense of spectacle for the informed viewer.
From Chapter 1:
Some ten miles east of the Golden Triangle, Turtle Creek empties into the Monongahela River at the mouth of the Turtle Creek Valley. The lower end of the valley is a room that is more like a passage, yet it holds a quintessential industrial landscape of waterways and railroads, factories and machines, and a great bridge. This landscape was largely realized in a discrete period of time (1877-1932), the product of powerful forces and a topographical response that was equal parts accommodation and exploitation. Here topography and technology forge a fantastic scene that evokes the technological sublime, brings a new scale and drama to the landscape, and plays as cinema for the spectator.
Is it correct to say that "Port Perry" no longer exists? Are there any traces remaining? Google says there is a Port Perry Rd, but Port Perry?

I'm starting to think J.B. Corey and his memoir has to be the work of some contemporary conceptual artist in Braddock. It's just too much of a story to not have much of a Google history; this blog appears on the first or second page when one searches J.B. Corey, and this blog gets only a handful of a hits a day (to change that, forward this to a friend who might know something about Abe Lincoln -- see below).

From Corey's tales of being a Mississippi river pilot at age 18 (at the same time as Sam Clemens), from being Lincoln's quartermaster encountering Lincoln on multiple occasions, and getting his start in business with the help of Mr. Mortage Bond Tom Mellon. Not to mention an Andrew Carnegie story, a conversion testimonial involving Dixmont Hospital (not him, but someone he stood for to spring from the asylum there), and a letter to the New York Times society page in 1907 about his nephew's expensive wedding (his nephew being the President of U.S. Steel, William Ellis Corey).

A thousand correspondents? Oh to find some old J.B. Corey letters. He could really write.

And then in 1917, at age 85 wheeling around behind his 31 yr old horse, no doubt encountering a group of boys up over the hill playing in the streets of Wilmerding -- perhaps
even my grandfather.

Crowd curated question: Does anyone know what Lincoln book(s) share J.B. Corey's Lincoln story?

And because it's a full moon and we're telling ghost stories, does anyone know where he's buried?

I don't know when J.B. Corey died, but I'm guessing he's buried in Braddock...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009