Pittsburgh is known as “the City of Bridges” for its 446 bridges. Downtown rests on the nexus of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers and forms a third waterway—the Ohio River. In 1758, General John Forbes named the location in honor of British statesman, William Pitt, Earl of Chatham. As Forbes was a Scotsman, the pronunciation was quite possibly supposed to be pits-bə-rə (as in Edinburgh).
Prior to that time, the Shawnee and several other tribes inhabited the Ohio headwaters. The first European was the French explorer, Robert de La Salle, in his 1669 expedition from Quebec down the Ohio River. The 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix allowed the Penns to purchase the modern region from the Iroquois. Both the Colony of Virginia and the Province of Pennsylvania claimed the region until 1780, when the Mason-Dixon Line was pushed westward, placing Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania.
Following the American Revolution, the village of Pittsburgh continued to grow. One of its earliest industries was boat building for settlers of the Ohio Country. The War of 1812 cut off the supply of British goods and stimulated American industry. By 1815, Pittsburgh produced sizeable quantities of iron, brass, tin, and glass. By the 1840s, the city was one of the largest west of the Allegheny Mountains, until the Great Fire of Pittsburgh destroyed over a thousand buildings in 1845. The city rebuilt and by 1857, Pittsburgh’s one thousand factories were consuming 22 million coal bushels yearly.
The American Civil War boosted the city’s economy with increased iron and armament demand. In 1901, Carnegie merged several companies into U.S. Steel. And by 1911, Pittsburgh was the nation’s eighth largest city, accounting for half of the national steel output. During World War II, mills operated around the clock to produce 95 million tons of steel. The filthy air led to James Parton’s 1868 observation of Pittsburgh as “hell with the lid off.”
Following the war, the city launched a clean air and civic revitalization project known as the “Renaissance.” In the early 1980s, the steel industry imploded, with massive layoffs from mill and plant closures. The area shifted its economic base to education, tourism, and services, largely based on health care, finance, and high technology such as robotics. Pittsburgh’s story of economic regeneration led to it hosting the 2009 G-20 Summit. The city earned the title: “America’s Most Livable City.”
Pittsburgh’s film industry, over a century old, boasts the world’s first movie theater. A rebirth has caused an influx of major productions, including Disney and Paramount offices. Hundreds of major films have been shot in Pittsburgh. The Dark Knight Rises was largely filmed in Downtown, Oakland, and the North Shore. Recently, Pittsburgh built the largest and most advanced movie studio in the eastern US.
As for literature, Pittsburgh is the birthplace of Gertrude Stein and Rachel Carson. Modern writers include Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, August Wilson, as well as two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, David McCullough. Annie Dillard, a Pulitzer Prize–winning writer, was born and raised in Pittsburgh. Much of her memoir, An American Childhood, takes place in post-World War II Pittsburgh. Poet, Michael Simms, currently resides in the Mount Washington neighborhood. Poet, Samuel John Hazo, the first poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, also resides there. John Edgar Wideman grew up in Pittsburgh and based Brothers and Keepers, a National Book Critics awarded novel, in his hometown.
Sewickley Forest Press is proud to be a part of this evolving, dynamic community.