Peculiarities of Pittsburgh; 1886

pgh and its rivers

In truth, Pittsburg is a smoky, dismal city, at her best. At her worst, nothing darker, dingier or more dispiriting can be imagined. The city is in the heart of the soft coal region; and the smoke from her dwellings, stores, factories, foundries and steamboats, uniting, settles in a cloud over the narrow valley in which she is built, until the very sun looks coppery through the sooty haze. According to a circular of the Pittsburg Board of Trade, about twenty per cent., or one-fifth, of all the coal used in the factories and dwellings of the city escapes into the air in the form of smoke, being the finer and lighter particles of carbon of the coal, which, set free by fire, escapes unconsumed with the gases. The consequences of several thousand bushels of coal in the air at one and the same time may be imagined. But her inhabitants do not seem to mind it; and the doctors hold that this smoke, from the carbon, sulphur and iodine contained in it, is highly favorable to lung and cutaneous diseases, and is the sure death of malaria and its attendant fevers. And certainly, whatever the cause may be, Pittsburg is one of the healthiest cities in the United States. Her inhabitants are all too busy to reflect upon the inconvenience or uncomeliness of this smoke. Work is the object of life with them. It occupies them from morning until night, from the cradle to the grave, only on Sundays, when, for the most part, the furnaces are idle, and the forges are silent. For Pittsburg, settled by Irish-Scotch Presbyterians,[Pg 335] is a great Sunday-keeping day. Save on this day her business men do not stop for rest or recreation, nor do they “retire” from business. They die with the harness on, and die, perhaps, all the sooner for having worn it so continuously and so long.

Pittsburg is not a beautiful city. That stands to reason, with the heavy pall of smoke which constantly overhangs her. But she lacks beauty in other respects. She is substantially and compactly built, and contains some handsome edifices; but she lacks the architectural magnificence of some of her sister cities; while her suburbs present all that is unsightly and forbidding in appearance, the original beauties of nature having been ruthlessly sacrificed to utility.

Pittsburg at Night.—A Pittsburg Fog.—Smoke.—Description of the City.—The Oil Business.—Ohio River.—Public Buildings, Educational and Charitable Institutions.—Glass Industry.—Iron Foundries.—Fort Pitt Works—Casting a Monster Gun.—American Iron Works.—Nail Works.—A City of Workers.—A True Democracy.—Wages.—Character of Workmen.—Value of Organization.—Knights of Labor.—Opposed to Strikes.—True Relations of Capital and Labor.—Railroad Strike of 1877.—Allegheny City.—Population of Pittsburg.—Early History.—Braddock’s Defeat.—Old Battle Ground.—Historic Relics.—The Past and the Present.

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