10 Things You Didn't Know About Pittsburgh

Miniature millionaires, stolen Eagles, magic roller coasters and an unlikely love story.




Illustration by Wayno
 

There’s a tricky thing about becoming obsessed with learning about Pittsburgh. Twenty years ago, I would’ve headed to the local library for an hour or two of thumbing through old tomes — but in this modern age, I can open up my laptop and hop down the Internet rabbit hole … only to find that the rabbit hole is really a series of time-sucking wormholes. Dip one toe into a wormhole, and you’ll spend five hours of your life learning things you’ll never need to know — unless you decide to write a column called “Things You Might Not Know About Pittsburgh.”

*blink*

Hey, guess what? Here are some things you probably don’t know about Pittsburgh. Even if you’ve studied Pittsburgh for years, I bet you don’t know all of these facts. And that’s worth bragging about.

» Andrew Carnegie was only 5 feet tall. He was the richest man in America (and one of the most powerful), yet barely taller than Snooki. Even infamously pint-sized Tom Cruise would stand a whole head over Carnegie.

» Fred Rogers’ mother’s maiden name (and Fred’s middle name) was McFeely. So when it came time to name the deliveryman character on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” Mr. McFeely was chosen.

» When Roberto Clemente was an infant in Puerto Rico, his younger sister died after an accident in the kitchen. A messenger named Flor Zabala was sent to give Clemente’s father the sad news. Thirty years later, Roberto would meet and marry that messenger’s daughter, Vera.

» The National Aviary is built on the site of the razed Western State Penitentiary, a Civil War prison where 118 Confederate prisoners of war were held from 1863 to 1864. There are rumors that the souls of the roughly half-dozen soldiers who died in the prison currently haunt the Aviary. Having learned this, I would not work at the Aviary, even if they offered to pay me in baby penguins.

» The Art Institute of Pittsburgh counts among its alumni the designer of the famed Elvis stamp, the creator of the comic strip “Ziggy,” the creator of Rosie the Riveter and the former madam premier of Bermuda.

» In 1940, Art Rooney Sr. sold the Steelers to Alexis Thompson and then purchased Thompson’s half-ownership of the Philadelphia Eagles. One year later, Rooney and Thompson traded back their teams, and the Steelers have been in the Rooney’s hands ever since. Yes, you read that right — the Rooneys sold the Steelers for the Eagles. Put some fries on top and chew on that, Pittsburgh.

» You know those EZ Moves Furniture Slides you’ve seen on QVC? Invented right here in the Pittsburgh area by a father-son team. The co-inventors took the idea further by creating FunSlides Carpet Skates; they even opened FunSlides Carpet Skateparks in Irwin and Greensburg, which are filled with carpet-covered ramps.

» Both the Duquesne and Monongahela inclines travel at a whopping 6 miles per hour. Hold on tight!

» Kennywood is named after the Charles Kenny family, who originally owned some of the land on which the park now sits. Unfortunately, history doesn’t tell us if the Kenny clan owned a kangaroo.

» Speaking of Kennywood, the Racer is not actually two different tracks, but one track looped over on itself. I spent an additional 30 minutes researching this, trying to understand how that’s possible, but my brain refuses to grasp how the cars manage to end up on opposite sides of the starting track without ever running into each other. I’m sticking to the only explanation that makes any sense: magic. At least that’s what I’ll tell my kids when they ask. 

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

From glass and aluminum to ketchup and candy, Pittsburgh has made its mark, thanks in large part to the instantly recognizable brands that remain etched not merely on its buildings — but on its DNA. We look at 10 of those brands and explore how they helped to establish and define the Steel City.
Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Under a new CEO, Pittsburgh International Airport heads into its 25th year while attempting to woo flyers and flights and leave its empty, post-hub days behind
Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Three men at NASA serve pivotal roles in maintaining the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been taking high-resolution photos of deep space form more than 25 years. And they're all from Pittsburgh.
Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

The Strip District eatery overcomes tumult and once again is one of Pittsburgh’s finest restaurants.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Oscar-Winning Actor Chosen to Portray Andy Warhol in Biopic

Oscar-Winning Actor Chosen to Portray Andy Warhol in Biopic

The movie is the first non-documentary to focus solely on the pop artist’s life.
How to Build a Playground in Pittsburgh in Less Than a Day

How to Build a Playground in Pittsburgh in Less Than a Day

The state-of-the-art playspace is expected to keep more than 100 children entertained.
Funny: Sofia Vergara Describes Life with Steelers-Fanatic Hubby

Funny: Sofia Vergara Describes Life with Steelers-Fanatic Hubby

Joe Manganiello's wife told Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show” that she's learned to accept his Steelers' obsession but also admits “in the beginning it was kinda weird.”
Why Steelers Chose Christmas for New Uniform Reveal

Why Steelers Chose Christmas for New Uniform Reveal

It will be the first time the Steelers have worn all black uniforms.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

City Guide '12

What Our Neighborhoods Do Best

What Our Neighborhoods Do Best

The perfect neighborhood for every Pittsburgher.
SubBurghs

SubBurghs

Head a bit farther down the rivers for great places to live, work and play.
10 Things You Didn't Know About Pittsburgh

10 Things You Didn't Know About Pittsburgh

Miniature millionaires, stolen Eagles, magic roller coasters and an unlikely love story.
25 Fun Things Under $25

25 Fun Things Under $25

We’re always on the lookout for great activities that won’t break the bank. Here are 25 affordable outings to fill your calendar.
Edges of Pittsburgh

Edges of Pittsburgh

This community is a geography, a culture, a state of mind. Where does our area end, and what does that tell us?
Best of the 'Burgh 2012

Best of the 'Burgh 2012

Our editors pick the best of the best in Pittsburgh.
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module