A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance. History, at its core, is a story. Each of these objects is a part of a bigger story — of a confluence of three rivers flowing down through the ages, and of the people who came to live by those rivers, and what they made and said and did.



(page 3 of 10)

Surveyor’s transit for Liberty Tunnels project  (1919)
Burrowing a mile through Mount Washington to clear a passageway for cars — and horse-drawn  carriages too, at first — led to a South Hills housing boom when the Liberty Tunnels opened in 1924. The project’s chief engineer Amos Neeld used this tool; he had just three years to brag that he built the world’s longest road tunnel before the Holland Tunnel opened in New York. (MH)
~ Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Oakland



 

Early published work by Rachel Carson  (1922)
Four decades before the publication of her groundbreaking environmentalist work “Silent Spring,” in which she asked readers to imagine a world in which pesticides had killed off all songbirds, 14-year-old Springdale native Rachel Carson submitted an essay to St. Nicholas, a literary magazine for children, entitled “My Favorite Recreation” — naturally, about birdwatching.  (MH)
~ Rachel Carson Homestead
 


 

Milkshake mixer  (1950s)
Klavon’s, the Strip District ice-cream parlor that opened in 1923, keeps things decidedly old-school with its decor. It get seriously modern with its milkshakes, though. Those shakes — chocolate, cookies ‘n’ cream and peanut butter are popular flavors — are blended in an original 1950s Jadeite green porcelain Hamilton Beach triple-milkshake mixer.  (HBK)
~ Klavon’s Ice Cream Parlor



 

Mellon mansion marble  (1909)
Among the grand touches in Richard B. Mellon’s Squirrel Hill mansion, completed in 1909 on land that now is Mellon Park, was an archway of French marble. The mansion was demolished in 1941. Decades later, pieces of the marble were discovered in storage in Minneapolis and now are part of the decor at BLEND Cigar Bar, Downtown.  (SC)
~ BLEND Cigar Bar



 

Erroll Garner’s microphone  (1958)
This vintage condenser microphone was used by Wilkinsburg-born pianist Erroll Garner, whose many popular compositions include the 1954 romantic jazz standard “Misty.” But it wouldn’t have recorded any nonsense about helpless kittens in trees; Garner played “Misty” for you, he didn’t sing it. The lyrics were added later for a Johnny Mathis recording.  (KP)
~ University of Pittsburgh

 
 

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