The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh
Laser-cut wood print created by TechShop, Bakery Square.
Not every city’s nickname is tied up in business. Head down to New Orleans and you’ll visit the Crescent City, named for a bend in the Mississippi River. Chicago maintains its nickname, the Windy City, even though no one can tell you who first used that moniker.
Here? We’re the Steel City.
Pittsburgh is known around the world for its manufacturing mettle, a tradition that begins with the first titans of American industry and persists today. But the connections between the city and its most iconic brands are myriad, and they go beyond heavy metal. 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.
In our annual Made in Pittsburgh feature, we look at 10 of those brands to explore how they helped to establish and define the Steel City.
By Annie Siebert
images courtesy alcoa
Pittsburgh is known as the Steel City, but another metal also rose to prominence here — aluminum. Alcoa, first incorporated as the Pittsburgh Reduction Company in 1888, started small, providing aluminum for the manufacture of utensils.
By 1891, it had secured the backing of the Mellon family, outgrown its original facility on Smallman Street in the Strip District and moved its operations north to New Kensington. In 1907, it changed its name to the Aluminum Company of America — but adopted the Alcoa name just three years later.
By the 1950s, Alcoa was headquartered in what now is called the Regional Enterprise Tower on Sixth Avenue, Downtown, and moved its Pittsburgh home to an aluminum-and-glass building overlooking the banks of the Allegheny River on the North Shore in 1998. While Alcoa may be best known for household innovations such as aluminum foil, it has grown into a global company (it has operations in more than 30 countries) that makes much more than products for use in the kitchen.
- In 1886, Charles Martin Hall discovered an affordable way to create aluminum and incorporated the Pittsburgh Reduction Company; the same process was discovered by Paul Héroult in France at about the same time. The resulting method — dubbed the Hall-Heroult process — still is the only cost-effective way to create aluminum more than a century later.
- Alcoa’s entry into the kitchen was born a year later, in 1889. The company developed an aluminum tea kettle to pique the interest of cookware manufacturers.
- When Orville Wright got off the ground on Dec. 17, 1903 in Kitty Hawk, N.C., the engine block and crankcase of his plane were made of Alcoa aluminum (the better to keep the small plane lightweight).
- Alcoa’s legacy almost certainly is in your kitchen right now. In 1910, the company introduced aluminum foil to grateful at-home chefs around the world.
- Many a Pittsburgh barfly would argue that Alcoa’s most important invention came in 1962: pull tab rings on aluminum cans. Alcoa first used the tabs on the Pittsburgh Brewing Company’s Iron City beer.
- Alcoa aluminum was used in the Apollo 11 landing module Eagle, which landed on the moon in July 1969. Aluminum usage is rapidly increasing today in the automotive and aerospace industries due to its light weight, alloy strengths, formability and corrosion resistance.
As this collection of Alcoa’s branding and advertisements demonstrates, the company has focused on demonstrating the myriad applications of its aluminum — from beer cans to hubcaps.
“Alcoa has always been a values-driven company. When I was general counsel, it was in a way one of the easiest jobs, because you never worried about integrity … When former Alcoa CEO Paul O’Neill arrived in 1987, we spent time examining ourselves and our values. Paul’s central theme was safety, and today the statistics on Alcoa’s performance on safety show dramatic improvement from before he arrived. The objective was simple: that Alcoa’s employees would return home in the same state they arrived at work that day. Paul’s focus on safety had an uplifting effect on Alcoa’s performance across the board. Alcoa today ranks among the world’s best-performing companies on safety because it is now embedded in the company’s culture … It was closer to Midwestern values — consistency in performance, being closely attuned to and anticipating customer needs and being conscious of your stakeholders. Over the years, Alcoa has made substantial grants to the Pittsburgh area through the Alcoa Foundation. Typically, between $30 million to $40 million [per year] was donated to various worthy causes, not only in Pittsburgh but heavily in Pittsburgh. There was a strong sense of obligation to support the communities where we were based and where we operate.”
— Richard L. Fischer, retired Alcoa general counsel (1983-1990), executive vice president — chairman’s counsel, president of Alcoa International Holdings (1991-2000)
By MARK HOUSER
images courtesy bayer
Founded in the Rhine River valley during the same period as the American Civil War, the pharmaceutical, agricultural and chemical conglomerate Bayer was almost a century old when it first put a footprint in Pittsburgh in 1958 as Mobay Chemical — a joint venture with Monsanto — marketing polyurethane.
Two years later, Bayer opened its campus on the Parkway West in Robinson Township, which soon became the global corporation’s North American headquarters. Known for a time as Miles Laboratories, the German firm had to wait until 1994 to buy back U.S. rights to its brand, which had been seized and sold in the wake of World War I.
ast year the multinational firm spun off its materials science business as Covestro, which kept its U.S. headquarters in Pittsburgh while the streamlined life sciences business relocated to New Jersey. All told, Bayer and Covestro employ more than 2,000 people in the region, including 1,000 at the former Medrad, a medical imaging innovator owned by Bayer since 2006.
- Friedrich Bayer (pictured) founded the company in 1863, using the coal tar created during coke manufacturing to make synthetic dyes, which he sold to a growing textile market.
- At the beginning of the 20th century, Bayer’s chemists synthesized and trademarked two famous drugs: aspirin and heroin. Yes, that heroin, which was marketed for decades as a non-addictive cough syrup.
- Bayer’s U.S. assets and trademark were seized and sold at auction after World War I. The company couldn’t be called Bayer again in the United States until 1995, after it bought back its brand name from Sterling.
- Gerhard Domagk won the Nobel Prize in 1939 for discovering that sulfa drugs could stop infection, but German authorities would not let him accept it. Sulfa drugs would be used by soldiers on both sides in World War II.
- Bayer succeeded Alcoa as sponsor of the giant Pittsburgh sign on Mount Washington, but after two decades the company declined to renew its lease. The sign’s future now is uncertain.
- During the anthrax scare after 9/11, Bayer slashed the asking price for its Cipro tablets when U.S. officials hinted at breaking the company’s patent.
- This spring, Bayer launched a bid to buy Monsanto, its former Mobay Chemical business partner, to create an agricultural titan combining Bayer’s pesticides and Monsanto’s seeds.
The company’s oldest photo, dating to 1863.
“Bayer moved its headquarters, but Covestro is here — and Covestro is the company we ought to follow, because it’s sort of the lineal descendant of the Bayer that came to Pittsburgh in the 1950s [as Mobay]. Bayer pioneered things like polyurethanes and polycarbonate materials, which we use in almost everything today, from cell phones to bicycles. Just recently, Covestro sponsored an around-the-world, solar-powered airplane made of these lightweight polyurethanes and polycarbonates — and this plane, the Solar Impulse, has circumnavigated the globe without any fuel other than that which came from the sun. That’s the kind of thing these modern materials can do today, those materials whose early manufacture and applications were pioneered here in Pittsburgh … I met Paige Kassalen, the young woman who is on the ground crew of the Solar Impulse. She’s from Mt. Lebanon. She graduated as an electrical engineering student from Virginia Tech, and she first got her job at Covestro because as a student she built her own solar-powered unit attached to her purse which could power her cell phone. She wrote a 300-word essay, and that got her on the crew of the Solar Impulse … We shouldn’t worry about our brands going global. They’re part of us. Bayer was here since the ’50s, now Covestro is a spinoff, but it happened with Westinghouse, too. There were many spinoffs from the original Westinghouse Air Brake, and we should be proud of all of them and take pride wherever we can.”
— Andrew Masich, president and CEO, Sen. John Heinz History Center
By SEAN COLLIER
images courtesy CLARK
There aren’t too many Pittsburgh success stories more fitting than the tale of David L. Clark. Born in 1864 in Ireland, Clark immigrated to the United States at age 8; unable to devote time to a traditional education, the young man immediately began working at a string of odd jobs and eventually took business classes by night.
He founded the D.L. Clark Company in 1886 in a row house on the North Side, initially selling his confections on the street. The brand, and the company, took off during the following decades.
Generations of Pittsburghers recognize Clark by the neon sign that once adorned the building at 503 Martindale St., not far from the spot where the company was founded. While the sign no longer is in place, the longstanding Clark Bar & Grill on the ground floor of that building maintains the brand’s legacy.
While the NECCO company purchased Clark in 1999, Pittsburgh maintains a taste for Clark Bars. “It still has a huge following in western Pennsylvania,” says Michael McGee, president and CEO of Necco. “That is still its geographic home.”
- Clark’s legacy isn’t limited to the bar bearing the company name. Among the company’s many other confectionary inventions was the Zagnut bar, still manufactured today by Hershey.
- Predating the “fun size” varieties of candy bars found especially around Halloween, Clark began manufacturing a 5-cent version of its signature bar, which was wrapped individually. Originally crafted for soldiers during World War I, it became popular with the public in the years that followed.
- The famous Clark sign — which spelled out the letters in the chocolate bar’s name at night — may no longer overlook the city, but it hasn’t gone far. You still can find it behind the Clark Bar & Grill; it’s visible from Reedsdale Street.
- At its apex, the company was manufacturing almost 2 million Clark bars (and about 6 million sticks of gum) every day.
- There’s still sweet stuff being offered at the North Side location where the D.L. Clark Company was founded. The building at 528 E. Ohio St. (which was rebuilt in 1910 but stands on the spot of the original Clark site) now houses Priory Fine Pastries.
“It was exciting to have the opportunity to brainstorm ideas and be the first ones to bring back this brand. It was such a great brand, and it was such a great name; it hadn’t been advertised for years, but everybody knew the name! I think the brilliance — you might call this luck of the Irish, [because Clark] was an Irishman — it was back in the early 1900s, and he had a great product … The packaging was simple; it was the perfect name for a candy bar, just the right number of letters. And it caught on. I’m not sure what the early marketing was, but the iconic campaign using zoo animals to say, “I want a Clark Bar,” in the early days of television — it was that combination. It was a great product, well packaged and they had a great advertising campaign behind it … It stuck in people’s minds even after it kind of went away. People remembered it, and they remembered it for all of the right reasons.”
— Ray Werner, former creative director, Ketchum Communications; founder, Werner Chepelsky
As this collection of Clark wrapper designs and advertisements shows, the candy bar’s iconic packaging hasn’t changed too much since its introduction. It maintains its classic color scheme and font today.
By MARK HOUSER
images courtesy HEINZ
One of the world’s biggest food brands began in 1860 in Sharpsburg, where 16-year-old Henry J. Heinz sold grated horseradish from his mother’s garden door to door.
As the business burgeoned, Heinz added ketchup, sauerkraut, vinegar, pickles and dozens of other items to the product portfolio, but he stuck with “57 varieties” as a slogan because he liked the sound of that number (even though it lowballed the total).
Heinz was a master of promotion, not only with the pickle pins he introduced at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, but also with a giant Heinz pickle made of green light bulbs that was one of the first electric signs in Manhattan. Heinz always used clear glass bottles to emphasize the quality of his products and was a vocal advocate of federal regulations that became the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.
Investors led by Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital paid $23 billion for the company in 2013, then merged it with another grocery goliath last year to create Kraft Heinz. The corporation employs approximately 700 in Pittsburgh, which shares co-headquarters status with Chicago.
While the company is best known for ketchup, its first offering was horseradish.
- Heinz sells 650 million bottles of ketchup every year. Most of the red stuff consumed in America is made at the company’s plant in Fremont, Ohio, near Toledo.
- A century ago, tourists in Atlantic City could visit the Heinz Pier for free samples, exhibits and displays. A hurricane destroyed the pier in 1944.
- Heinz gave its food workers freshly laundered uniforms daily, as well as weekly manicures. The factory complex had stained-glass windows inscribed with inspirational sayings for workers and visitors.
- In the United Kingdom, the company is best known not for ketchup but for baked beans, a breakfast staple often served on toast. On the cover of the 1967 album The Who Sell Out, lead singer Roger Daltrey poses in a bathtub full of the beans, holding a giant Heinz can.
- Heinz’s grandson, H.J. “Jack” Heinz, led efforts to create Downtown’s Cultural District, beginning with the renovation of the Loew’s Penn Theatre, now Heinz Hall.
- Great-grandson John Heinz was serving his third term in the U.S. Senate when he was killed in 1991 in a plane crash near Philadelphia. Pittsburgh’s Sen. John Heinz History Center is named in his honor.
“H.J. Heinz was an intuitive marketer. This kid learned on the streets of Pittsburgh as he hawked his mother’s horseradish sauce from a wheelbarrow Downtown. At the Chicago World’s Fair, they put him on the upper floor of the Agricultural Building, and I think there were like 100 steps, and there weren’t any elevators … So he took basically cardboard luggage tags coated with brass and hired street urchins to scatter them on the first floor. As couples walked along, they saw the glint of gold out of the corner of their eye so they picked up the tags. And it said to bring this to the Heinz booth for a free prize. The prize they got was a pickle pin — actually a charm, pressed out of sawdust and a kind of celluloid concoction, very cheap to produce. It had a little loop on it and they could put it on a fob … The other vendors on the upper floor thought Heinz was a genius. They were so pleased that they all chipped in and bought him a silver punch bowl and had their names engraved on it, thanking him for saving their businesses … When Warren Buffett bought Heinz, he came and visited our Heinz exhibit at the history center. And as I walked through with him we got to the exhibit of Heinz soup store displays, and he said, ‘Boy, that takes me back to when I was a boy working in my parents’ grocery store. I was impressed that women would come in and ask for Heinz soup by name.’ It stayed with him all of these years what a powerful brand that was.”
— Andrew Masich, president and CEO, Sen. John Heinz History Center
These photos depict the earliest days of Kennametal, including its first shop (above) and original headquarters (below). The company would expand not just regionally but globally within two decades, first opening Kennametal of Canada in the 1950s.
By HAL B. KLEIN
images courtesy KENNAMETAL
One of the most valuable manufacturing companies in the United States has called the Pittsburgh region home since the end of the 1930s. Kennametal is the largest manufacturer of metal cutting tools in the United States — the second largest manufacturer worldwide — and the company also makes mining and construction tools. Kennametal employs about 11,000 people worldwide, including 1,000 people in five facilities in Pennsylvania. It does business in more than 60 countries, and its current annual sales are approximately $2.1 billion. Although Kennametal long has been a keystone of Pittsburgh’s industrial fabric, the company’s public profile generally has remained relatively quiet. One exception to that: The company’s signage graced PNC Park from 2001 to 2015, with a Kennametal “K” posted along the upper deck of the left-field line every time a Pirates’ pitcher recorded a strikeout during a home game.
- Kennametal’s story begins in 1938, when it was founded in Latrobe as the McKenna Metals Company. Founder Philip M. McKenna crafted a tungsten-titanium alloy for cutting tools — a significant breakthrough in efficiency and strength in machining steel. The name changed to Kennametal Inc. upon the company’s incorporation in 1943.
- Increased demand for heavy industry during World War II led to a 75-fold increase in Kennametal’s employment, as the company grew from 12 people to nearly 900.
- Mining was as important to eastern Pennsylvania as steel was to the western part of the state for much of the 20th century. After the end of the war, Kennametal focused on mining applications for its materials; the company was pivotal in the invention of the continuous mining machine.
- Kennametal of Canada became the company’s first international endeavor in the 1950s. By the early 1980s, international sales would make up 34 percent of the company’s total.
- One iconic brand moved into the digs known for another in 2015, when Kennametal moved its global headquarters to the U.S. Steel Tower, Downtown.
- The small town of Latrobe remains a part of the global brand today, hosting the company’s corporate center and technology facility.
“When you think about iconic Pittsburgh brands — and we have been fortunate to work with a number of them over the years, including Heinz, PPG, Alcoa and others — there is a common thread or theme that is consistent among them: There is realness or an authenticity to a Pittsburgh brand that I don’t think you would necessarily see in other parts of the country. It reflects the heritage of the region, and the work ethic and resiliency of the people here. Kennametal is probably a great example of this personality or tone … From a B2B marketing standpoint, the company has maintained its reputation for developing advanced solutions in metalworking through the development of [cloud-based software] called NOVO that offers a streamlined online-transaction experience for customers around the globe. This is a prime example of how fresh, new ideas are not just reserved for the Googles and Ubers of the world. Big industry has always been a hotbed of big ideas. It’s one of the reasons why the Heinz History Center has a whole floor dedicated to innovation — featuring the likes of Andrew Carnegie, George Westinghouse, Edwin Drake, and even David Strickler (who invented the Banana Split in a Latrobe pharmacy). Although not as tasty, Kennametal continues the tradition of forward-thinking companies that have made a name for our region. Most impressively, they have accomplished this in a humble, down-to-earth, way. You could say they’ve done it in a Pittsburgh way.”
— Bill Garrison, creative director and partner, Garrison Hughes Advertising
By richard cook
images courtesy MSA
John Ryan and George Deike, engineers for the U.S. Bureau of Mines, founded Mine Safety Appliances Company in 1914. Both had spent three years responding to one coal-mining disaster after another, saving some lives but unable to prevent the methane gas explosions that took so many others.
Among their first products was a flameless electric miners’ cap invented by Thomas Edison. A quarter-century later, the invention was credited with reducing the number of mine explosions by 75 percent. A century later, MSA’s product line includes self-contained breathing apparatuses for firefighters, hard hats for the construction industry, gas and flame detection equipment for the oil and natural-gas industries and a variety of other safety-related products for workers.
The company, headquartered in Cranberry Township, employs approximately 4,600 people worldwide and reported revenues of $1.1 billion in 2015.
Safety in hazardous occupations has grown far beyond the days of helpful reminders and checking the well-being of canaries (that’s MSA co-founder John Ryan holding the caged bird above). MSA has been developing products to improve worker safety for more than a century — including what is believed to be the first SCUBA device (photo at top of page).
- From a Downtown office occupying 800 square feet, MSA created its first products between 1914 and 1924. They included a flameless electric miners’ cap, first-aid packets, sterile compress bandages, battle-ready gas masks and carbon monoxide detectors.
- A strike by streetcar motormen in May 1924 resulted in a traffic jam inside the newly opened Liberty Tunnel. As the twin tubes filled with carbon monoxide, dozens of commuters were overcome. MSA employees provided first-aid treatments for the victims.
- That incident wouldn’t be the last time MSA stepped in during a Pittsburgh crisis. On March 17, 1936, MSA co-founder John Ryan directed rescue operations during the infamous St. Patrick’s Day Flood. The company provided emergency equipment to the Red Cross, municipal authorities and others.
- In 1950, MSA opened the John T. Ryan Memorial Laboratory, at the time the largest facility devoted exclusively to research and development of personal safety equipment and plant safety.
- The passage of the Occupational Safety and Health act in 1970 provided a boost to MSA products. Then-President Richard Nixon signed the act into law, mandating that companies provide safety equipment for employees. Demand for MSA products greatly increased.
- MSA sent $3 million worth of safety equipment to recovery efforts at Ground Zero in New York and the Pentagon following the 9/11 attacks.
“Mine Safety Appliances is truly a company built on innovation — starting with its relationship with Thomas Edison, which led to transformative safety breakthroughs in the mining industry. It has been very entrepreneurial even as it has grown into a significant global player … Early on, its growing reputation in the mining industry allowed MSA to become a global player known for safety products. Today, it has grown from a product focus to a broader technology-solutions provider focused on safety. In my opinion as a marketer, it is very well known in certain vertical markets, though as a corporate brand, it is less well known to media and the public at large … It is also interesting that the more common reference [to the company] is MSA, an acronym that many people don’t know what words it represents — not unlike PPG, PNC or GNC. However, most of those corporate brands are strongly associated with the industries they operate in … We think the company has wonderful people in it and smart leadership — with nothing but significant growth potential in front of it. We like the fact that MSA is part of the Pittsburgh success story — and an integral part of our history.”
— Scott Morgan, partner-president, Brunner Advertising
By Annie Siebert
images courtesy PPG
PPG has come a long way from plate glass. While the most visible symbol of the company is all glass — the castle-esque PPG Place complex Downtown — the company’s business now is focused on coatings and paints.
Looking for evidence? Brightly painted Southwest jets, vivid green John Deere tractors and gleaming construction equipment are as memorable as they are thanks to PPG’s coatings. Oh, and you know how cars don’t rust around wheel wells anymore? That’s another PPG innovation; Electrocoat puts an electronic charge into the coating while it’s being applied to the car, which allows the coating to adhere to the body more effectively, thus decreasing the risk of corrosion.
Despite PPG’s global reach (it operates in more than 70 countries) it remains a major presence in the region, with headquarters Downtown and facilities in Allison Park, Monroeville, Springdale and Cranberry Township.
Founded by John Pitcairn (above) and John B. Ford in 1883, the original Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. manufactured large panes of glass (below). As the company diversified, the name was changed to PPG Industries — symbolically represented in the advertisement pictured here (top of page), showing the rising prominence of paint among the company’s offerings.
- The Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. was founded in 1883 when Capt. John B. Ford and John Pitcairn started the first commercially successful plate-glass factory in the United States in Creighton, about 20 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
- It wasn’t long before PPG diversified — and went global. By the early 1900s, PPG added an alkali plant in Barberton, Ohio, and acquired parts of Wisconsin’s Patton Paint Co. and a glass plant in Belgium.
- PPG introduced Herculite tempered glass in the 1930s. The product, still on the market today, is many times stronger and more shatter-resistant than plate glass.
- Pittsburgh’s green-energy focus isn’t a 21st-century development. When demand for solar energy first rose in the 1970s, PPG created the first flat-plate solar collector.
- Also among PPG’s glass innovations: Transitions eyeglass lenses, which automatically darken in sunlight to block UV rays. They were introduced in the 1990s.
- With 98 percent of PPG’s business now in the coatings and paint sectors, the company’s products are familiar to anyone who’s ever gotten lost in a major home-improvement retailer, with brands such as Glidden, Olympic and PPG Paints.
“Glass production is one of the industries that made Pittsburgh. Some people don’t realize that, but PPG — formerly Pittsburgh Plate Glass — is just as important as coal and steel and Westinghouse. Glass is very much a part of our history … In the late 1960s and early ’70s, Pittsburgh was the third largest corporate headquarters city in America — it was a good location, situated about halfway between New York and Chicago, and about 35-40 major corporations had Pittsburgh headquarters. PPG was one of the founding corporations that gave Pittsburgh its reputation for great products and great work … PPG was an innovator with glass, and then with paints and coatings, and it helped give Pittsburgh its reputation for innovation. Everything PPG did was first-class. PPG gave Pittsburgh a certain patina, one that’s different than any of the other industries … when I see a PPG Paints sign in front of a hardware store somewhere in the boondocks, it makes me kinda proud. PPG has done remarkable things in the paints and coatings business. On the automotive side, PPG supplies Detroit with the best paint products and coatings. It’s obviously an enormous market for them. PPG still has major research facilities in the Pittsburgh area. They’re always innovating, and they’re doing it here.”
— Ray Werner, former creative director, Ketchum Communications; founder, Werner Chepelsky
By hal b. klein
images courtesy STARKIST
StarKist’s Charlie the Tuna is one of the best-known mascots in the advertising Pantheon. What’s less known, unless perhaps you’re commuting past the North Shore, is that Charlie’s home is Pittsburgh.
How did an oceanic fish find harbor in a city best known for its rivers? The H.J. Heinz Company, Pittsburgh’s most iconic foodmaker, bought the fish processor in 1962 and moved the company to Pittsburgh at the turn of this century.
StarKist now is owned by Dongwon Industries Co., a South Korean corporation — and it doesn’t process any fish in Pittsburgh — but it remains active in local culture by supporting organizations such as Riverlife, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Troy & Theodora Polamalu Family Foundation and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.
The popularity of StarKist’s smiling mascot, Charlie the Tuna, has spread beyond advertisements. Among the many products sporting Charlie’s likeness: the radio and camera depicted above.
- StarKist’s first fish wasn’t a tuna — it was a sardine. The company was founded in 1917 in California as the French Sardine Company; it rebranded as StarKist in 1942.
- The company’s “Sorry, Charlie” catchphrase is now more than a half-century old. Leo Burnett worked with DePatie-Freleng Enterprises to create the first Charlie the Tuna television commercial in 1961.
- Preceding a wider movement in support of ethical fishing, StarKist was the first major brand to introduce “dolphin-safe” tuna, doing so in 1990.
- Despite being a Heinz-owned company since 1963, the company didn’t relocate StarKist’s headquarters to the North Side until 2000. It’s since been sold twice — to Del Monte in 2002 and Korean company Dongwon in 2008.
- Charlie may be getting on in years, but his likeness on the North Shore still is young. The giant, cartoon Charlie the Tuna has graced StarKist headquarters only since 2010.
- In 2003, actress Maila Nurmi claimed that Charlie originally had been created by none other than James Dean. Nurmi maintained Dean sketched the fish on a napkin years before the campaign began; while Dean may have drawn a fish on a napkin one night, the tale is false — but it adds to Charlie’s mystique.
“Pittsburgh has been fortunate to be the home of many iconic brands, and StarKist is an important member of our corporate community here. StarKist is a brand that has stood the test of time, continually evolving and advancing its products to meet the needs of consumers whose tastes and lifestyles are constantly changing. Whether it was introducing new, convenient and portable packaging with the pouch, or flavored tuna choices that maintained some excitement and adventure with a consumer staple, StarKist has demonstrated that inventive thinking will keep consumers interested and loyal to a brand over many decades. With healthful eating trends continuing to grow, tuna and StarKist are likely to be in the middle of the conversation and the plate for many who want to enjoy food while maintaining a lifestyle that keeps them active and fit. Add to all that the fact that StarKist’s “spokes-fish” Charlie the Tuna was recently ranked the fourth most stylish brand icon ever by the magazine Adweek, and you have a marketing legend that’s remained relevant over time and continues to drive both awareness and engagement with the brand.”
— Michele Fabrizi, president and CEO, MARC USA
By sean collier
images courtesy U.S. STEEL
The United States Steel Corporation isn’t just a brand that built Pittsburgh; it’s a brand that built America.
Landmarks, buildings and bridges from coast to coast have been constructed with the company’s products for more than a century. Created on the bones of seven previous companies (including Andrew Carnegie’s Carnegie Steel Company), U.S. Steel’s pedigree was impressive, containing investment and interest from some of the richest industrialists in the world; its success was immediate and enduring.
Diversification in the 1980s led to a name change, as U.S. Steel temporarily became a subsidiary of the larger USX corporation; a restructuring in the early 2000s did away with that brand, and the company’s facilities and landmarks in the area (such as the iconic U.S. Steel Tower in Downtown Pittsburgh) once again bear the U.S. Steel name.
And while the Steel City can’t boast the number of mills and steelworkers it did at one time, the company’s bustling Mon Valley Works operations in Clairton, Braddock and West Mifflin keep the region’s industrial heritage alive; between those facilities and the company’s headquarters and research centers, more than 4,000 people in the Pittsburgh area work for U.S. Steel.
At the time of its incorporation, U.S. Steel became the largest business enterprise in history. The years that followed saw manufacturing begin in Pittsburgh (above) and spread around the world and, much later, the construction of the company’s iconic headquarters (below, still under construction) Downtown.
- Upon its incorporation in 1901, U.S. Steel became the largest business enterprise in the history of the world. The new company was valued at $1.4 billion.
- It didn’t take long for U.S. Steel to start producing a staggering amount of steel. In its first full year of operation, the company was responsible for 67 percent of domestic steel output.
- A (very) partial list of structures that contain U.S. Steel: the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, Rockefeller Center and the Chicago Picasso statue.
- U.S. Steel also can count three Emmy Awards among its accomplishments. The anthology series dubbed “The United States Steel Hour,” which showcased some of “Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling’s early work, won statues in 1954 and ’55.
- The Pittsburgh Steelers logo is an adaptation of the Steelmark logo created by U.S. Steel in 1960. U.S. Steel eventually turned over the rights to the logo to the American Iron and Steel Institute; the Steelers petitioned the institute to allow them to change “Steel” to “Steelers” inside the emblem.
- When it was built, the U.S. Steel Tower, Downtown, was the tallest building between New York and Chicago, at 841 feet. U.S. Steel recently renewed its lease on the property and will remain headquartered Downtown through at least 2028.
“It was a very close, tight and important relationship, because Pittsburgh was built with steel. You look at the history of Pittsburgh and the history of U.S. Steel and how it came together with Carnegie and all those guys coming together to create U.S. Steel — and industrial America virtually having its beginning here in Pittsburgh. And a city of neighborhoods bringing in all of these people … who all came here to Pittsburgh to work in the steel mills … [a large percentage] of the steel in the world was made in Pittsburgh, and U.S. Steel was the No. 1 steel maker in the world. It was a family; it was a tight family. It’s still iconic … It was a very tight and proud relationship, and it created a lot of jobs. My late brother Larry, his first job in public relations was working for U.S. Steel. They hired good people … There’s never been a corporation quite as connected to Pittsburgh quite like U.S. Steel … If you were talking to people out of town, it was partially because of the Steelers, but because of U.S. Steel, [Pittsburgh is known as] an industrial town. U.S. Steel being so tightly connected to us and the steelworkers — we like that tough, gritty, real-people feel. And we’re still proud of it.”
— Ray Werner, former creative director, Ketchum Communications; founder, Werner Chepelsky
By mark houser
images courtesy WESTINGHOUSE
When George Westinghouse obtained his first patent, he was still a teenager — though also a Civil War veteran. The talented young inventor soon moved to Pittsburgh, looking for money men to bankroll a company to manufacture his ingenious railroad air brake.
The wealth and fame that followed fueled success after lucrative success, from train signals and switches to natural gas drilling and pipelines to electrical power generation, securing more than 300 patents for Westinghouse and creating a global brand that still represents innovation and technology more than a century after his death.
Westinghouse Electric pioneered radio with KDKA and supplied American and global consumer markets with home appliances for decades; a Westinghouse pressurized water reactor powered America’s first commercial nuclear power plant in Shippingport.
The corporation doubled down on its broadcasting background in the 1990s, selling off its industrial businesses and buying CBS. But Westinghouse Electric Company remains in Cranberry Township, now owned by Toshiba and employing close to 4,000 people in the region; the company keeps light bulbs shining with the technology behind approximately half of the world’s nuclear power plants.
The tradition of innovation that began with George Westinghouse (above) would grow even beyond the 300 patents held by the man himself, including the development of alternating current (announced in an 1888 brochure, below) to experiments in the company’s “atom smasher” (top of page) through the 1950s.
- The reduction valve Westinghouse invented for transferring highly pressurized gas from pipelines to homes later was adapted into his idea for an electrical transformer.
- Thomas Edison and his backers persuaded New York officials to use Westinghouse equipment in the first electrocution of a condemned man in 1890, hoping to scare the public into favoring DC power instead.
- In the end, Edison’s tactic didn’t work. Westinghouse beat Edison’s General Electric and won the bid to light the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. With the success of the “White City” fairgrounds, the country’s power-transmission network soon became an AC affair.
- KDKA went live Nov. 2, 1920, delivering election returns to become the world’s first commercial radio broadcast. The next year, the station would be first to broadcast a game of baseball (Pirates over Phillies 8-5) and college football (Pitt 21, West Virginia 13).
- The company’s experimental “Atom smasheR” in Forest Hills, built in 1937 and shaped like a giant light bulb, was taken down last year.
“George Westinghouse was one of the most remarkable innovators in American history. Out of his fertile brain came more than 300 patentable ideas. That’s an astounding achievement. One of the first was the air brake, and that revolutionized railroad transportation and made it safer and much more economical because you could triple or quadruple the length of trains and not fear an accident. That was just the beginning; Union Switch & Signal, Westinghouse Electric and a whole family of companies all had Westinghouse at their heart … I think back to the World’s Fair of 1939, when [the company] built the first robot, Elektro. He was 7’1”; he could walk, talk, recognize the colors red and green, and of course, he could smoke cigarettes — he smoked like a chimney! … People were so taken with him that they said to the Westinghouse company, ‘You should build him a woman. He’s like an Adam, he needs his Eve.’ But the designs were so frightening — imagine Madonna in a Target bra and made of metal — it was so scary that the Westinghouse engineers built him a dog instead … You know that ‘We Can Do It!’ Rosie the Riveter image? That was done by a Westinghouse artist named J. Howard Miller in 1943 … If you look at her collar disk, you’ll see her security badge says Westinghouse Electric on it. You talk about brands and icons, that’s one of the most iconic images in the world today.”
— Andrew Masich, president and CEO, Sen. John Heinz History Center
The Brands That Battled for Pittsburgh
Three of the city’s most storied brands don’t manufacture materials — they manufacture championships.
Among the three sports teams that made Pittsburgh the City of Champions, only one has maintained a single brand through its entire history.
When the Pittsburgh Penguins were born in 1967, the choice of a nickname was a natural fit; the already-standing Civic Arena routinely was called the Igloo, so a cold-weather creature was a necessity. (Sure, igloos are found in the Northern Hemisphere and penguins are found in the Southern Hemisphere, but let’s not quibble.) While an earlier, unrelated Pittsburgh NHL franchise used a different nickname — the Pirates, as a matter of fact — the current team has been the Penguins since game one.
That’s not the case for Pittsburgh’s oldest professional franchise. When the city fielded its first National League team in 1887, it was dubbed the Pittsburgh Alleghenies (a name left over from several earlier, non-big league incarnations). The name didn’t last long; the team has been called the Pirates since 1891, when the disputed signing of second baseman Louis Bierbauer (believed by some to have been bound to the Philadelphia Athletics) was described by a baseball bigwig as “piratical.”
Not long after those ice-skating Pirates left in 1930, the same name was adopted by Art Rooney Sr. as his football team entered the NFL in 1933; for the remainder of the ’30s, there were two sets of Pirates prowling Pittsburgh fields. That wasn’t even the first name for the Steel City football team; in its semi-pro days, it was known as the Hope Harveys, the James P. Rooneys and briefly (in an early nod to corporate sponsorship) as the Majestic Radios.
There’s a good bit of the city’s tale tied up in its team’s rising fortunes. The Pirates were the preferred team during the city’s steel heyday, the Steelers lifted the spirits of a city with a wave of championships as the mills closed and the Penguins established themselves as nearly perennial contenders as the city rebuilt and diversified. And Pittsburgh’s old-school looks are icons in their own right; go to a game, and you’re likely to spot more than a handful of ’70s “We Are Family” pillbox hats, light-blue Pens sweaters or bumblebee-striped Steelers jerseys in the stands.
A uniformity of style has helped these teams to solidify their brands. Other than the Penguins’ dalliances with shades of blue, black and gold has come to define Pittsburgh’s teams. The Steelers’ logo, borrowed from a design created by U.S. Steel (see page 68), represents more than a football team; it signifies the industrial lifeblood that built Pittsburgh. The triangle on which variations of Penguin characters have appeared was chosen to represent the Golden Triangle of Downtown. And the single-letter “P” that adorns Pirates caps has done so for a century.
The best way to build a brand, of course, is success. With six Super Bowl victories, five World Series titles and a quartet of Stanley Cups, Pittsburgh’s teams never have been far from a victory parade.
What better way to make a name?
— Sean Collier
PITTSBURGH: THE BRAND
In a city of iconic names, what images are evoked by the title of the town itself?
There once was a time, not too long ago, when a national publication running a story on Pittsburgh almost inevitably would use the word “hardscrabble.”
While Pittsburgh likely will always be associated with steel — and that tough-as-nails work ethic of immigrants who toiled in mills and factories will continue to be passed down through generations — the city’s image has changed rapidly in the past decade.
But let’s go back. In the 1800s, Pittsburgh was inundated with innovators who showed up at the confluence of three rivers and started making things.
“It was that reputation that started drawing people like George Westinghouse here in the mid-1800s — because they knew they could realize their dreams in Pittsburgh,” says Andrew Masich, president and CEO of the Sen. John Heinz History Center.
Those innovations — and the investors who funded them and the hardworking immigrants who forged them — sustained Pittsburgh’s image. But heavy industry came at a cost. After World War II, the world started viewing Pittsburgh differently, Masich says. It was no longer “a place where things are made and things get done.” It was a dirty city, an unhealthy city.
“I think that brand — the smoky city brand — persists even after the time when Pittsburgh was the smoky city,” Masich says. While the “hell with the lid off” image is hard to erase, the perception of Pittsburgh’s exports is changing.
“People knew about Pittsburgh through the products. Now they know about Pittsburgh through the people. We’ve exported so much talent,” Masich says.
He insists it’s no brain drain. While Pittsburgh might be molding physicians, inventors and engineers at its medical institutions, universities and research centers, only some are leaving.
Those who stay recognize all Pittsburgh has to offer: affordable historic housing, an ever-improving restaurant scene, great sports teams and a “cultural infrastructure” — including educational institutions, museums, libraries, symphonies, parks and theaters — “that far exceeds our population,” Masich says.
Brian O’Neill — a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist and author of “The Paris of Appalachia,” a must-read for all Pittsburghers who want to understand the heart and soul of this city — says he never anticipated the reality that is Pittsburgh in 2016.
“When I wrote the book in … 2008, I was more optimistic, I think, than most people about Pittsburgh — more bullish on Pittsburgh. And it turns out, I wasn’t nearly optimistic enough,” he says. “It was somewhat brave of me to be writing a positive book about Pittsburgh back when nobody wanted to hear it.”
These days, national publications don’t call us “hardscrabble.” Our Rust Belt reputation, however proud, is fading. Now, when someone writes something about Pittsburgh, it’s a “most livable city.” The food scene is incredible. The views are gorgeous. The parks and rivers are clean and numerous. The housing stock makes New Yorkers reconsider a 600-square-foot apartment.
Despite all of these changes, if there’s one thing you’ve always been able to count on in Pittsburgh, it’s kindness. We’ve been upholding Mister Rogers’ values for 50 years. We hold doors. We offer help. We loan cake pans and lawnmowers to our neighbors.
This was on display on a warm evening in August outside the Modern Cafe in Allegheny West. There was a Steelers preseason game that night, and as two men got out of their car and headed toward Heinz Field, O’Neill abandoned his beer, asked if they were going to the game and warned them of the $120 fine for parking there on game days.
This type of kindness is not unique to Pittsburgh. But it is persistent, and it doesn’t discriminate. Want evidence? One of the men was wearing a Philadelphia Eagles jersey.
— Annie Siebert
The Future Brands of Pittsburgh
Which names will come to define Pittsburgh over the next century?
If you asked people in 1916 to name the brands that would be synonymous with Pittsburgh a century hence, they might have guessed a few correctly. Westinghouse was a household name by then, and plenty of people already owned Heinz pickle pins. But even the word “robot” wouldn’t exist for another four years. So how could they have imagined Google or Uber?
Vivek Wadhwa says it’s almost futile to try to make predictions further than a decade down the road. Lots of big brands won’t last even that long, according to the high-tech entrepreneur and thinker, who held faculty positions at Stanford and the futurist Singularity University before joining Carnegie Mellon University’s campus in Silicon Valley this summer.
“The concept of brand loyalty has changed,” says Wadhwa. “Companies are now terrified of their consumers because they can go online anytime and complain about a problem … That’s the new brand: what people think about you on social media.”
Wadhwa’s latest book on the future of technology, “Driver in the Driverless Car,” will be out this winter. The way Uber roared into Pittsburgh last year and recruited 40 CMU researchers to staff a new hub points toward how companies will make a name for themselves here in the future, he says — by mining what he calls “virgin territory.”
“Silicon Valley is building the same stupid photo-sharing apps. I’m talking about solving big problems with artificial intelligence, nanotech, robotics — R2-D2 being born in Pittsburgh,” Wadhwa says. “Think of science fiction now. There’s no reason why those couldn’t be built in Pittsburgh because you’ve got the scientific knowledge and you’ve got the entrepreneurial strength, and it’s dirt cheap. Here in Silicon Valley, it’s crazy expensive.”
“I think we will have a Henry Ford of robotics in Pittsburgh,” says John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic — a brand which, Thornton hopes, could be as iconic as Westinghouse or Heinz a century hence. The small Strip District-based company has a staff of 19 working on a plan to fly a robot-controlled lander to the moon, and if it manages to do so by the end of next year, it can win the $20 million Google Lunar X Prize. But Thornton also cares about leaving a trademark on history.
“We are planning the long game,” he says. “I think 100 years from now, we will have a human base on the moon that’s routine. Kids in that generation will be like, ‘Oh, we’ve always had a base on the moon.’ People will look back at Astrobotic and think of us as the very beginnings of that.” By that time, Thornton says, he imagines his company could be sending robotic probes to explore the galaxy.
Brands and even whole industries that don’t make it to 2116 still might be experienced anyway in advanced virtual-reality simulations of the past that people will play with and explore, says Jason Swanson, director of strategic foresight for the nonprofit organization KnowledgeWorks. A member of both the Association of Professional Futurists and the World Future Society, Swanson says his adopted city — he moved to Pittsburgh from Westchester, Pa., four years ago — lends some hometown brands an advantage in the contest for longevity.
“That myth and metaphor that we tell each other about what makes a city — that lasts longer than products and brands,” he says. “To have a long-lasting brand, it has to tie very strongly into a myth or metaphor. Heinz intrinsically ties into the city. As an outsider, I’ve always heard that. You think of Pittsburgh, you think of Heinz, Primanti’s and the Steelers.”
Thornton concurs: “I think Heinz will be around forever.”
— Mark Houser