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About the Films

The films on this website have been culled from local filmmaker Bill Beal's vast collection of stock footage. From 1952 until his retirement in 1992, Beal created over 160 films for clients such as PPG Industries, Alcoa, and Kennywood Park. The filmmaker also created stock footage for use in future productions. All of the footage on this website is without sound, and often Beal's notes didn't include information regarding specific dates or locations. However, as fragmentary as they may be, the films offer a unique glimpse into Pittsburgh's recent past, a period during which the city transformed itself through a spurt of construction and redevelopment projects.

About Bill Beal

A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, Beal began his career as a radio actor for KDKA radio. During World War II, he worked for a film production company making training films for the use of carbide tools. In 1952, Beal started his own production company, William G. Beal Inc., to make films for local businesses and community organizations. Along with the content featured on this site, Beal's collection of stock footage also includes scenes documenting the opening of Heinz Hall, a performance at the Civic Arena, and André Previn conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Beal donated his archives to the Senator John Heinz History Museum in 1997.

About the Project

This project was supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). The Senator John Heinz History Center, located in Pittsburgh's Strip District, maintains a collection that includes 55,000 books, 600 maps, 300 serial titles, 50,000 linear feet of manuscripts, 500 microfilms, 300 regional newspapers, and 700,000 photographs depicting more than 250 years of Western Pennsylvania’s history. In addition to these holdings, the Library and Archives owns over 3,000 rolls of archival film, from industrial footage to personal "home" movies, which document life in Western Pennsylvania during the 20th century. The first undertaking of its kind at the History Center, this project will create and polices and procedures for future film digitization projects.

The stock footage shot by Bill Beal, a Pittsburgh filmmaker active from the 1940s through the 1990s, was chosen as the focus for this project. After reviewing over 250 portions of film, Library and Archives staff chose about two hours worth of footage for reformatting. The selected footage contains iconic images of Pittsburgh from the 1960s through the 1980s, from scenes of local industries to aerial views of a rapidly changing cityscape. The films were cleaned and reformatted to Digibeta tape and MPEG-2 files. About ten minutes worth of footage was then selected for conversion into streaming file formats for online use through the Heinz History Center's original Life in Western Pennsylvania website.

These videos, however, are provided on the Historic Pittsburgh website using the HTML5 video standard, which allows for viewing across most web browsers and many mobile devices. You may be viewing the video in one of the following formats: H.264, Ogg Theora, and Flash Video. These formats all offer relatively high quality images with low file sizes and together allow for viewing across practically any device.

Rights and Reproduction

The Senator John Heinz History Center is the copyright owner of this material. The clips presented on this site are for personal, research and educational purposes only. Duplication of any of these images for commercial purposes is expressly prohibited.

Please contact the Library and Archives for information regarding commercial use of material from this collection.

Credits

The following Heinz History Center were responsible for coordinating this project:

  • Art Louderback, Project Supervisor
  • Lisa Lazar, Project Director
  • Debbie Day, Project Manager
  • Matt Strauss, Project Manager
  • David Grinnell, Chief Archivist

Special thanks to Betty Arenth and Lori Presto of the Senator John Heinz History Center, Dr. Gary J. Delorenzo of the California University of Pennsylvania, Miriam Meislik of the University of Pittsburgh, Ron Baraff of the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, Joe Morrison of Pittsburgh Filmmakers, Pat Stromberg, the Heinz History Center's Marketing and Communication Departments, as well as the rest of the staff at the Library and Archives.



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