Summary Information
Title: Smoke Control Lantern Slide Collection
Collection Number: AIS.1978.22

Collection Dates: ca. 1940-1950
Extent: 119.0 items

Language: English

Abstract:
The Smoke Control Lantern Slide Collection contains 119 lantern slides, including duplicate lantern slides and some copy negatives, documenting the City of Pittsburgh in the 1940s and 1950s, before and after smoke control ordinances were passed regulating the burning of coal. Digital reproductions of selected slides are available online.
Publisher:

ULS Archives Service Center
University of Pittsburgh Library System
7500 Thomas Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA, 15260
412-648-3232
archives-ref@mail.pitt.edu
Date Published:

April 2010
Author:

Finding aid prepared by Miriam Meislik.
History

For more than a century, Pittsburgh was marked as a smoky city, even being described as "hell with the lid off" by author James Parton because of the severity of the smoke problem. The earliest recorded discussion of smoke control in Pittsburgh dates from 1807, with periodic surges in interest in the problem including the Mellon Institute Smoke Investigation which took place between 1911 and 1914. Additional smoke studies were undertaken through the 1940s.

Change was initiated in 1941 when an effective smoke control ordinance was passed in the city of Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, the onset of World War II delayed the enactment of the legislation until 1946. Smoke control was not forgotten during the intervening years, however. Immediately after the end of the war, lobbying began as a grassroots effort among citizens. The United Smoke Council was a major contributor, creating and disseminating pamphlets and mailings to the people of Pittsburgh explaining the changes that would need to be made. The legislation mainly targeted coal burned by locomotives, the steel industry, as well as individual citizens. The idea of increased costs for a necessity like heat during Pittsburgh's cold winters was surprisingly well-received. People were willing to pay for clean air, and the improved efficiency of clean-burning furnaces actually made the net cost of heat about the same as before.

Increased concern over air control occurred as a response to the Donora smog disaster of 1948. The disaster was a combination of smoke and fog that blanketed a five-state area for five days between October 26 and October 31, 1948. The event caused decreased visibility, respiratory and health problems and death, leading to a million dollar law suit against the American Steel and Wire Company, the operator of the Donora Zinc Works responsible for the problem. The suit was settled out of court for $250,000; however, the determination to fight air pollution did not end there. The Donora smog spurred a nationwide campaign for clean air. Locally, the event triggered the passing of a county-wide ordinance in Allegheny County in 1949. Allegheny County took over both the county and city programs in 1957 and formed the Bureau of Air Pollution Control, a division of the Allegheny County Health Department. Smoke had come to be regarded as a health issue rather than an industrial problem.


Collection Scope and Content Notes

The Smoke Control Lantern Slide Collection contains 119 images documenting the City of Pittsburgh in the 1940s and 1950s, before and after smoke control ordinances were passed regulating the burning of coal. Views from on and above street level around downtown Pittsburgh before the smoke ordinance portray the city ridden by filth. Several images include clocks that indicate late morning or early afternoon times, yet the billowing smoke and pollution leave the impression of dusk or even night. To demonstrate the effects of the smoke ordinance, the collection also includes images of railroad engines and parts powered both from steam and later from diesel.

Slides documenting smoke control in St. Louis, Missouri, the project on which the Pittsburgh smoke plan was based, may also be found in the collection.

Although the creator and exact date of the collection is not known, it was created to showcase the smoke control legislation's remarkable results. Duplicate lantern slides and copy negatives are also found within the collection.


Arrangement

Arranged by series and item number.


Subject Terms

Topics
  • Air -- Pollution -- Missouri -- Saint Louis -- History -- Pictorial works
  • Air -- Pollution -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh -- History -- Pictorial works
  • Air quality management -- Missouri -- Saint Louis -- History -- Pictorial works
  • Air quality management -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh -- History -- Pictorial works
  • Railroad cars -- Pictorial works
  • Railroad trains -- Pictorial works

Corporate Names
  • Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail (Pittsburgh, Pa.). -- Pictorial works
  • Gulf Building (Pittsburgh, Pa.).
  • Harris Department Store (Pittsburgh, Pa.). -- Pictorial works
  • Horne’s Department Store (Pittsburgh, Pa.). -- Pictorial works
  • Koppers Building (Pittsburgh, Pa.).
  • Liberty Tunnels (Pittsburgh, Pa.).
  • Norfolk and Western Railroad Company.
  • Pennsylvania Railroad.

Locations
  • Downtown (Pittsburgh, Pa.) -- Pictorial works
  • Pittsburgh (Pa.) -- Pictorial works
  • Saint Louis (Mo.) -- Pictorial works

Genres/Forms
  • Lantern slides
  • Negatives (Photographic)

Category
  • Environment
  • Transportation

Access and Use
Access Restrictions:

No restrictions.

Acquisition Information:

Gift of University of Pittsburgh, Office of Special Events, on August, 1978.

Alternate Format:

Digital reproductions of the collection are available electronically at http://digital.library.pitt.edu/images/pittsburgh/smokecontrol.html.

Preferred Citation:

Smoke Control Lantern Slide Collection, ca. 1940-1950, AIS.1978.22, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh

Copyright:

No copyright restrictions.

Related Material:

Smoke Investigation Activities of the Mellon Institute, Pittsburgh, Pa. Research Records, 1911-1957, AIS.1983.07, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh


Collection Inventory

Series I. Pittsburgh Before Smoke Ordinances, ca. 1940-1950

Scope and Content Notes:

These images, taken before the smoke control ordinance, represent the pollution problems within Pittsburgh.


Box 1
Slides 1-20 Lantern Slides

Series II. Pittsburgh After Smoke Ordinances

Scope and Content Notes:

These images demonstrate the effects of the smoke ordinances, representing a cleaner Pittsburgh area.

Slides 21-26 Lantern Slides

Series III. St. Louis

Scope and Content Notes:

These images document the smoke control in efforts in St. Louis, Missouri, the project on which the Pittsburgh smoke plan was based.

Slides 27-32 Lantern Slides

Series IV. Unidentified Locations Before Smoke Control

Scope and Content Notes:

These images document unidentified locations before smoke control ordinances were passed.

Slides 33-50 Lantern Slides

Series V. Railroad Engines

Scope and Content Notes:

This series contains images of railroad engines and parts powered both from steam and later from diesel. They demonstrate the postive effects of the smoke ordinance.

Slides 51-63 Lantern Slides

Series VI. Duplicates

Scope and Content Notes:

Items contained in this series are duplicate lantern slides and copy negatives.

Box 2-3 Lantern Slides