At the age of 22 Charles Richardson arrived in Pittsburgh in April 1952 on the Pennsylvania Railroad from his native Dallas, Texas, eventually finding work at Westinghouse Electric in East Pittsburgh. He commuted to work from his rooming house in Oakland by boarding a train at the Shadyside station. Shortly after beginning his explorations of Pittsburgh on foot, he bought a cheap Kodak, his first camera, to record some of what he was seeing. He graduated to a Sport Rolleiflex to get better negatives, using the bathroom of his rooming house as a darkroom to develop his film and print his photos.
According to Richardson, he only kept and eventually published his very best photographs, which comprise the 46 images in his book,
Pittsburgh, published by Blurb. The photographs were taken between 1952 and 1955 when the mills were in full production, and at a time he believes were some of the best days of Pittsburgh.
His job at Westinghouse as an order service clerk took him all over the plant where switchgear was made, including the offices where many of the engineers worked. He witnessed the testing of circuit breakers in response to man-made lightning strikes, and thus was born his desire to become an engineer and he began night classes at Pitt.
Inspired by his work at Westinghouse, he quit and enrolled full-time at the University of Pittsburgh, graduating with a B.S. (1957) and a Ph.D. (1962). He changed his major to Physics and received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1957. While he was at Pitt, he worked part-time in the Engineering Research Lab on Fifth Avenue. Here he earned money as a photographer including taking pictures of bomb racks which the Navy paid Pitt to stress until they failed. He also took pictures documenting the equipment as well as head shots of some of the staff to use on their resumes. He even copied a photograph of the Dean’s pretty wife sitting in a tree.
Westinghouse again touched his life as he worked two summers in the Research Laboratory. He enrolled in graduate school and received his PhD in 1962. He then accepted an appointment at the University of Washington, and later joined the faculty at the University of Arkansas in 1966 from which he retired in 1997. He and his wife still live in Fayetteville, AR.
Collection Scope and Content Notes
This collection consists of 46 photographic images taken by Charles Richardson between 1952 and 1955 while he was living in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh and working in East Pittsburgh at Westinghouse. Richardson took pictures of the things that interested him, capturing views of Pittsburgh neighborhoods and people as well as industrial views of Braddock, Homestead, West Mifflin, Clairton, Verona, and West Virginia. All images in this collection appear online and as well as appear in Richardson's book,
Pittsburgh published by Blurb in 2013. The descriptions provided for the collection originate from the published captions with minor edits.