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(Man Climbing Pole) [Teenie Harris Collection]
Dining Out at the Pittsburgh Hilton Hotel [Allegheny Conference on Community Development Collection]

Pittsburgh is a city of hardworking people who are not timid about seeking a reprieve of grace or folly at the end of the day. Outside of the activities centered in the home or neighborhood, the diversions enjoyed by so many today were not always available. Cultural events, sports, and green spaces could not exist without two very important components – patrons with free time and wealthy benefactors.

With established salaries and increased hours away from the workplace, the expanding middle class at the end of the nineteenth century quickly embraced the concept of leisure time. Only after years of struggle for basic working place reforms such as higher wages and shorter working days, did the privilege of leisure come to the working class. The same corporate institutions that grudgingly yielded these benefits to their workers would eventually become prominent in shaping how the city spent its time playing. Andrew Carnegie and other industrial elites built libraries, museums, and performance arts venues for the people of Pittsburgh. Some employers, such as H.J. Heinz, were paternalistic in influenicing employee social activities. The factories and steel mills were also sources of the City’s first organized sports leagues, creating a competitive spirit throughout patch and mill towns of Southwest Pennsylvania. To this day, fans continue to attribute this spirit of working class resilience and brawn to Pittsburgh’s school, college and professional sports teams.

    --Anna Maria Mihalega, May 2004


Civic Light Opera Crowd [Carnegie Museum of Art Collection of Photographs]
Baseball Batter

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