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Women Gang Leaders in Masonry [William J. Gaughan Collection]

C. Paultine [Lyon Shorb Collection]

Industry and manufacturing came to Pittsburgh partly by nature and partly by ingenuity. Geology provided the raw materials of coal, oil, limestone, and sand. Topography blessed the area with natural waterways for transport. But it took much more than this to make Pittsburgh an industrial center. It was the craftsmen and the entrepreneurs who used these resources to their fullest potential. These industrialists found the means to mass produce local coal into coke to fuel furnaces in iron and steel foundries, bringing about the timely introduction of new technology to economize production. They saw opportunities to feed a growing nation with processed foods, reengineered production to support the nation during times of war, and, most importantly, gathered together a massive workforce of local residents and immigrants to labor in the plants and mills.

In 1868, when historian James Parton wrote, "Pittsburgh is smoke, smoke, smoke -- everywhere smoke -- by night it was Hell with the lid taken off," he was witnessing only the surface of Pittsburgh's industrial legacy. The aggregation of mills, factories, mines, and railways in the region made Pittsburgh a city of smoke and grime. This, unfortunately, was a negative image that the city endured for at least another century. Air has since become cleaner, buildings have been scraped of their blackened facades, and smokestacks are now just novel attractions at the shopping complex where one of the world's largest producing steel mills had once stood. However, the real legacy of Pittsburgh’s industrial past is its strong working class tradition and commitment to organized labor. The memory of our region’s industrial workers remains a source of pride for a city that presently positions itself in an economy primarily based in service, technology, health care, and higher education.

    --Anna Maria Mihalega, May 2004

 Reheating Ingot [William J. Gaughan Collection]

Construction Workers [Allegheny Conference on Community Development Collection]

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