Agnes: Pennsylvania’s Most Devastating Natural Disaster

The late Paul Beers, the longtime columnist for the Harrisburg Patriot-News, once wrote that some Pennsylvanians are “amazingly complacent” about the threat of flooding despite living in a state that is quite vulnerable. Back in the day, around the midpoint of the 20th century, when old-timers in Pennsylvania spoke of “the big one,” they were referring to the 1936 flood — floods plural,...
read more

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania: 300 Years of the Highest Court in the Commonwealth

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania was established on May 22, 1722, in Philadelphia, Bucks and Chester counties, 67 years before the United States Supreme Court came into existence. It is the oldest appellate court in the nation. Its status became official as part of the Judiciary Act of 1722, separating it from the control of the royal governor. The act made significant progress in establishing...
read more

Golden Panthers by Sam Sciullo Jr.

Golden Panthers Pitt’s Ten-Year Affair with Football Prominence (1973–1982) by Sam Sciullo Jr. America Through Time, 224 pp., paperback $24.99 The 50th anniversary of the Pirates 1971 World Series championship reminds Pittsburgh fans of all they celebrated in the 1970s: Roberto Clemente’s 3,000th hit, the Immaculate Reception, four Super Bowl championships, and a second World Series win in 1979....
read more

A Gift of Belief, edited by Kathleen W. Buechel

A Gift of Belief Philanthropy and the Forging of Pittsburgh edited by Kathleen W. Buechel University of Pittsburgh Press, 480 pp., hardcover $40 American urban history offers numerous examples of families who, having made their fortune, departed for more refined locales, leaving environmental and social ruin in their wake. The most prominent example of that phenomenon was the Rockefellers of...
read more

The Early Days of the William Penn Highway: How Present-Day U.S. Route 22 Got its Start

At the dawn of the automobile age, the major roadways crossing Pennsylvania were rutted, dusty, farm-to-market thoroughfares traveled mainly by horses and wagons. Many of these were still privately owned turnpikes, some with wooden-plank road surfaces. Most towns had improved streets, but the paving, if any, usually ended at the city line. Stagecoach lines still operated here and there, but...
read more

A Gift to America: Maxo Vanka and the Millvale Murals

“This is my gift to America,” declared Croatian artist Maksimilijan “Maxo” Vanka (1889–1963) in 1941, when he completed a vast mural cycle for a small Catholic church in Millvale, Pennsylvania, a working-class town just across the river from Pittsburgh. A recent émigré, Vanka had not yet been in the United States a full decade when he completed the 4,500 square feet of wall painting for St....
read more

To Risk It All by Michael N. McConnell

To Risk It All General Forbes, the Capture of Fort Duquesne, and the Course of Empire in the Ohio Country by Michael N. McConnell University of Pittsburgh Press, 399 pp., hardcover $35 Michael McConnell restores urgency to the Seven Years’ War in To Risk It All. Eleven chapters explore, as the author notes, “How he [Brig. Gen. John Forbes] succeeded, and what his success meant to the subsequent...
read more

The Longest Walk in Pennsylvania

  In the summer of 1978, cars on the Pennsylvania Turnpike slowed as they carefully drove past a procession of American Indians walking along the superhighway. The group, closely packed into the road’s shoulder, carried colorful banners and a sacred pipe. Some beat drums and chanted prayers for peace as they marched ahead. As these marchers continued across Pennsylvania, they were joined by...
read more

Crawford Grill No. 2

The Sochatoff Building sits at the corner of Wylie Avenue and Elmore Street in Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood. This three-story building was constructed in 1917 and would later hold the nationally renowned jazz club Crawford Grill No. 2 between 1945 and 2003. The club, which occupied the entire first floor of the building, was established by African American businessman William Augustus...
read more

Dorothy Mae Richardson, Community Activist

In the 1960s older intercity neighborhoods in Pittsburgh were being demolished as part of an urban renewal program called the “Pittsburgh Renaissance.” Many lower income residents, primarily African Americans, were forced out of their homes. Some were relocated into public housing, but others were left without a plan for affordable living. Additionally, financial institutions began “redlining”...
read more