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...
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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...
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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....
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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...
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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...
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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...
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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”...
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The Spirited History of Pennsylvania Saloons

In 1905 and 1906 Charles and Linnie Ross of Stroudsburg traveled throughout Pennsylvania, photographing residents and buildings in communities they passed. Hoping to sell their prints for a handsome profit, they made sure to shoot the most popular spots in each town. Unsurprisingly, the Rosses photographed dozens of saloons in their travels, including this one in Williamsport. By 1851 saloons...
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Making Industrial Pittsburgh Modern by Edward K. Muller and Joel A. Tarr

Making Industrial Pittsburgh Modern Environment, Landscape, Transportation, Energy, and Planning by Edward K. Muller and Joel A. Tarr University of Pittsburgh Press, 504 pp., hardcover $40 Discussions of “modern” Pittsburgh often begin and end with the Renaissance, the rightfully lauded postwar effort to spruce up the city’s tarnished image and clear its smoky skies. But there is so much more to...
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Lois Weber, Film Pioneer

The Pittsburgh region has been home to many remarkable women over the years, including journalist Nellie Bly, abolitionist Jane Grey Swisshelm, and environmentalist Rachel Carson. Less known among them is Lois Weber, the first American woman film director. During cinema’s silent era in the 1910s and 1920s, she held a unique position in Hollywood. She was not only one of a small handful of women...
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