A Full-Circle Moment: Three Pittsburgh Institutions Work to Secure August Wilson’s Legacy

August Wilson seemed perturbed when he met journalist Abiola Sinclair for a May 1990 interview in his favorite nook in the lobby of New York’s famed Edison Hotel. This candid session, published later in New York Amsterdam News, included the exasperated playwright’s charge that — despite having four of his American Century Cycle plays performed on Broadway — his work had not received the...
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A Place for All: Three Stories of Integration in Pennsylvania

The American Civil Rights Movement focused public attention on segregation in the South and the laws and practices that kept Southern Blacks disenfranchised. By the late 1950s places such as Montgomery, Alabama; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Greensboro, North Carolina, had become household names in the battle to dismantle the racial caste system of “Jim Crow.” But discrimination based on race, much...
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Allegheny Observatory

The mysteries of space and time itself have been explored at the Allegheny Observatory in Pittsburgh, ever since it was built to satisfy the celestial curiosity of the Allegheny Telescope Association, a group of amateur astronomy enthusiasts. In 1859 the group selected a site on the hills of North Side (at that time part of Allegheny City), an area free of city lights, providing a perfect spot...
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Western Pennsylvania’s Earliest Chinese Communities

Most Pennsylvanians recognize Philadelphia’s popular Chinatown, yet far fewer know of the significant presence of Chinese immigrants in western Pennsylvania. On April 16, 2022, the Pittsburgh branch of the Organization of Chinese Americans dedicated a Pennsylvania Historical Marker for Pittsburgh Chinatown in front of the Chinatown Inn at 520 Third Avenue in the city. Six months prior, a marker...
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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,...
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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...
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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....
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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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