Marking Time highlights one of the more than 2,500 markers that have been installed throughout the state since 1914 as part of the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program, operated by PHMC's State Historic Preservation Office.

The largest concentration of Slovakians living outside of their – homeland in 1918 was in western Pennsylvania. In addition to opportunities offered by the booming city of Pittsburgh, Slovaks, as well as Czechs, wanted their native country to be rid of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that had taken over their lands by the seventeenth century. World War I and the defeat of the empire created an opportunity for them to act.

In 1918, the Slovak League of America invited Czechs to discuss Slovak autonomy. Milan R. Stefanik (1891-1956), a general of Slovak birth in the French Army, met with Czechs Tomas Garrigue Masaryck (1850-1937) and Edvard Benes? (1884-1948) at the Loyal Order of Moose Lodge in Pittsburgh on May 31, 1918. They agreed to form the independent nation of Czecho-Slovakia, which became known as the Pittsburgh Pact or The Pittsburgh Agreement. One day earlier, twenty thousand people of Czech and Slo­vak heritage marched to Pittsburgh’s Exposition Center in support of independence. Masaryk, a highly respected activist and professor of sociology, gave a speech that the Pittsburgh Daily Dispatchdescribed as “strik­ing heart fire.” As part of President Woodrow Wilson’s terms for peace presented in Vienna on October 27, the newly recognized Czech National Council proclaimed independence in Prague the following day.

Masaryk became the nation’s first president, serving from 1918 to 1935, followed by Benes, who served from 1935 to 1948. Masaryk and the Czechs quickly lost popularity in Slovakia, accused of reneging on the promise of Slovak autonomy after General Ste­fanik died in a plane crash in 1919. The Czech-dominated government, without consulting Slovakia officials, dropped the distinguishing hyphen, a symbol of autonomy and announced the country’s permanent spelling as Czechoslovakia. Tension mounted until Adolph Hitler invaded the Czech region and installed a puppet government in Slovakia. Following the defeat of Nazi Germany, the Communist Party dominated both Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. When revolution appeared near in 1968, Warsaw Pact troops reasserted Communist rule. With the fall of the Soviet Union, a peaceful “Velvet Revolution” allowed Czechoslo­vakia to emerge as a free nation in 1989.

Slovak nationalism re-emerged and on January 1, 1993, a peaceful dissolution created two independent nations, the Slovak Republic, with Bratislava as its capital, and the Czech Republic. However, the significance of The Pittsburgh Agreement is not lost. A state historical marker dedicated in 2001 at Penn Avenue and Seventh Street, in Pittsburgh, commemorates the struggle for independence and the common achievement of a centuries-­old dream of Czechs and Slovaks living in freedom.

On October 26, 1918, Masaryk, j president of the European Union, led delegates from twelve Central and East European nations to Independence Hall, Philadelphia, to deliver the Declaration of Common Aims, their deceleration of independence. In 2002, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission installed a state historical marker near Independence Hall to mark the event.


Recently Dedicated State Historical Markers

Arthur Horace James
Plymouth, Luzerne County

Clinton Furnace
Pittsburgh, Allegheny County

Edward A. Walsh
Plains, Luzerne County

Frank E. Bolden
Pittsburgh, Allegheny County

Groundhog Day
Punxsutawney, Jefferson County

Johnny Unitas
Pittsburgh, Allegheny County

Rossiter Strike Injunction
Rossiter, Indiana County