From the 19th century to the mid 1970’s Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s growth and prosperity formed around the thriving steel industry. Once upon a time, steel mills were the main employers of Pittsburgh residents; much of the steel culture is apparent in the city today. In 1875 Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-American industrialist, opened the Edgar Thompson Works mill where he used the patented Bessemer process to make strong, inexpensive steel. Edgar Thompson Works went on to merge with the larger U.S. Steel Corporation, which manufactured one third of the nation’s steel during it’s glory days. Today, Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clark Frick, an American industrialist, union-buster, financier, and art patron, are hailed as Pittsburgh early heroes for their philanthropic and economic contributions to the city, such as the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
A large contributor to the success of the steel industry and growth of the boroughs surrounding Pittsburgh can be attributed to the high rate of immigration at the time. During the second world war, immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, in New York, made their way to Pittsburgh to apply for jobs at the steel mills. The huge influx of immigrants did not only contribute to growth in the steel industry, but also to a rich culture of diversity. During WWII the highest number of Pittsburgh made products in the U.S. topped 95 million.
A recession proof city
In the early 1980’s all but two of Pittsburgh’s prominent steel mills were closed or had outsourced their work to other companies. Today, Wheeling-Pittsburgh is the only steel mill with all of its plants in Western Pennsylvania. Immigrants and steel workers are tough and adaptable, so Pittsburgh didn’t stay in its slump for long. Today the city is thriving, with finance, technology, medicine and education, as it’s biggest employers; with higher education taking 80% of Allegheny County’s high wage jobs between 1999 and 2005. On September 8, 2009, President Barack Obama stated,“Pittsburgh stands as a bold example of how to create new jobs and industries while transitioning to a 21st century economy.” Pittsburgh saw much less loss during the recession in 2008 than many other cities in the U.S. Housing prices actually went up 2% in the last quarter of 2008, when many other cities were experiencing a drastic decline; and between 2006 and 2011 Pittsburgh experienced a 10% appreciation in its housing industry.
Steel Bridges are Ties to the Past
Pittsburgh has also been know as, “the city of bridges,” due to its span of bridges, built of steel, between the Allegheny River and the Monongahela River, that offer easy access to the downtown area from Pittsburgh’s surrounding Burroughs. These steel bridges provide a sense of pride, a tether to the past for life long residents of the area who are so proud of the legacy of the steel industry that they named their 6-super-bowl-winning, championship football team after it, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Value of Hard Work and Perseverance
The resilience of the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania can be attributed largely to the values instilled upon its residents during its heyday as a blue-collar city of steel. The belief that hard work and loyalty will pay off in the long run is a lesson learned by steelworkers and was passed along through generations; creating a tight knit community who knows it can face adversity and come out strong in the end.