Tuesday, December 29, 2009

256 Years Ago Today

The river photographs on this blog were taken from the Washington Crossing Bridge on the evening of December 29, 2006 - 253 years after George Washington and his guide Christopher Gist spent the night on a small island in the Allegheny, just below bridge.

From Gist's Journal:

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Romance of the Here and Now

I hope others who ponder the questions of the day on local blogs will take some time and dig more into James Hall's story and his writings, to help make connections between Pittsburgh in its early 19th century frontier days and our nueva frontera of today.   Our history -- our human, lived history in this place -- should be a source of energy and shared purpose.  

Pittsburgh was once the place where people like James Hall came and stayed awhile before settling elsewhere.   In Judge Hall's case, he no doubt kept in touch with the learned men of the day back in Pittsburgh, and as an editor drew on their talents during his time in Illinois and Cincinnati.  Together, they helped define Pittsburgh's foundational role forming the West, all that has come forward to us through time in these archive writings.  

I haven't read any biographies of Hall (yet), so I should stop opining on his life; all that I know on the topic comes from several hours of reading what he put into print 180 years ago.  It's all wonderfully evocative of another time, and the Pittsburgh of today is in there somewhere.  

Here is Judge Hall in 1857:

"The Romance of Western History" (1857) is available on the archive.  It includes a story from the summer of 1776, when Captain Gibson and Lt. William Linn were ordered to travel incognito on the river from Fort Pitt to New Orleans and procure gunpowder from the Spanish.   I had no idea.

He revealed the identity of author "N______" from back in 1829.

Almost poetical, if it be not really so

From vol. 2 of James Hall's "The Western Monthly Magazine" (1833). 

click to enlarge


UPDATE 12/27/09: From the source, Mary Austin Holley's "Texas : observations, historical, geographical and descriptive, in a series of letters ; written during a visit to Austin's Colony with a view to permanent settlement in that country in the autumn of 1831 (1833)"

It was apparently uploaded to the archive on November 30, 2009 - or at least that's the "Sponsor Date." It was downloaded only once so far.

By the way, many of these books are being placed on the archive by the University of Pittsburgh Library System. Thank you neighbors.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Pittsburgh's Literary Start

Was James Hall's "The Billiard Table" the first short story to be set in Pittsburgh...in addition to being one of the first American short stories

And was James Hall really the inventor of the newspaper editorial section?!
James Hall was born on July 29, 1793, to John and Sarah Hall. John Hall was a wealthy Maryland landowner. His son was exposed to many intellectual discussions that encouraged his free-thinking. At the age of twelve, he was sent to an academy near Philadelphia. Hall's teachers disliked him because he tended to form his own opinions on many subjects. In 1813 Hall joined the military.
Despite his anti-war views, he believed that the British had no right to raid farmhouses in America. Thus, Hall fought in the War of 1812, earning the rank of third lieutenant. Hall then decided to become a professional soldier. When the United States declared war on Algeria, Hall volunteered as a midshipman. However, the military declined his offer. In 1816 Hall was stationed in Pittsburgh. Two years later he resigned from the army. James Ross, a friend of his family and a very distinguished lawyer, taught Hall how to be a lawyer. Ross had been George Washington's lawyer and had also been a United States senator. Later that year, Hall was admitted to the bar and quickly became a successful lawyer in Pittsburgh.
Hall began his writing career by sending copies of the verses he had written about dancing partners to the Port Folio. Hall continued to contribute pieces that he had written to various magazines. In 1820 he moved to Shawneetown, Illinois. Only sixteen days after his arrival in Shawneetown, he was editing the local newspaper, the Illinois Gazette. It was the second Illinois newspaper.
In 1832 Hall's book, Legends of the West, was published by his brother, Harrison. This book contained many of Hall's best works. Eight editions of this book were eventually printed. Hall played an important part in the development of the American short story. In his short stories was a description of the prairies, their first accurate description in American literature. In 1833 Hall packed up once again to move to Cincinnati. Here he directed the Western Monthly Magazine. Hall spent the rest of his life in Cincinnati.
James Hall was undoubtedly one of the greatest frontier writers of his time. His contributions to early newspapers helped to form the basis for modern newspapers in America. He virtually invented the editorial section of the newspaper. Hall was also one of the best short story writers of his time. On top of his literary career, he also had a successful law career. It was nothing short of amazing for him to have two good careers at the same time.�[From Mary Burtschi, A Port Folio for James Hall; Mary Burtschi, James Hall of Lincoln's Frontier World; John Flanagan, James Hall.]

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas and New Year's Gift - 1829

A souvenir from Pittsburgh (by way of Cincinnati), some old west stories...

For a future post maybe...the contribution "The Last of the Boatmen" was composed by "N_____."    

The whole thing is worth the read...embedded for your viewing pleasure below - am I the only one who uses the embed feature from the archive?!:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Challenge of Pittsburgh

I came across "The Challenge of Pittsburgh" on archive.org.  

The City of Pittsburgh's population in 1916 was about 550,000.   Now it's hovering around 300,000.

The City had 812 police officers in 1916.   Now we have about 858.

Prorating the arrests through the rest of 1916, there were likely about 50,000 arrests that year, half for drunkenness.  

It looks like there were about 48,000 arrests in 2004 (of people over age 18).  I wonder how many of those were for drunkenness?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

City of Friends

 I didn't know where Reedsdale St. was until I looked it up:

From Harrison Mason's 1924 Some Pittsburgh memories; incidents and reminiscences, with a little history intermingled, of seventy years residence in the city at the forks of La Belle Riviere.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cheer Up Pittsburgh

I'm not giving up on the canal boat idea. Destination Cleveland.     

And then there's Smithfield St. and 6th Avenue.   In German.

The view here:  Standing in across from Mr. Simonds' mountain glade (Mellon Square), looking down up 6th Avenue.   In 1787

A little later (circa 1815)

Later still. Is that a green roof on that building in the foreground?   (Note: corrected angle inserted):

I'm glad Google Earth has a sunlit frame for Mellon Square, all the more so after watching this:

Mellon Square: A Modern Masterpiece from Melissa McMasters on Vimeo.

Please Pittsburgh, watch that video.  You will be in a better mood.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Old Mad Men - and Women

Last week in honor of the National Day of Listening I got my friend Bob talking about his experiences in New York City in the late 1940's. He spent three years as the Public Information Officer for the First Army headquartered in New York.

I looked through the Library of Congress and found some old photos of the "Federal Advertising Agency," which may or may not have been involved with his work (I need to ask him). The Federal Advertising Agency, Inc. was not a government agency. I learned that from the oral history of Laura Elizabeth Seiler, a pioneer suffragist who was also a pioneer in advertising -- she retired (for the first time) in 1948 as a Vice-President of the Federal Advertising Agency, Inc.

I found this Time magazine blurb from 1927 that mentions it. The Federal Advertising Agency is also mentioned in this article from the Journal of Applied Psychology (1945). Also mentioned in Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, 1920-1940.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Our Lincoln

The Lincoln program on "Nat Geo" last night covered the way Lincoln managed his public image.  

Here is our Lincoln:

The program also explored how he personally commanded troops in the field.  It brought to mind this from J.B. Corey's memoir:

J.B. Corey, 1860:

Remembering the newspaper editor's introduction to his memoirs:
More from the editors in Corey's own introduction:
Continued here:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

St. Clair Lost and Found

This old Bethel kid has new respect for the St. Clair neighbors.   

Dennis Roddy's piece in the Post-Gazette on Arthur St. Clair was fascinating.  It's sad that St. Clair could be all but forgotten, but thanks to Roddy and the PG for telling the story.

This jumped out at me: 
"As important as he was, there is no biography of him today," said Martin West, director of the Fort Ligonier Museum.
I'm not sure if it qualifies as a full biography, but I found "a brief sketch" (1910) on the old Internet Archive.  It has only been downloaded 8 times (!)

From later in the sketch:
(Thank you to the Sloan Foundation for being the "digitizing sponsor" of the NOT_IN_ COPYRIGHT book.)

It's actually possible to read the entire 41 page book right here via this nifty embed feature on the archive:

Saturday, November 7, 2009

History of Old Braddock Hospital

The Unwritten History of Braddock's Field (1917) contains the story of Braddock Hospital's founding.  Interesting that the idea for the hospital was first championed by a local newspaperman (his editor was not happy with it).

It took almost 12 years from the first donation until the opening.  They quickly realized it was way too small, so they set out to raise more funds for 2 more wings.

Here are some excerpts (click to enlarge if they appear too small):

- Snip -



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