Pittsburgh and the Rise of the Modern American City

Joel A. Tarr
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Spring 2002

Instructor Comments

A comment about my experience in teaching the course. Normally I attact about 25 students, about half of whom are from the Pittsburgh region. The class is always mixed in terms of majors: a few history major; students from engineering, science, and economics; and, students from architecture and the fine arts -- especially art and drama. Some of the most interesting papers have involved students writing about the history of their own families in the region. One student wrote about the history of his family in relation to the Homestead steel works and the town of Homestead from the 1880s through the present. It was so good that I recommended that he revise it and submit it to the journal Pittsburgh History, which will publish it in 2004.

Course Description | Instruction | Exams and Papers
Bibliography and Required Texts
| Assignments and Schedule

This course will explore the development of Pittsburgh as an American city. It will not attempt to present a comprehensive history of the city but rather will focus on particular aspects of the Pittsburgh experience. These will include issues of spatial change, creation of a built environment, industrial growth and decline, the role of labor in industrialization, demographic patterns including ethnic and racial patterns, environmental questions, and political and governmental patterns.

The class will be conducted on a lecture/discussion basis. Each student is expected to complete the reading by the assigned date. In addition to the assigned books, articles and other materials will occasionally be distributed in class or made available through the internet. During the semester there will be two field trips and an occasional video assignment. In addition to the books and articles, videos will be used for class assignments and in-class. Participation in class discussion is expected, and you will be graded upon the quality of participation and knowledge of the reading. In addition, throughout the semester, students will be asked to make special reports to the class based upon web materials. Several tours of the city and the region will be held during the semester.

There will be a midterm take home examination and a final take-home examination in the course. Undergraduate students will be given a choice between preparing a report on a specific Pittsburgh neighborhood or writing three books reports over the course of the semester on books not required in class. History graduate students will be expected to prepare a research paper on some aspect of Pittsburgh history. Heinz School students are encouraged to prepare an essay exploring a contemporary Pittsburgh policy problem that is strongly influenced by historical events. All paper subjects have to be approved by the instructor.

Bibliography and Required Texts

Internet Resources

Carnegie Mellon University Libraries: Pittsburgh History
Compiled by Sue Collins of Hunt Library

Historic Pittsburgh: Full-Text Collection

Discover Pittsburgh
A list of sites about Pittsburgh provided by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. http://www.carnegielibrary.org/subject/pgh/history.shtml

Historic Pittsburgh: Chronology
A chronology of Pittsburgh history

Required Texts

Samuel P. Hays (ed)
City at the Point: Essays on the Social History of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989).
Roy Lubove
Twentieth-Century Pittsburgh, Vol. I (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996,1969).
Joseph F. Wall
Andrew Carnegie (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989).
John Bodnar, Robert Simon and Michael P. Weber
Lives of Their Own (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983). This is the paperback edition by the same authors, Lives of Their Own: Blacks, Italians, and Poles in Pittsburgh, 1900-1960 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982).
Howard P. Chudacoff and Judith E. Smith
The Evolution of American Urban Society (Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2000, 5th Edition). This is a background text. It should be read throughout the course of the semester.
William Serrin
Homestead: The Glory and Tragedy of an American Steel Town. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994). This book is out of print but used copies are available via Barnes and Noble and Amazon. I have also put it on reserve in the library.



.Jan. 15_______________________

.Jan. 17_______________________
Origins and Background of the City and the Region
Edward K. Muller, "Metropolis and Region: A Framework for Enquiry Into Western Pennsylvania," in Hays (ed.), City at the Point, pp. 181-211.

The "Forks of the Ohio - Native American Crossroads: Before 1750" and "Fort Pitt - Frontier Military Outpost: 1750-1795" sections of Pittsburgh History Series, Teachers' Guide - Western PA History at http://www.wqed.org/erc/pghist/units/rivers/index.html,
and read the online version of
Jacob A. Riis, How the Other Half Lives (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1890) at http://www.yale.edu/amstud/inforev/riis/title.html

.Jan. 22_______________________
Imagining Pittsburgh
This session will focus on different images of the city of Pittsburgh. Your assignment for this date is to visit the Carnegie Museum of Art and view the exhibit of W. Eugene Smith's "Pittsburgh Photographs," entitled "Dream Street." Admission is free for students. You are to compare the images you see in the exhibit with your personal impressions, reinforced by various Pittsburgh web sites. You are to prepare a short essay (approximately 3-4 pages) discussing your ideas stimulated by the exhibit and the contemporary imagery. We will return to this question at the end of the semester.

Sam Bass Warner, Jr., "The Management of Multiple Urban Images," to be distributed.

.Jan. 24_______________________
The Commercial Walking City
Richard C. Wade, The Urban Frontier: The Rise of Western Cities, 1790-1830 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1959); (various pages), to be distributed.

"Gateway to the West - Commercial Town: 1796-1851," Pittsburgh History Series, Teachers' Guide - Western PA History at http://www.wqed.org/erc/pghist/units/WPAhist/wpa3.html

.Jan. 29_______________________
Fire, Mayhem and Riot: Some Urban Events of the 1840s and 1850s
Continue reading:
From Richard C. Wade, The Urban Frontier.

.Jan. 31_______________________
The City Transformed: The Railroads and the Railroad Riots of 1877
Begin reading:
Joseph Frazier Wall, Andrew Carnegie (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989).

Also, read:
Richard Oestreicher, "Working-class Formation, Development, and Consciousness in Pittsburgh, 1790-1960," in Hays (ed.), City at the Point, 111-50.

"Smoky City - Early Industrial City: 1852-1876," Pittsburgh History Series, Teachers' Guide - Western PA History at

.Feb. 5_______________________
The Growth of Industry: The Entrepreneurial and Managerial Perspective
Wall, Andrew Carnegie, pp. 80-360.

Class Video:
"Andrew Carnegie" (Princeton, NJ : Films for the Humanities, c1988).

"Steel City - Manufacturing Metropolis: 1876-1945," Pittsburgh History Series, Teachers' Guide - Western PA History at http://www.wqed.org/erc/pghist/units/WPAhist/wpa5.html

.Feb. 7_______________________
The Growth of Industry: The Worker's Perspective

Oestreicher, "Working-Class Formation, Development, and Consciousness in Pittsburgh, 1790-1960," in Hays (ed.), City at the Point, 111-150.

Class Video:
"The River Ran Red," produced and directed by Steffi Domike and Nicole Fauteux (Pennsylvania?: S. Domike and N. Fauteux, c1993).

.Feb. 12_______________________
Immigration to Pittsburgh
Nora Faires, "Immigrants and Industry: Peopling the 'Iron City,'" in Hays (ed.), City at the Point, pp. 3-32;
and Bodnar, Simon and Weber, Lives of Their Own, pp. 1-151.

.Feb. 14_______________________
The Development of the Networked City: Transport Innovation, Lighting, Communication, and Annexation
Tarr, “Infrastructure and City-Building in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries,” in Hays (ed.), City at the Point, pp. 213-240.

.Feb. 19_______________________
The Development of the Networked City: Water and Sewerage Systems and the Public Health Burden
Tarr & Terry Yosie, "Critical Turning Points in Pittsburgh's Water and Wastewater Disposal History," to be distributed (via e-mail).

.Feb. 21_______________________
Water Pollution as a Continuing Problem
Tarr & Yosie, "Critical Turning Points in Pittsburgh's Water and Wastewater Disposal History"
"Investing in Clean Water" A Report by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Water and Sewer Infrastructure Project Steering Committee (April 2002), at http://www.campaignforcleanwater.net/report.html

.Feb. 26_______________________
Parks and Cemeteries
Class visitor.

Howard Stewart, Historical Data: Pittsburgh Public Parks, on the Historic Pittsburgh: Full-Text Collection webstie at http://digital.library.pitt.edu/cgi-bin/pitttext-idx.pl?notisid=00awn7880m&type=header
H. Jay Gangewere, "Allegheny County Parks," on the Carneigie Library of Pittsburgh - Pennsylvania Department: Local History website at

.Feb. 28_______________________
The Growth of the Modern City: Development of the Pittsburgh Central Business District
Tarr, “Infrastructure and City Building,” in Hays (ed.) City at the Point, pp. 240-249.
Relevant sections of "Steel City - Manufacturing Metropolis: 1876-1945," Pittsburgh History Series, Teachers' Guide - Western PA History and http://www.wqed.org/erc/pghist/units/WPAhist/wpa5.html

.Mar 5_______________________
Mid-Semester Break

.Mar. 7_______________________
Mid-Semester Break

.Mar. 12_______________________
Attempts to Reform the Industrial City
Lubove, Twentieth-Century Pittsburgh, pp. 1-58.

.Mar. 14_______________________
The Failure of Planning in the Inter-War Period and the Depression Experience
Lubove, Twentieth-Century Pittsburgh, pp. 59-105.

.Mar. 21_______________________
No class.

.Mar. 26_______________________
Environmental Burdens: Smoke and Floods
Mershon & Tarr, “Strategies for Clean Air: The Pittsburgh and Allegheny County Smoke Control Movements, 1940-1960,” (to be distributed).

Lubove, Twentieth-Century Pittsburgh, pp. 106-176.

.Mar. 28_______________________
The "Renaissance" Growth Machine
Lubove, Twentieth-Century Pittsburgh, pp. 106-176.

Class Visitor:
Sherry Mershon.

.Apr. 2-4_______________________
Spring Break

.Apr. 9_______________________
African Americans in Pittsburgh: Migration and Settlement Patterns
Laurence Glasco, “Double Burden: The Black Experience in Pittsburgh,” in Hays (ed.), City at the Point, pp. 69-110;

Bodnar, Simon & Weber, Lives of Their Own, pp. 153-206.

Class visitor:
Professor Laurence Glasco, University of Pittsburgh.

Online video clip "The Great Migration" (Western PA History: Great migration of WWI),
Pittsburgh History Series, Teachers' Guide - Western PA History at http://www.wqed.org/erc/pghist/logs/wylie.html#WA07

.Apr. 11_______________________
Some Pittsburgh Neighborhoods
Bodnar, Simon, & Weber, Lives of Their Own, pp. 207-266.

.Apr. 16_______________________
Suburbanization of the Pittsburgh Region
Class visitor:
Kent James.

Reading to be assigned.

.Apr. 18_______________________
Opposing the Growth Machine and the Coming of Renaissance II
Shelby Stewman and Joel A. Tarr, “Four Decades of Public-Private Partnerships in Pittsburgh,” from R. Scott Fosler and Renee A. Berger (eds.), Public-Private Partnerships in American Cities: Seven Case Studies (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1982), to be distributed.

.Apr. 23_______________________
The Collapse of the Steel Industry and the Decline of the Mill Towns
William Serrin, Homestead: the Glory and Tragedy of an American Steel Town.

.Apr. 25_______________________
Brownfields and Their Redevelopment
Andrew McElwaine, “Slag in the Park,” to be distributed.

“Regulations” and “Case Studies,” on The Brownfields Center (Carnegie Mellon University and The University of Pittsburgh) website at http://www.ce.cmu.edu/Brownfields/

.Apr. 30_______________________
River Possibilities
and Riverlife Task Force: Pittsburgh Pennsylvania at http://www.pittsburghriverlife.org/

.May 2_______________________
The Future of Pittsburgh
Hays, “Pittsburgh: How Typical,” in Hays (ed.), City at the Point, 385-406.

Syllabus prepared for the H-Urban Syllabus Archive 1 June 2003.