PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Photographs were the key to Life magazine’s success for most of the 20th century, but many photos were never printed, including pictures of a mystery family in Pittsburgh.
1944. Pittsburgh’s mills were pumping out steel, as World War II raged on. Recently, photographs of a Pittsburgh family from that same year were recovered from the Life magazine archives. The unidentified photos were shot by the late Wallace Kirkland. Editors hope someone can tell them who those people are.
Heinz History Center President Andy Masich says the museum has the same dilemma, with many unidentified faces in its #Pixburgh exhibit. But he has a theory about those Life magazine shots from May 1944. It begins with World War II hero and Pittsburgher Commando Kelly, the previous month.
“The New York Times printed a photograph of Commando Kelly’s mother reading a letter that he was coming home,” Masich explains. “He was a medal of honor winner, and the city was excited. But the picture showing her reading the letter showed what looked like slum conditions. Commando Kelly coming home to a slum?”
The Times made a big deal of it. Pittsburgh countered that the photo was shot in an alley behind the house. Andy Masich suggests that the argument may have led to the the so-called slum photos shot by Wallace Kirkland.
“Trying to say, Hey, Pittsburgh’s kind of slummy. Because they were going back and forth: Which is worse, New York or Pittsburgh? Which has more slums?” Masich said. “So I think that may be what these photographs are all about.”