Many locals and tourists know about the rich history of Pittsburgh and the western Pennsylvania region. After all, the city’s undeniably successful sports teams, hundreds of decades-old bridges and architecture and blue-collar industry innovations are no secret. What some may not know, however, is that Pittsburgh also boasts quite a legacy when it comes to the region’s contributions to the country, including many products and places you use or visit every day. Here are five historical facts you may not know about Pittsburgh that range from interesting to downright bizarre.
Pittsburgh Has An Inspector Of Steps
With more than 700 sets of steps throughout the city, Pittsburgh employs an Inspector of Steps whose responsibilities include maintaining and inspecting all city-owned steps and public stairways that comprise approximately 15 miles, nearly double the number of steps in San Francisco and Cincinnati. Its Inspector of Steps is essential to preserving Pittsburgh’s more than 100 major stairways, roughly 44,645 risers and more than 712 individual stairs that help city residents navigate the region’s extremely uneven topography. Pittsburgh’s steps are so iconic to the city that a book titled “The Steps of Pittsburgh: Portrait of a City” was written by Bob Regan, a geophysicist with the University of Pittsburgh. In his book, Regan reveals that, when combined together, Pittsburgh’s steps equal more than four miles in height, greater than the height of North America’s tallest mountain, Mt. Denali, by nearly 4,000 feet.
Pittsburgh Company Alcoa Pushed For Soda Can Pull-Tabs
The iconic pull-tabs found on all aluminum soda cans are the result of Pittsburgh-based Alcoa in the 1960s. After venturing into the production of aluminum ends for beverage and juice cans in 1961, Alcoa began working toward furthering its Easy-Open aluminum technology and shortly after approached the Pittsburgh Brewing Company to gauge its interest in this innovative design. A year later, the Pittsburgh Brewing Company, as well as the Schlitz and Busch brewing companies, adopted the aluminum ends too, and by 1963 nearly all brewers throughout the United States had switched to this design. The popularity of these beer can pull-tabs surged from 40 percent in 1963 to 80 percent in 1968. Today, nearly all cans boast this innovative Pittsburgh pull-tab.
Pittsburgh’s Steel Industry Extends Far Beyond The City
With its nickname “The Steel City,” it’s no surprise that the steel industry is one of Pittsburgh’s most lucrative businesses, but what many may not realize is just how wide-reaching the city’s steel industry extends. Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel, the region’s most impressive steel production company, has left its legacy throughout the western Pennsylvania as well as New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and several Walt Disney World resorts, to name a few. Visit the Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building, Disney’s Polynesian Resort and Chicago’s St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church and you’ll find a little piece of Pittsburgh in each landmark’s construction. U.S. Steel also assisted with the construction and financing of Queens, New York’s Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Unisphere, the largest free-stranding global sculpture.
Copenhagen Tobacco Was Invented In Pittsburgh
Copenhagen, a popular brand of chewing tobacco, was created and produced in the city by its inventor and local tobacconist George Weyman in 1822. In its earliest years, the Copenhagen company was located in a six-story factory on Duquesne Way. Marketed as the best-of-the-best in flavor and quality, Copenhagen snuff provided a pinch of Pittsburgh in its distinguishable round can. Also unique about Weyman’s new blend of snuff is that the product was among the country’s first brand name consumer products.
Pittsburgh’s WQED Was The First Of Its Kind In The Nation
Developed by Pittsburgh mayor David L. Lawrence on April 1, 1954, Pittsburgh’s educational channel WQED was the first of its kind in the country, as it was entirely community sponsored. WQED was a favorite among Pittsburghers for its telecasted elementary school classes, national shows like “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?” the beloved “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” and countless Rick Sebak Pittsburgh series and Pennsylvania programs. Its locally broadcasted “Black Horizons” is among the longest airing African-American issues program in the country. WQED’s headquarters is located next to Central Catholic High School in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh.
Related: Best Bars With History In Pittsburgh
Jessica Wasik is a graduate of Robert Morris University with a degree in English Studies. She is also a contributing writer for AXS.com and Examiner.com. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.