When is comes to our hometown, we’re pretty well-versed in all things Pittsburgh. From steel to the Steelers, and waiting in line for Sunday brunch at Pamela’s, we know the ropes.
But those things are just the basics. If you were to dig a little deeper (and we did) you’ll find some unique stories waiting to be told. So we figured, hey, we’ll tell ‘em.
Here’s a look at 10 things we didn’t know about Pittsburgh. Did you? Be honest!
Einstein stopped by
Nowadays, Pittsburgh might be a hub for technology, but its brushes with genius date back almost 100 years to one of the most famous scientists of all time. In 1934, Albert Einstein made his first official speech right here in the Steel City in a theater at Carnegie Mellon (then Carnegie Tech). With only 400 tickets available, a spot in the crowd was in high demand among the thousands of scientists in town for the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science conference. This speech was also another first for Einstein, it was the first time he gave a speech in English.
The Steelers stolen logo
You might want to check your eyesight and your knowledge of the steel industry, because those three “stars” on your favorite football team’s logo aren’t actually stars. They’re actually hypocycloids, and they were originally the logo for U.S. Steel. Okay, so what’s a hypocycloid? Basically, it’s a diamond-like shape, and the three colors originally represented three essential components of steelmaking. In fact, it was so well-known as a U.S. Steel logo that the Steelers actually had to petition the company in order to place their team name inside the logo’s circle.
Pittsburgh was once the ‘Coffee Capital’
Long before Starbucks was a thing, a Liberty Avenue grocer rose to the top of the coffee trade and briefly made the Steel City into the Coffee City. In the 1860s, John Arbuckle created a new way to preserve coffee beans, and his star rose higher and higher as coffee became more and more popular. Pittsburgh’s coffee was shipped all over the nation. When Arbuckle died in 1912, his company was sold and combined with the now-famous Maxwell House, and the rest is history.
Home to atomic rodents and mutant veggies
If you’re interested in the offbeat, the Center for PostNatural History in Garfield is definitely a place to add to your must-see list. Everything that’s on display inside, from genetically altered vegetables to the unfortunate rodent participants in the Manhattan Project, has been changed from its natural state by human meddling. It’s an oddity for sure, but it’s more than a funny footnote.
Amelia’s crash landing
Just under a decade before the famous aviatrix disappeared into thin air, she made a rather unexpected stop in Fox Chapel. As she was flying toward Cleveland after refueling several hours away, she landed in the grassy, empty Rodgers Field, cracking a wing and a propellor. According to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “she was so impressed with this city from the air that she decided to land here.” Her landing was, of course, less than perfect, but she chatted cheerily with the press before moving on and, eventually, into the land beyond.
Pittsburgh’s Super Mario streets
We all despise sitting in traffic outside the Squirrel Hill Tunnel, or slogging along Route 28. But traffic in the city is an unavoidable part of life, right? Not according to Reddit. There’s an awesome thread that jokingly compares lesser-known shortcuts to the warp pipes from Super Mario. Some of the shortcuts include weaving through Greenfield when trying to get to the South Side from Squirrel Hill and taking Melwood Avenue to get to Bloomfield from Oakland. Sure, shortcuts are great. But what we really want to see are the city streets transformed into Mario Kart course. Any takers?
Iron City created the pop-top
Imagine sitting down to a picnic on a hot summer day, basket loaded with macaroni salad, sandwiches and a couple cold brews. Unfortunately for you, the picnic takes place in the late 1930s, and your beers need to be opened a long piece of metal called a church key, and you forgot yours at home. Luckily, we no longer face this kind of dilemma, and it’s all thanks to our very own Iron City Beer. In 1962, they adopted the very new pull-tab strategy and made it significantly easier to open the cans. Soon the pull-tab became the standard. Thank you, Arhn City.
Nikola Tesla was a Pittsburgher
Another famous scientist and inventor was drawn to Pittsburgh for work, and he liked it so much he stayed awhile. Nikola Tesla, renowned for his developments in electrical current technology and subsequent rivalry with Thomas Edison, was hired as a consultant for Westinghouse in 1888. While he was here, he helped lay the groundwork for efficient public transportation, attempting to create a method of powering the city’s streetcars that would one day become the famous T system.
Pittsburgh is for zombies
In the late ‘60s, George Romero brought the lurching, horrifying undead to the big screen. Filmed in Pittsburgh, Night of the Living Dead quickly became a cult classic. At the same time, Romero put Pittsburgh at the center of zombie culture. It’s been said that Romero, who attended Carnegie Mellon University, was inspired by the hordes of sleepy students pouring into classes late. He’s buried in Evans City nearby (for now, at least). Today, zombies are a fact of life in Pittsburgh, with a number of movies made here, annual “Zombie Walks” prep for the forthcoming apocalypse, and even some colorful experiments at the University of Pittsburgh.
‘Made in Pittsburgh’
We’re not known as the Steel City for nothing. Look anywhere in Pittsburgh and you’ll find nods to our industrial heyday, from themed bars and restaurants to sports team logos to steelmaking memorabilia still sold today. In fact, the last local bastion of US Steel is still puffing away just outside Braddock. But did you know that the steel beams forged here are all over the world? Pittsburgh steel was used to make some of the core components of the Empire State Building, as well as the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a fact that Pittsburgh steel built the nation. You’re welcome, America.