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A Pittsburgh Century

1900
Spring
-- Barney Dreyfuss begins his 32-year reign as owner and president of the Pittsburgh Pirates. That same year, the team’s shortstop, Honus Wagner, right, wins the first National League batting title of his career. The future Hall of Famer would win seven more.

July 1 -- Grant Boulevard, later known as Bigelow Boulevard, conceived in 1891 by E.M. Bigelow as a "rapid transit" road to the east and carved out of the side of Bedford Hill, opens for traffic. Less than a year later, the first automobile accident in the city is reported.

Nov. 15 -- Andrew Carnegie declares his intention to provide $1 million to establish the Carnegie Technical Schools. Two years later, he gives the school an additional $6 million. The $7 million is the equivalent of $134 million in 1999 dollars. Ground is broken for the school’s first building, Industries Hall, in 1905. Today, the school is known as Carnegie Mellon University.

1901
January -- Just after New Year’s Day, 89 officials of the Carnegie Steel Co. gather to celebrate the founding of the country’s first billion-dollar corporation. Sparked by a meeting a month earlier between Carnegie President Charles M. Schwab and financier J.P. Morgan, the new company is capitalized in March at $1.4 billion, equal to $27 billion in today’s money. The principals envisioned that U.S. Steel would mine the iron ore and use its 800 plants to produce all the finished steel the country would need.

March 7 -- The "Ripper Act," which empowers the governor to remove corrupt mayors, becomes law. The city’s most noted political machine -- the Magee-Flinn ring -- ends when Mayor William J. Diehl is ousted later in the year by state action. The ring had dominated politics for two decades, enriching its members through favorable contracts and organizing the city’s growing immigrant population into potent voting blocks, similar to Tammany Hall in New York City and city bosses in Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia.

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When a vigorous-looking Teddy Roosevelt, center, came to Pittsburgh to speak to a convention of the Loyal Order of the Moose in 1917, he was 58, and just two years away from his death. The former president is shown here with local politicians, including Mayor Joseph G. Armstrong, tipping his hat at right, for whom the Armstrong Tunnels are named.
                  -- Post-Gazette Archives

Sept. 14 -- Vice President Theodore Roosevelt succeeds to the White House after the assassination of President William McKinley. At that time, the country’s 4,000 millionaires represent about 1/20,000th of the population, but possess 20 percent of the nation’s wealth. A number live in Pittsburgh, including Thomas Mellon, Andrew Mellon, Henry John Heinz, George Westinghouse, Henry Clay Frick, Charles Martin Hall, Henry Phipps and Charles M. Schwab.

1902
Immigrants flood Pittsburgh and other big cities looking for jobs and new lives. Between 1900 and 1910, 9 million people arrive in the U.S. from abroad. In Pittsburgh, they find employment in the city’s burgeoning steel industry.

1903
Pittsburgh is described by writer Lincoln Steffens as "Hell with the lid off." At times the city did seem on fire with so many smelters, coke ovens, coal yards, limestone dumps, and chemical and metallurgical facilities. In everything from production of steel ingots and pig iron to river and rail tonnage, Pittsburgh is a national leader.

Feb. 24 -- The state Legislature passes a "Greater Pittsburgh" bill permitting annexation of territory surrounding the city. Three years later, Pittsburgh annexes Allegheny and becomes a city of 521,000 people, the nation’s sixth largest.

Oct. 7 -- Two months before the Wright brothers make their historic flight, Samuel Pierpont Langley, former director of the Allegheny Observatory and now head of the Smithsonian Institution, tries to launch the first heavier than air craft capable of carrying a person on a sustained flight. It is catapulted from a houseboat in the Potomac River and plunges almost immediately into the water. On Dec. 17, Orville and Wilbur Wright become the first to build a plane that carries a man on a sustained free flight during their historic trial at Kitty Hawk, N.C.

Oct. 13 -- Baseball’s first modern World Series ends in front of 7,455 fans at Exposition Park when the Pirates lose 4-3 to the Boston Pilgrims, who became known the next year as the Red Sox. The Pirates, who had won their third consecutive pennant, lost the best-of-nine series five games to three.

1904
The term "Pittsburgh millionaire" is coined by Gerald W. Johnson to describe the "nouveau rich with low tastes and ostentatious habits," who amassed their wealth through their employment with Andrew Carnegie and the city’s other "Ironmasters." Alexander Peacock, the former sales manager of Carnegie Steel Co., installs four gold-plated pianos at "Rowanlea," his garish mansion on Highland Avenue. As Henry Adams observed, education counted for nothing, social position everything.

English philosopher Herbert Spencer says a month in Pittsburgh would justify anyone committing suicide. Many steel industry employees work 12-hour shifts, with as many as 70 percent of them working on Sundays. The lack of social institutions, coupled with filth in the city’s slums, impure milk and unfit housing, lead to periodic outbreaks of typhoid fever. Yet it would be three years before Pittsburgh’s water supply was filtered.

1905
June 19 -- The "Nickelodeon," the country’s first all-motion-picture house, opens on Smithfield Street. Poor but Honest and The Baffled Burglar play. The opening comes two years after The Great Train Robbery becomes one of the first commercially successful story films.

June 27 -- The Industrial Workers of the World forms in Chicago to dramatize the plight of "working stiffs," unskilled laborers of any national origin, sex, race or creed. Utilizing passive resistance and civil disobedience, the "Wobblies" are the forerunner of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, and eventually help reverse a half century of anti-union judicial decisions.

1906
January -- Upton Sinclair’s novel "The Jungle" is published and Congress later passes the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act. Across the country, muckrakers investigate and expose excesses in American life. The Russell Sage Foundation publishes a six-volume tome on life in Pittsburgh, excoriating the conditions of steelworkers and slum dwellers.

1907
March 15 -- Duquesne Way is under nine feet of water and River Avenue on the North Side is under 14 feet in a flood the crests at nearly 39 feet.

May 27 -- Rachel Carson, who would be a Chatham College alumnus and biologist, and author of the groundbreaking environmental book <I>Silent Spring,</I> is born in Springdale.

1908
October -- Western University of Pennsylvania is rechartered as the University of Pittsburgh. As part of the city’s sesquicentennial celebrations, the cornerstone for the first building at the university’s new Oakland location, the School of Mines, is dedicated by U.S. Vice-President Charles W. Fairbanks.

October -- Henry Ford produces the first Model T. It sells for $805 (about $13,700 in today’s money) and is an instant success. By the time it was phased out in 1927, nearly 15 million "tin lizzies" had been sold.

1909
To help Theodore Roosevelt’s progressive conservation effort preserve 148 million acres as national forests, Gifford Pinchot, a former forester, is made chief of the new U.S. Forest Service. He introduces the idea of "selective cutting" to perpetuate forests. Pinchot, a Connecticut native, later serves two terms as governor of Pennsylvania.

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On July 5, five days after Forbes Field officially opened, Independence Day is celebrated there with fireworks and a baseball doubleheader. The Pirates sweep both games from Cincinnati, and more than 41,000 fans watch.                  -- Post-Gazette Archives


June 30 -- Forbes Field, named for the head of the British forces in 1758, Gen. John Forbes, supplants Exposition Park. More than 30,000 people watch the Pirates lose the opening game there to the Chicago Cubs, 3-2. But the Pirates win 110 games during the season, capping it with a seventh game 8-0 whipping of Detroit in the World Series.

1910
Feb. 8 -- The Boy Scouts of America is formed, followed two years later by the Girl Guides, which eventually becomes the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.

March 10 -- The Pittsburgh Courier, which would become one of the nation’s leading black newspapers, publishes for the first time.

1911
Sen. George T. Oliver of Pittsburgh finally succeeds in returning the final "h" to the city’s name. In 1894, the U.S. Geographic Board of Names had listed the city as Pittsburg.

June -- The Pennsylvania Legislature sets Pittsburgh’s mayoral term at four years and abolishes the two-chamber council, which represented all 45 of the city’s wards. Instead, a single chamber of nine at-large members is formed. The action was prompted by A. Leo Weil and other prominent Pittsburghers, who earlier had organized the Voters’ Civic League, which presented evidence to a grand jury of corruption among more than 100 council members, bankers and businessmen.

1912
Oct. 19 -- Less than six months after being hailed as the world’s greatest athlete by winning the pentathlon and decathlon in the 1912 Olympics at Stockholm, Sac/Fox tribe member Jim Thorpe leads the Carlisle Indians football team over the Pitt Panthers 45-8.

The Gulf Oil Co. opens the first company-owned service station in the world on Baum Boulevard, and it becomes the forerunner of today’s ubiquitous stations. The original brick, pagoda-style station offered free air, water and restrooms, and a lighted sign touting "Good Gulf Gasoline."

1913
Jan. 20 -- A.C. Gilbert patents his Erector set, construction toys that encourage children to build, create and think about how things work. That is followed the next year by Tinkertoy, and by Lincoln Logs in 1916.

Dec. 23 -- President Woodrow Wilson signs the Federal Reserve Act "so that the banks may be the instruments, not the masters, of business and of individual enterprise and initiative." Nine months later, he creates the Federal Trade Commission, with power to investigate and prevent unfair competition.

1914
Jan. 7 -- The first ship passes through the Panama Canal. To open the canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, 215 million cubic yards of earth are excavated, enough to cover a city block 19 miles high. The passage saves a ship traveling between New York and San Francisco almost 8,000 miles.

Henry Ford in Detroit proclaims a minimum wage of $5 per day for his employees, horrifying the business world, which paid about half that amount. Not only did his action create a new class of consumer, it also signaled the beginning of the end of the abuse of labor in steel mills. Ford’s minimum would be $80 a day in today’s money.

1915
May 7 -- Six days out of New York, the British liner Lusitania is torpedoed without warning by a German U-boat. Among the 1,198 dead are 128 American citizens. The British deny the ship was carrying munitions; later investigations show it carried tons of explosives and arms.

1916
The growing conflict in Europe increases the demand for steel, leading all of Pittsburgh’s steel mills to operate 24 hours a day. The increased production of war materiel enables the European Allies to remain in the war until they rebuild their own industries in 1917.

1917
Nov. 3 -- Pvt. Thomas Enright of Pittsburgh, along with two other members of the American Expeditionary Forces’ 16th Infantry, 1st Division, in Europe, become the first Americans killed in action during World War I. Two million American soldiers fight in Europe during the war and more than 116,500 lose their lives. Enright is buried in Pittsburgh in an elaborate 1921 funeral.

1918
The worldwide influenza epidemic kills millions. In Pittsburgh, it begins at the Cantonment Hospital in Point Breeze, and ultimately affects more than 23,000 people in the city, killing 2,052.

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