Meet Andrew Carnegie: Welcome to Pittsburgh
When the Carnegies arrived in 1848, Pittsburgh was already a bustling industrial city. But the city had begun to pay an environmental price for its success. The downtown had been gutted by fire in 1845; already the newly constructed buildings were so blackened by soot that they were indistinguishable from older ones. Industrial waste fouled the
The Carnegies lived in a neighborhood alternately called Barefoot Square and Slab town. Their home on Rebecca Street was a flimsy, dark frame house-a far cry from their cozy stone cottage in Scotland. As soon as he could afford it, Carnegie would move his family to the suburbs, away from Pittsburgh's tainted air.
"Any accurate description of Pittsburgh at that time would be set down as a piece of the grossest exaggeration," Carnegie wrote, setting aside his usually optimistic tone. "The smoke permeated and penetrated everything.... If you washed your face and hands they were as dirty as ever in an hour. The soot gathered in the hair and irritated the skin, and for a time ... life was more or less miserable."
Often described as "hell with the lid off," Pittsburgh by the turn of the century was recognized as the center of the new industrial world. A British economist described its conditions: "Grime and squalor unspeakable, unlimited hours of work, ferocious contests between labor and capital, the fiercest commercial scrambling for money literally sweated out of the people, the utter absorption by high and low of every faculty in getting and grabbing, total indifference to all other ideals and aspirations."
But if Pittsburgh had become a focus of unrestrained capitalism, it also drove the American economy. And to the men who ran them, the city's industries meant not just dirty air and water, but progress. Pittsburgh's furnaces symbolized a world roaring toward the future, spurred onward by American ingenuity and omnipotent technology.
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