Pittsburgh: The Story of a City

By Leland D. Baldwin | Go to book overview
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XV From Turnpike to Railroad

THE decade that followed the War of 1812 was one of hardship and humiliation for the proud "Gateway to the West." The slump that came as the result of the cessation of the wartime demand for manufactured products and the dumping of British goods could be counteracted by time and the tariff, but the looming threats to Pittsburgh's supremacy as an entrepôt were more serious.

The first blow to Pittsburgh's commercial prestige was the decision of Congress to make Wheeling rather than Pittsburgh the point at which the National Road should cross the Ohio-- thus, it was argued, affording access to the river at a point below which the water was never too shallow to be navigable. The Pittsburghers, the while they in turn berated and supplicated the legislators at Harrisburg and the merchants of Philadelphia for succor, whistled nonchalantly before their rivals of Wheeling. "The worthy citizens of that little borough," wrote the editor of the Gazette, "are actually doing nothing but walking about on stilts and stroking their chins with the utmost self complacency. . . . 'Poor Pittsburgh,' they exclaim, 'Your day is over, the sceptre of influence and wealth is to travel to us.'" Editor Scull's stiff upper lip was in danger of collapse even


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