Pittsburgh: The Story of a City

By Leland D. Baldwin | Go to book overview

XVII "The Birmingham of America"

"TO THIS place is the attention directed of every one, who speaks of America and her prospects. To it the emigrant looks; and if he asks, which is the most flourishing town, or where he is the most likely to succeed, in almost any branch he may mention, 'Pittsburgh,' is the answer."

This statement, made by a British traveler in 1818 during the post-war depression when Pittsburgh was industrially at its lowest, speaks volumes for the optimism of the American and of the immigrant who came to these shores. Their confidence was more than justified. Pittsburgh began a phenomenal recovery soon after 1820, and so rapidly did her industries and shops multiply that it would be impossible in this short space to catalogue them, let alone describe their importance to the community and to the expanding West.

The most illuminating guide to Pittsburgh's growth is found in the population statistics and in the summaries of manufactures. In 1820 the city and its suburbs contained only about ten thousand people; in 1860 the metropolitan district boasted close to one hundred thirty thousand. In 1820 there were about eighteen hundred houses in the city; by 1860 they had increased to nearly ten thousand, exclusive of those in the suburbs. The

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