Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

EYEWITNESS: 1842 DICKENS FINDS PITTSBURGH FULL OF SMOKE AND FIRES Series: EYEWITNESS

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

EYEWITNESS: 1842 DICKENS FINDS PITTSBURGH FULL OF SMOKE AND FIRES Series: EYEWITNESS

Article excerpt

Charles Dickens was not impressed by Pittsburgh when he arrived here on the evening of March 28, 1842.

The British novelist and his wife Catherine, or "Kate," had needed only four days to travel from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh via canal boat and portage railroad as part of their tour of the United States.

The sight of "furnace fires" and the sound of "clanking hammers on the banks of the canal" alerted travelers that they were approaching the city. Dickens' visit was recalled in a 75th anniversary news story that appeared Aug. 27, 1917, in The Pittsburgh Gazette Times.

The canal boat carried its passengers across the Allegheny River in a covered aqueduct. Dickens described it as "a vast, low wooden chamber" in his 19th century version of an "instant" travel book called "American Notes." The non-fiction work was published within a few months after his return to England.

"We emerged upon that ugly confusion of backs of buildings and crazy galleries and stairs which always abuts on water . and were at Pittsburgh," Dickens wrote.

While the city was often compared to Britain's Birmingham, Dickens found the two had little in common except that Pittsburgh, like its English cousin, "had a great quantity of smoke hanging about it, and is famous for its iron works. …

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