6 Things You Might Not Know About Pittsburgh: The Steel City

6 Things You Might Not Know About Pittsburgh: The Steel City

January 11, 2023

Pittsburgh is known as so much more than just the home of the Pittsburgh Condors or the Three Rivers Stadium – it's also known as the Steel City. With its roots in the industrial revolution, Pittsburgh thrives in the steel city electrical industry, which began in the 19th century and persisted into the 1970s. Pittsburgh played a crucial role in the American economy, and much of the American Revolution would not have been possible without the city's continuous growth and industrialization. Much of Pittsburgh's steel industry legacy can be seen in the local culture and is ingrained into the city's rich history. Whether you're crossing one of its hundreds of bridges or looking up to admire one of the numerous skyscrapers, it's always evident how prominent steel played in creating the city we see today.

A Deep Dive Into the History of the Steel City Brand

Pittsburgh may be one of the most influential cities in American history, as the city was responsible for producing many of the raw materials that pushed the American economy forward in the late 19th and early to mid-20th centuries. The Pittsburgh steel industry began when idea-man Andrew Carnegie opened the Edgar Thomson Works mills in 1875.

Before steel, Carnegie was involved in the iron-making business. However, this industry was not as booming as the city had hoped. There wasn't enough high-quality iron ore to provide a consistent supply of iron to locals, and there was no way of cheaply shipping it. So, when Carnegie discovered the Bessemer steel-making process (converting pig iron to steel in record time), he knew he needed to bring this method from England to Pittsburgh. Though this method was already introduced to the United States ten years earlier, Pittsburgh's access to hot-burning coal proved a remarkable asset during the city's steel industry's creation.

Thanks to Carnegie, Pittsburgh would quickly be able to transform itself into a steel-makers' paradise, pushing through the barrier of being geographically cut off from natural resources and trading routes. Pittsburgh soon became a beacon of growth and diversity, considerably due to the mass immigration of newcomers into the city due to the success of the steel mills. Steel was mass-produced relatively inexpensively, its highest volume of steel products topping 95 million during World War II. Carnegie basically wrote the Steel City book on creating a thriving city!

Sadly, the 1980s brought about the closures of most steel plants in the city. Most plants closed or outsourced their production to other cities during this economic downturn. By the end of the 80s, only two steel plants remained.

The city is now a popular hub for research and technology, with many large financial and technological industries calling Pittsburgh their home. Industry diversification has since allowed Pittsburgh to bounce back from the brink of economic ruin, but the heart of Pittsburgh remains in the cloudy black haze of its steel mills. Tourist locations and historical monuments often echo the steel industry's history. For example, Carrie Blast Furnaces are identified as a National Historic Landmark as a significant contributor to the steel used in the construction of The Empire State Building, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Hoover Dam. Curious minds are welcomed with open arms as they explore what remains of Pittsburgh's once-bustling steel industry.

6 Fun Facts About the Steel City

Pittsburgh Is Also Known as the City of Bridges

Pittsburgh Bridge

Pittsburgh is just as famous for its bridges as its steel production. With a wapping 446 bridges that span the Allegheny River to the north and the Monongahela River to the south, Pittsburgh certainly deserves the title of The City of Bridges! It has more bridges than any other city worldwide, including big bridge cities like Venice or Italy. Locals hold their bridges with such esteem since each bridge required a significant portion of steel to be built, which wouldn't have been possible without an already booming steel industry. These bridges help connect downtown to smaller communities, greatly benefiting locals and tourists who need to travel the city.

Nothing Beats Steel City Pizza


Move over, New York - Pittsburgh pizza is where it's at. Pizza is the city with the second highest pizzeria-per-capita rate in the country, and pizza is taken pretty seriously. Known for massive, thick crusts and ludicrous amounts of cheese, Pittsburgh brought authentic Italian-style pizza to the map and boasted an astounding amount of other pizza achievements. There's thick, crusted pizza covered with Turkish-inspired toppings and pizzas so big they don't even fit in the box. All in all, the Steel City supply of pizza is in no danger of running out anytime soon.

The Steelers Are Named After Pittsburgh’s Steel History

Once known as the Pirates, the Pittsburgh football team was renamed the Steelers when coach Art Rooney decided a new nickname would help the team get out of its floundering funk. Rooney didn't take this responsibility on himself; he put out a "name-the-team" advertisement in the paper and let the locals of Pittsburgh have a go at naming their football team. Rooney went with the Steelers, an homage to the city's roots in the steel mill industry. One man even received renewable season tickets for this name suggestion! How sweet is that? Also, the Steelers' logo stars aren't actually stars – they're hypocycloids.

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

One of the most beloved childhood shows of all time, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, was set in a small Pittsburgh neighborhood called Oakland. The studio in which the show was filmed has been named The Fred Rogers Studio, and Mr. Rogers' himself even lived in the Squirrel Hill area of Pittsburgh, calling the wonderful city his home. He attended the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Child Development, helping develop other children's shows for Pittsburgh audiences, like The Children's Corner.

After returning home to Pittsburgh from Canada and creating the show Mister Rogers, he would go on to create Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, which addressed a variety of serious topics related to children's emotional and physical well-being, such as death, divorce, siblings, and schooling. There's even a Mister Fred Rogers Memorial statue along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail to commemorate this remarkable man.

Pittsburgh Created the Big Mac

Big Mac

Jim Delligatti, an incredibly innovative McDonald's franchise owner, invented the much-adored Big Mac in the humble city of Pittsburgh. This mouthwatering delicacy contains two pure beef patties and Big Mac sauce and is usually topped with lettuce, onion, pickles, and a big slice of that good ol' American cheese. McDonald's didn't even mass produce the burger until Delligatti had already begun selling his new burger creation in 47 McDonald's restaurants. He also helped feed hungry and tired steelworkers on their way from their overnight shift. You can thank him for the result of McDonald's hotcakes and their famous sausage breakfast meal.

The City of Quirky Slang

YINZ Hoodie

Every city has some slang words, and Pittsburgh is no exception. Rather than saying "you all," "y'all," or even the ubiquitous "you guys," Pittsburgh locals mash all the sounds together to create "yinz." When Scottish-Irish immigrants began settling in Pittsburgh during the 1700s, they had a particular dialect of English that would continue to shape the way Pittsburgh locals currently speak, even until now. They would say "you ones," which was eventually shortened to "yinz." We'd say a bit of a leap, but the English language is ever-changing, and there's no sense in overthinking something as simple as "yinz." Not in this economy, at least!

Ketchup? Yes, Please!

Pittsburgh is the original home for everybody's favorite sweet tomatoey sauce. Henry Heinz invented Heinz's ketchup after he adapted it from the Chinese recipe for CatSup. Made from tomatoes, seasoning, and starch, Ketchup is now made in over 200 Heinz factories all over the country. Too bad Heinz and the inventor of the Big Mac couldn't get together to discuss food shops – they've done so much for the food industry! Imagine what these two Pittsburgh powerhouses could have invented had they had the opportunity to put their heads together. Summer barbecues might have become even better than they are now.

Check out these Steel City collectibles at Famous In Real Life and rep your Pittsburgh Pride. There's nothing better than supporting a city that's supported the American economy for many years, pushing through economic failures and deindustrialization to remain a city of advancement and achievement. Thank you, Pittsburgh, for all you've given us and the United States. We wouldn't have Ketchup, Big Macs, or Mister Rogers' without your impact – we owe you a big one!

Oh, and obviously, we have to give our favorite Pittsburgh team a little shout-out: Go Maulers!


Pittsburgh Collection



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