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Pittsburgh History

Once, the head of the Ohio River was the dominion of the Iroquois and home to numerous other tribes of Native Americans. The lush river valley was attractive to European settlers, and the French quickly attempted to claim the land for their own. In 1753, George Washington, then a major, was sent to thwart the French with a letter from the governor of Virginia. It didn't work out. Though the American colonists then attempted to build a fort at the Forks of the Ohio (present-day downtown Pittsburgh), the French demolished the effort, building their own Fort Duquesne instead. George Washington returned under the command of Colonel Joshua Fry, only to surrender following The Battle of Fort Necessity. These events were key in leading to the French and Indian (or Seven Years) War. Numerous attacks on the French Fort Duquesne followed, and it was eventually abandoned and destroyed after a campaign led by General John Forbes. Forbes ordered a new fort to be constructed in its place, and to name it after British Secretary of State William Pitt the Elder. Fort Pitt sheltered settlers during Pontiac's Rebellion, and its Block House, built in 1764 by Colonel Henry Bouquet, is believed to be the oldest still-standing building west of the Allegheny Mountains. It is around this fort that Pittsburgh developed. By early in the next century, Pittsburgh was growing into a capital of industry, producing high quantities of iron, brass, tin and glass products. Though a great fire hit the city in 1845, Pittsburghers rebuilt—a foreshadowing to the courage they showed after the fall of the steel mills in the 1980s. Steel production began around 1875 and the U.S. Steel Corporation was formed in 1901. By 1911, Pittsburgh was producing more than a third of the nation's steel, and eventually, the "Steel City" contributed 95 million tons of steel to the allied war effort during World War II. By this time, there was so much black smog in and around the city that in 1948, a wall of it invaded the town of Donora, Pennsylvania to the south. This unparalleled tragedy killed 20 and sickened over 7,000 people and raised the town's mortality rate for the next decade. Something had to be done, and it was, in The Renaissance, a project to clean the air and revitalize the population of Pittsburgh that was followed in 1977 by Renaissance II. It was during the 1970s that competition from foreign steel sources increased, and that, together with various declarations of air pollution emergencies, gradually eroded the steel industry. The recession in 1980-1981 slowed many of the American enterprises that needed steel, and massive layoffs resulted, all but wiping out Pittsburgh's economy. The city of Pittsburgh wisely refocused its efforts on its competitive educational institutions (particularly Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh), healthcare and technology. This strategy not only saved and stimulated the city over time, but allowed it to weather the storm of the recent recession. Property values have actually increased in Pittsburgh, and jobs have been added. Today, this savvy city serves as an inspiration to the rest of America. What better reason can you think of to visit any city?

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