Thursday, July 07, 2016

How many bicentennials does one city deserve?

Lest we forget, this isn’t the city of Pittsburgh’s first ‘bicentennial.’ The curious thing about the City of Pittsburgh’s bicentennial this week is that is not the city’s first bicentennial celebration.  In fact it isn’t even the 2nd.   

The biggest celebration the city ever held was in 1958. The first bicentennial celebrating the nominal founding of Pittsburgh as a place on the English colonial map and an outpost for the Ohio Company by Royal Charter as Virginian gentry looked to extend their interests. Really it was the de facto  founding of Upper Yohogania as Virginia would name the land underneath us later on.It would be decades before the best cartographers and lawyers of the era settled a lingering debate whether the forks of the Ohio rested within the boundaries of Virginia or Pennsylvania.

Take a look at how big that celebration was in 1958.  One small project commissioned for the 1958 Bicentennial was the first edition of Stefan Lorant’s opus: Pittsburgh: The Story of An American City. That book would not be finished for 7 years in the end, but it was initially commissioned for the bicentennial celebration and went on to 4 more editions subsequently. More than that, Pittsburgh Bicentennial Coins were minted, and check out this great montage of Pittsburgh Bicentennial advertisements via There was even a dedicated Bicentennial office set up years prior to the event to manage it all.

1958 was a period of immense change across the city, far more than today no matter how you slice it.  Take a look at this Pittsburgh Bicentennial Redevelopment Map (below) also produced for the celebration. Look at all we now think of what defines modern Pittsburgh (some good and some bad) that was in construction, or even just in planning, at the time.

Then there was the 2nd Bicentennial..  In 1994  a 'little known bicentennial for the city' was pushed as a reason to celebrate again. The nominal excuse was the anniversary of when Pittsburgh was formally incorporated as a Borough.  Ok, then.  The city tried to make a big deal of it but even back then editorials were opining that there was No Point in Celebrating the Bicentennial Again. Still it sparked a yearlong celebration of sorts.

So here we are, again celebrating a bicentennial of sorts. This third bicentennial now celebrates the conversion of the tiny Borough in to a newly defined city of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I am sort of surprised we didn't make a bigger deal of Pittsburgh's first sestercentennial which ought to have been in 2008.  We could be doing this every few years if you get just a little more creative. 


Blogger tonycpsu said...

I am sort of surprised we didn't make a bigger deal of Pittsburgh's first sestercentennial which ought to have been in 2008.

It was kind of a big deal, actually.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016 12:11:00 AM  
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Monday, August 08, 2016 10:24:00 PM  
Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Monday, August 15, 2016 5:50:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

what's funny is I even wrote about it.. but forgot

Wednesday, September 14, 2016 10:01:00 PM  

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