History of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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The history of Pittsburgh began with centuries of Native American civilization in the modern Pittsburgh region. Eventually French and British explorers encountered the strategic juncture where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet to form the Ohio. The area became a battleground when France and Britain fought for control in the 1750s.

Following American independence in 1783, the village around Fort Pitt continued to grow. The region saw the short-lived Whiskey Rebellion, when farmers rebelled against federal taxes on whiskey. The War of 1812 cut off the supply of British goods, stimulating American manufacture. By 1815, Pittsburgh was producing large quantities of iron, brass, tin, and glass products. By the 1840s, Pittsburgh had grown to one of the largest cities west of the Allegheny Mountains. Production of steel began in 1875. By 1911, Pittsburgh was producing half the nation's steel. Pittsburgh was a Republican party stronghold until 1932. The soaring uneployment of the Great Depression, the New Deal relief programs and the rise of powerful labor unions in the 1930s turned the city into a liberal stronghold of the New Deal Coalition under powerful Democratic mayors. In World War II, it was the center of the "Arsenal of Democracy", producing munitions for the Allied war effort as prosperity returned.

Following World War II, Pittsburgh launched a clean air and civic revitalization project known as the "Renaissance." The industrial base continued to expand through the 1960s, but after 1970 foreign competition led to the collapse of the steel industry, with massive layoffs and mill closures. Top corporate headquarters moved out in the 1980s and in 2007 the city lost its status as a major transportation hub. The population of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area is holding steady at 2.4 million, and is 90% white. Despite the flourishing service, education, medicine, arts and high tech sectors, Pittsburgh still faces many problems, including poverty, crime and pollution.


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