Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Contact Us
Site Map

The Carnegie Library Home Page
About the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Borrowing and Circulation
Library Catalogs
Electronic Resources
Research and Specialized Services
Events and Classes

South Side: The Busy South Side

No SECTION of Pittsburgh illustrates to better advantage the life peculiar to great American manufacturing center than that portion known as the South Side, and no part of the South Side is so typically characteristic as old Brownstone, or the district immediately surrounding Jones and Laughlins' American Iron Works. To most Pittsburghers it is only known to the extent of a glimpse of the high hills on the opposite side of the Monongahela. From this point of view it appears as a huddled mass of low-lying, soot begrimed mills and dwellings extending the length of a mile along the river bank and back to the top of the long hill beyond. Save on a clear Sunday and a few holidays, or in the time of industrial stagnation, the picture is not complete without a dense overhanging cloud of smoke, belched forth from hundreds of tall black stacks.


The place is even less attractive upon closer view to those who have known it only in recent years. Narrow, unclean streets cut the town in all directions, even across the hills and across the hollows. HimesHomes are built on all available spots. Little attempt at beauty is made, and even comfort is dispensed with very often. The direct purpose of every family seems to be to get as near to the mills as possible, for it is there the male population must spend most of its time. Nobody minds the smoke and soot, and screaming whistles and thunderous machinery become music in the ears of the toilers. The poverty of extravagance is more evident than the poverty of want. Excessive labor has brought carelessness of other things. The lives of the people are interlinked with the mills. The development of the one increases the develops the other.

To the uninitiated the great works is a vast entanglement of departments with unintelligible names, but to those who have been born and raised in the shadow of the mill-gate and watched their place of labor spread year by year over acres of land each department is unmistakably defined. The puddler, heater and roller are types almost as distinct as the lawyer and doctor. Customs, manners and address become affected by the every day toll and the lingo of the trade is part of the household vocabulary. Dates are reckoned from the time of the long strike, a memorable accident or the beginning of a new mill.

The town had also what most small towns has not, its village green, where

[original text ocurring at this point is incomplete. See microfilm copies of this issue for best surviving copy.]

from Grierson's, and loungers on the salt box eagerly scanned every passerby.

Mr Black was never mentioned without his title of mister. To have called him "old" Black, or even plain "Black" would have been to disregard one of the strictest rules of etiquet. A wag once immortalized himself by saying Mr Black was so thin that it would take four of him to make a shadow. Yet he was the opposite of Falstaff in more ways than one.

"Granny Williams" was another character closely identified with life in the neighborhood of Grierson's store. "Granny" had been 90 years old as far back as the oldest resident could remember. She lived in a two-roomed cottage close under the hill. A long, winding lane led to it from the pike, and a tall weeping willow overhanging the roof made it conspicuous. Among the boys "Granny's" name was mentioned in whispers. and it was a daring adventure to approach her secluded home. She was said to have been the daughter of an officer in the Revolutionary army, and to have lived there before the last Indean Indian disappeared into the wilderness. A bronze-eyed black cat was her sole companion. She was seldom known to leave the house. Several of the wealthy families in the neighborhood provided her with necessaries. On rare occasions, however, she found it necessary to travel as far as the city, and her excursions were of vast interest to the boys.

Mr Grierson was a chief benafactor of the old lady. It was his custom to call upon the nearest boy at hand to carry a supply of provisions to her. The errand eas not relished but fear of exile from the salt box was a compelling power. "Granny" was always on the defensive, and never answered a rap on the door wothout a poker in her hand. It required a stout heart to remain longer than the transfer of the basket. Imaginative young minds that had dipped into story books took her for an elderly fairy pointing out to lovers the road to Gretna Green. "Granny" died as she had lived, and wsa buried by her friends. The weeping willow is long since gone, the winding lane was woped out long ago, and to-day the little two-roomed cottage stands in somebody's back yard waiting to be torn down.

It is hard to believe that anybody ever knew Brownstown without knowing "Pat Hughes' place." Pat kept tavern on the pike at Williamsburg, about a mile above town. He was a tall, raw-boned, powerfully built man. In appearance he resembled a type of Western outlaw, but the comaprison would be far from correct as to his character. He was a [] by trade, but had followed the river for a number of years prior to the time he [] his "place." This tavern was very popular among coal diggers. Pay night at the mines never failed to bring a household of guests. It was said of Pat that he had the supreme gift of drawing whisky ot of one end of a barrel and brandy out of the other. In fact, there was never more than one barrel behind the bar, and all orders were filled out of it.