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Pittsburgh World Firsts: By Date


1778
Hospital, Federal
Hand Hospital opened. This was the first federal hospital built in America, and, for 64 years was the only medical institution west of the Alleghenies. (While the city's first real hospital, Hand was not a general hospital.)
Source: Pittsburgh's Fortresses of Health, (r362.1P6744).

1811 -- October 20
Steamboat: "New Orleans"
The "New Orleans," the first steamboat to navigate the Western waters, sailed for New Orleans. Didn't arrive at New Orleans until 10 January 1812. Began regular trips between Natchez and New Orleans on 23 January 1812. Launched 17 March 18ll.
Sources: The Pittsburgh Press, 15 October 1961;
The Pittsburgh Press, 29 June 1930.

1845 -- May
Bridge, Wire Cable Suspension
Marked the opening date of the first wire cable suspension aqueduct bridge in the world. Built by John Augustus Roebling, it spanned the Allegheny River at 11th Street. It had 7 spans of 160 feet each, consisting of a wooden trunk to hold water and supported by a continuous wire cable on each side 7 inches in diameter.
Source: Bridges of Pittsburgh, (qr917.4886 W63).

circa 1850s
Petroleum Refining
Samuel Kier experimented with the first known distilling process for petroleum. On Seventh Avenue, just East of the old Pennsylvania Canal near Grant Street, Kier established (1853 or 1854) the first successful petroleum refinery in the Western hemisphere.
Sources: The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, v. 42, p. 356;
Pennsylvania Internal Affairs Bulletin, June 1965.

1863 -- April 14
Printing Press: Continuous Roll
This marked the date the patent was granted for the first printing press to use a continuous web or roll of paper. This was the Bullock Press, produced by William Bullock of Pittsburgh in 1865. It was the first machine built especially for curved stereotype plates. It printed both sides of the sheet and cut it either before or after printings (U. S. patent #38,200.)
Source: Famous First Facts, 483.

1869 -- April
Industries: Air Brake
In the first practical demonstration, an air brake train made a trip from Union Station in Pittsburgh to Steubenville.
Source: George Westinghouse, (r92 W568g), p. 73.

1881 -- June 1
Holiday, Saturday
First Saturday half holiday was inaugurated in U. S. by George Westinghouse, the inventor, who established the custom in his factory.
Source: A Life of George Westinghouse, (r92 W568p), p. 294-295.

1881 -- November 15-18
Unions, Labor: American Federation of Labor
The American Federation of Labor (A. F. of L.) held its first national convention at Pittsburgh.
Source: Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, v. 6.

1888 -- November
Industries: Aluminum
World's first production of commercial aluminum. Aluminum was produced in commercial quantities on this date by the Pittsburgh Reduction Company (which later developed into the Aluminum Company of America). It was based upon the invention of Charles Martin Hall (patented 2 April 1889).
Sources: Greater Pittsburgh, November 1948, p. 21.
The Pittsburgh Press, 5 October 1948.

1889 -- March 30
Library, Carnegie: Braddock
The Carnegie Library of Braddock, the first Carnegie Library in America, was dedicated. This was an endowed library. Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny was the first library given under the Carnegie formula, that is, Andrew Carnegie gave the building on the condition that the city maintain the library.
Source: The Pittsburgh Press, 31 March 1989.

1890 -- February 13
Library, Carnegie: Allegheny
The Carnegie Library in Allegheny City, the first library given under the Carnegie formula, was opened to the public after being dedicated by President Benjamin Harrison. (Under the Carnegie formula, although Andrew Carnegie gave the building, the city had to agree to maintain the library. Design by Smithmeyer and Pelz, the Washington architectural firm that designed the Library of Congress.
Sources: Typo-graphic, January 1968;
Files of the Pennsylvania Department.

1892/1893
Ferris Wheel: George W. Ferris
The first Ferris Wheel was in operation at the World's Fair (Columbian Exposition) in Chicago. 264 feet high, more than 2,000 passengers at a load, it was invented by civil engineer, George Washington Gale Ferris (1859-1896), a native of Pittsburgh (204 Arch Street, North Side).
Sources: The Pittsburgh Press, 1 August 1954, p. 5;
The Pittsburgh Press, 19 April 1959;
Guide to the State Historical Markers of Pennsylvania, 1991, p. 130.

1903 -- October 13
Sports: Baseball: World Series
The first of baseball's modern World Series ended before 7,455 persons at Boston. The Pittsburgh Pirates were defeated by Boston 4 - 3 and lost the Series 3 games to five. Games played in Pittsburgh on October 6, 7, 8 and 10.
Sources: Pittsburgh Gazette, 14 October 1903;
Official World Series Records from 1903-1975.

1904
Banana Split: Latrobe
The banana split was invented by Dr. David Strickler, a pharmacist, at Strickler's Drug Store in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
Sources: The Pittsburgh Press, 5 September 1986, p. B1;
Undercover Club Newsletter, August 1993, p. 4.

1904 -- March 12
Carnegie Hero Fund Commission
This date marks the establishment of the Hero Fund, for it was then that Andrew Carnegie transferred 5 million dollars in first collateral 5 percent bonds of the U. S. Steel Corporation. The by-laws were adopted 20 May 1904 in Pittsburgh. The first award was a bronze medal which was presented to Louis A. Bauman, Jr., 17, a laborer, who saved Charles Stevick, 16, also a laborer, from drowning (near Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania).
Source: Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, 27 February 1954.

1905 -- June 19
Motion Picture Theater
The first theater in the world devoted exclusively to the exhibition of motion pictures was the "Nickelodeon," which was opened by Harry Davis in an empty store at 433-435 Smithfield Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It had 96 seats taken from Davis' theaters. Among the first films were "Poor But Honest" and "The Baffled Burglar."
Source: Allegheny County: A Sesquicentennial Review, (r974.885 K17).

1913 -- December 1
Gas Station: Gulf
Built by Gulf Refining Company at Baum Boulevard and St. Clair Street in East Liberty. It was designed by J. H. Giesey.
Sources: Gulf Oil Corporation;
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 16 September 1980, p. 17.

1914 -- Spring
Map, Road
The first road map distributed by an oil company was a 1914 map of Allegheny County by Gulf Oil Corporation. 10,000 distributed to registered automobile owners at the suggestion of William Akin, an advertising man who prepared it.
Source: "Mileposts of Map Progress" by Bert O. Meadowcroft in Gulf Oil's Orange Disc.

1919 -- October 17
Radio Broadcast: Phonograph Records
Broadcast of phonograph records on a regular schedule was begun by Frank Conrad from a brick garage in the rear of his house at 7750 Penn Avenue. (Licensed July 1916; canceled during World War I.)
Source: A Traveler's Guide to Historic Western Pennsylvania, p. 70.

circa1920s
Bingo
"Originated in Pittsburgh by Hugh J. Ward. Mr. Ward began running the game at carnivals in the early 1920s and took it nationwide in 1924. He secured a copyright on the game and wrote a book of Bingo rules in 1933.
Source: Undercover Club Newsletter, August 1993, p. 4.

1920 -- November 2
Radio Broadcast, Commercial: KDKA
"The world's first broadcast by a commercially licensed radio station was the Harding-Cox presidential election returns of November 2, 1920, on KDKA Radio, Pittsburgh. Thus, KDKA is the world's first commercial radio station.
Sources: Undercover Club Newsletter, August 1993, p. 4;
A Traveler's Guide to Historic Western Pennsylvania, p. 71.

1921 -- January 2
Radio Broadcast: Church Service
The first church service broadcast in the world originated in the Calvary Protestant Episcopal Church (315 Shady Avenue, Pittsburgh) and was transmitted through the facilities of KDKA Radio.
Source: A Traveler's Guide to Historic Western Pennsylvania, p. 69.

1926 -- September 21
University Skyscraper: Cathedral of Learning
Ground was broken for the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning, the first university skyscraper.
Source: Pittsburgh Gazette Times, 22 September 1926.

1948 -- October 27
Air Pollution Disaster: Donora
Donora, Pennsylvania, was the first recorded air pollution disaster in the United States.
Source: Morning Herald Evening Standard, 16 April 1970.

1953 -- March 26
Polio Vaccine
Dr. Jonas E. Salk, a 38-year-old University of Pittsburgh researcher and professor, reported success of a new polio vaccine tried on human beings; the vaccine was developed by him and his staff at Pitt.
Source: The Pittsburgh Press, 12 April 1955.

1953 -- August 1
Aluminum-Faced Building: Alcoa
First aluminum-faced skyscraper was the Alcoa Building, a 30-story, 410 foot structure. Exterior walls were thin stamped aluminum panels.
Note: Company had previously built a 4 1/2-story administration building at Davenport, Iowa (1948).
Source: Aluminum Company of America, "Aluminum on the Skyline."

1954 -- January 21
Submarine, Atomic: Engine
The U.S.S. Nautilus, the first atomic submarine, which was powered by an engine built by Westinghouse Electric Corporation, was launched at Groton, Connecticut.
Source: Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, 20 January 1954.

1954 -- April 1
Television Station, Educational
WQED, operated by the Metropolitan Pittsburgh Educational Station, went on the air. First community-sponsored educational television station in America. In 1955 it was the first to telecast classes to elementary schools.
Sources: WQED;
Guide to the State Historical Markers of Pennsylvania, 1991, p. 129;
Pennsylvania Department files.

1957 -- December
Atomic-Powered Electric Plant: Shippingport
The world's first full-scale atomic-powered plant for production of electricity was opened at Shippingport, Pennsylvania, for the Duquesne Light Company.
Source: Popular Science Monthly, August 1958.

1958 -- July 16
Television Stations, Educational: Two
Pittsburgh was the first city to have two educational TV channels, when a second channel, WQEX, was granted.
Source: WQED-WQEX Public Relations Department.

1961 -- September 18
Roof, Retractable: Civic Arena
Pittsburgh's Civic Arena is the world's first auditorium with a retractable roof. At the time, it was the world's largest opening and closing roof--three times the size of St. Peter's dome, the Vatican.
Source: Greater Pittsburgh, September 1961.

1962
Pull-Tab on Cans
Alcoa developed the pull-tab and Iron City Brewery was the first cannery to market it (1962); the first in the world to do so, for a long time, pull-tabs were used only in this area.
Sources: Iron City Brewery, 8 March 1995;
Pennsylvania Department files: Pittsburgh. Industries. Brewing.

1967
Big Mac: Uniontown
Created by M. J. "Jim" Delligatti at his Uniontown, Fayette County, McDonald's. Thereafter introduced "to three of his other McDonald's in Pittsburgh. After test marketing, the item began appearing on every McDonald's menu nationwide by 1968."
Source: The Tribune-Review, 5 May 1993, p. B1.

1969 -- November 28
Telephone: International Communications Center
Pittsburgh became the first inland center for overseas telephone calls.
Source: The Pittsburgh Press, 28 November 1969.

1970 -- April 16-18
Sky Ballet
Otto Piene introduces sky ballet with balloons in downtown Pittsburgh.
Source: Pennsylvania Department files.

1970 -- June 30
Picturephone
At 9:40 a.m. Mayor Peter Flaherty made world's fist regular service Picturephone call to John D. Harper of Alcoa.
Source: The Pittsburgh Press, 30 June 1970, p. 2.

1989 -- December 3
Transplants
First heart, liver and kidney transplant done in simultaneous operations at Presbyterian-University Hospital.
Source: The Pittsburgh Press 4 December 1989, p. A1.

1990
African-Americans: Derrick Bell
Derrick Bell, first African-American professor at Harvard University to receive tenure. Bell is a Pittsburgh native from the Hill District.
Source: New Pittsburgh Courier, 2 May 1990.