Chronology‎ > ‎

1865 to 1929





Hell with the Lid Taken Off

Writer James Parton dubs Pittsburgh "Hell with the lid taken off" in the Atlantic Monthly. "Smoke, smoke, everywhere smoke!"


County Population hits 262,204

Population: Pittsburgh 86,076; Allegheny City, 51,180; Allegheny County, 262204.


Old Drury Closed

The Old Drury Theater closed its doors after 37 years of service on January 1


Grand Opera House opens

Grand Opera House on Fifth Avenue was completed.


Art Society of Pittsburgh forms

The Art Society of Pittsburgh founded. It presents recitals of Pittsburgh composers. asted for 70 years. It brought concert artsts to Pitsburgh through 1945 and sponsored the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.


Edgar Thompson Plant Constructed

Andrew Carnegie builds the Edgar Thompson steel mill with two Bessmer furnaces and open hearth furnances.


Desegration of Pittsburgh Schools

Pittsburgh public school are desegration but African American teachers are not permitted to teach until World War II.


Nevin writes "Good Night, Beloved"

Ethelbert Nevin publishes his first song "Good Night, Beloved" at age 13.


Railer Strikers burn down the house

In response to severve wage cuts railroad workers in Pittsburgh and other cities strike against the greedy railroad barons.  After the state militia kills 20 Pittsburgh strikers Pittsburghers fight back. In the ensuing battle fire destroyed 1,200 freight cars, 104 engines, and 39 railroad company buildings including the round house.  An a army of 2,600 federal and state troops put down the strike.


Phonograph Invented

Thomas Edison invents the phonograph in his New Jersey lab recording "Mary had a little lamb".  The early phonographs recorded on cyclinders were sold to businessmen, lawyers, court reporters, and others who used stenography.


County Population hits 355,869

Population:Pittsburgh 156,389; Allegheny City, 78,682; Allegheny County, 355,869.


Homestead Mill Opens

Homestead mill of the Pittsburgh Bessemer Steel Company went into operation along with the Westinghouse's Union Switch and Signal Company


Formation of the AFL

The American Federation of Labor (AFL) is formed at a convention in Pittsburgh.


Johnston Flood

The South Fork Dam, owned by Pittsburgh's wealthy industrialist, sending a torrent of 4.8 billions of water into Johnston.  Over 2,200 people are killed.  The millionaires owners of the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club, who failed to maintain the dam, got off scott free.  Andrew Carnegie built the town a new library.


Exhibition Music Hall is built

The grand Exhibition Music Hall is built at the Point becoming the sight for annual music festivals that are held until the financial panic of 1893. The city of Pittsburgh turns it into a garage and trashes the building.


Carnegie Library Opens

The Carnegie Library in Allegheny City, the first Carnegie free library, is opened to the public after being dedicated by President Benjamin Harris on February 13.  It offers free organ recitals.


Recorded music becomes popular

In the 1890s the public begins to purchase recorded music on cylindars.  The most popular recording artists are George H. Diamon, Pat Brady, and the John Philip Sousa Band.  African American artists begin recording in the 1890's including George W. Johnson singing his popular "Laughing Song", banjo player Louis Vasnier and the Unique Quartette.


Homestead Steel Strike

Henry Clay Frick successfully breaks the steel workers efforts to unionize with the help of 8,500 Pennsylvania National Guard troops. The town of Homestead welcomes the troops with three brass bands.  Carnegie slashes wages, imposes twelve-hour workdays, and eliminates 500 jobs.


Disc Gramophone Invented

Emile Berliner begins selling his cheap home gramophone player and seven-inch disc records made of hard rubber in New Jersey


Carnegie Music Hall Opens

Fredrick Archer performs at the opening of the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland with organ recitals on Nov 6th and 7th. 


Pittsburgh Symphomy Formed

Frederick Archer founds the Pittsburgh Symphony recruiting musicians from Boston to form the 50 member orchestra.  The PSO makes its first performance in February 1896.  They performed two concerts a week for 40 weeks in Pittsburgh.  Archer led the PSO on its first American concert tour in 1896 and conducted the 1897 season.


Victor Hebert Conducts the PSO

Popular composer Victor Herbert replaced Archer as music director to lead the PSO for six years until 1904.  Ticket sales soar.


County Population doubles to 775,058

Since the 1880 census the population of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County double due to the growth of manufacturing and waves of immigration.  Pittsburgh has 321,616 residents, Allegheny City, 129,896; and Allegheny County 775,058.


Caregnie Technical Institute is founded

Andrew Carngie provides funds to found the Carnegie Technical Institute that includes a school of music.


Victor Talking Machine Company Founded

Emile Berliner and Eldridge Johnson found the Victor Talking Machine Company to sell recorded music on platter technology.  It becomes one of the big three record companys along with Columbia and Edison in the 1900s.  By 1900 about 3 million records a year were selling in the U.S.


Mighty Lak A Rose

Ethelbert Nevin publishes the Tin Pan Alley Hit "Mighty Lak A Rose"


United States Steel is born

U.S. Steel is formed by J.P. Morgan with the merger of several companies including Carnegie Steel, National Tube, National Steel, and American Tin Plate. It was the largest corporation in the world and the first billion dollar company.


John Duss band takes New York

The Duss Concert Band from Economy opens their New York engagement with a concert at the Metropolitan Opera House on the evening of Sunday May 25, 1902.  The following evening they begin their 128 days of performances at the St. Nicholas Rink. 


Nixon Theatre Opens

Pittsburgh most opulant theatre opens.  After 47 years of hosting broadway productions it is torn down in 1950 to build the now empty Alcoa/Enterprise Building


Emil Paur leads PSO

German conductor Emil Paur becomes the PSO conductor and institutes a heavy German repertory.


First Movie Theater in America

The world's first Nickelodean movie theater is opened by Harry Davis & John Harris on Smithfield Street showing silent movies shorts accompanied by live piano music.


Victrola Gramophone on sale

The Victrola gramophone is marketed for the first time. Enrico Caruso, Louise Homer (from Pittsburgh), John McCormack and Billy Murray are the most popular recording artists.


Fate Marable brings Jazz upriver

Fate Marble brings his New Orleans Jazz Bands to Pittsburgh by riverboat introducing jazz to Pittsburgh


Louise Hormer stars in opera and on RCA

Louise Homer found critical acclaim for her performance as Orfeo in Toscanini's revival of Gluck's opera.  A top selling artist for the RCA Victor Talking Machine Company Louise becomes one of the first great classical recording artists from 1903 through 1929.


Pittsburgh Symphony Folds

Emil Paur refuses to hire American musicians.  Half the PSO musicians decline to renew their contracts. A stock market cash led to a drop in private donations and the Art Society pulls their financial support  Orchestra disbands.   During the next 16 years the Art Society books touring orchestra at Carnegie Hall.


Bloody Sunday

On Sunday Aug. 22, between 12 and 26 strikers and state troopers are killed in a gun battle in McKees Rocks during the Pressed Steel Car Strike..


Florence Wickham joins the Met

After starring in European opera houses Florence Wickham becomes a principal singer with the New York Metropolitan Opera


Pittsburgh becomes 6th Largest City in America

With its population of 553,905 Pittsburg becomes the 6th largest city in America.  Allegheny County reaches 1,018,463 in population.


First movie music composer

Joseph Breil writes music for the film Queen City becoming the first composer of movie music.  He becomes the "Father of Movie Music".


Charles Cadman writes "Trio in D Major"

Charles Wakefield Cadman writes the "Trio in D Major".  Hailed as the first American chamber work to use ragtime elements Cadman is a forerunner to Gershwin.


First Radio Broadcast of Music

Dr Frank Conrad broadcasts recorded music from his garage in Wilkensburg. 


First Jazz Recordings

The first known jazz recording is made for the Victor label are made in New York on February 26, 1917 by the Original Dixieland 'Jass' Band.  The single "Dixie Jass Band One Step" and "Livery Stable Blues" is released on May of 1917.


American Opera Firsts

Charles Wakefield Cadman's opera "The Robin Women" is the first America opera performed for two consecutive seasons at the Metropolitan Opera. It is also the firstt America opera with a libretto written by a woman: Nellie Richman Eberhart.


Million Dollar Grand Threatre Opens

Harry Davis Opens the Million Dollar Grand Theatre on Fifth Avenue (later named the Warner Theatre).  During the 1920s 25,000 to 30,000 people attend the entertainment venues of Pittsburgh daily.


KDKA Radio is born

KDKA becomes the first commercial radio station in the world.


Louis Deppe hires Earl Hines

Earl Hines is hired by baritone singer Lois B. Deppe to be his piano accompanist for a year long engagement at the Leider House (later known as the Crawford Grill).


Deppe & Hines on KDKA

Apearing on KDKA Louis Deppe and Earl Hines give the first performance on live radio by African Americans


First Symphony Broadcast

Appearing on KDKA the Little Symphony directed by Victor Saudek gives the first ever live broadcast of a symphony on a radio station


KQV and WCAE hit the airwaves

Radio stations KQV (King of the Quaker Valley) and WCAE go air followed by WJAS in 1922.


Earl Hines makes his first recordings

Louis Deppe and Earl Hines record several songs for the Gennett label including the Hines composition "Congaine".


Mary Lou Williams tours at 14

While on summer vacation from Westinghouse High School Mary Lou Williams is hired at age 14 to play piano for the traveling black vaudeville show “Hits And Bits”.


Return of the Pittsburgh Symphony

The PSO forms again resuming its concert series at Syria Mosque where it performs from 1926 until 1971.  Elians Breeskin conducts the PSO from 1926 through 1930.


Mary Lou Williams joins Andy Kirk's Band

Mary William’s joins Andy Kirk's Twelve Clouds of Joy touring as a pianist and as the chief arranger.  Billed as "The Lady Who Swings the Band" she was one of the rare female big band arranger/composers in the era.  She writes arrangements for a dozen other big bands.


First Boogie Woggie record

Pine Top Smith releases the first ever recording of a Boogie Woogie song..


Earl Hines records with Armstrong

Earl Hines records 18 songs with Louis Armstrong and the Hot Five creating one of the milestone recordings in jazz history. Hines brings the trumpet style of piano to prominence.


Earl Hines Orchestra Forms

At age 25 Earl Hines forms his own 28 member orchestra beginning a ten year engagement at the prestigious Grand Terrace Ballroom in Chicago.


Babe Russin joins Red Nichols

Sax player Babe Russin joins the seminal jazz band Red Nichols and The Five Pennies. Nichols’ band launched the careers of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, and many other stars. After his stint with Nichols Babe plays in the bands of Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey.


Stanley and Penn Theatres open

The 3,800 seat Stanley Theatre and the  2,676 seat Loews Penn Theatre open hosting vaudeville shows, big bands, and movies.