Summer Road Trip: Chicago and Pittsburgh

We head next to Chicago! While we enjoy the modern cosmopolitan sights, it’s fun to remember the lengthy history of the city as an agricultural and industrial hub. The Still Picture Branch collection of Army Signal Corps Photography (111-SC NAID 53707) includes some great images illustrating the Central Department Supply Depot in Chicago’s role in supplying and provisioning troops during World War I, and the city’s role as a point of embarkation:


(111-SC-64475: Central Department Supply Depot, Chicago, Ill. Fox Creamery Co., where butter is made; 111-SC-64461: Central Department Supply Depot, Chicago, Ill. Teaching enlisted personnel various commercial cuts of meat; 111-SC-46090: Colored troops going on board French S.S. Chicago. Bordeaux, Gironde, France)

In addition to provisions, Chicago supplies weaponry and equipment, including ordinance and cars. The photographs in the American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs (165-WW NAID 533461) of people at work are fascinating:

(165-WW-594A-2: Shells manufactured for Ordnance Dept.; 165-WW-593A-18: Routing and Milling Machine Department in the plant of United Manufacturing and Distributing Co., Chicago, Ill.)

And so are the photos of the equipment!

(165-WW-374B-18: Types of Ordnance. Projectiles for guns below 5″ High explosive Nose Fuel Shell French and English; 165-WW-198D-24: Standard military filed kitchen manufactured by Variety MFG. Co., Chicago, Ill.; 165-WW-303A-109: Type of carburetor manufactured by the Stomberg Motor Devices Co., Chicago, Ill.; 165-WW-312B-16: Type of paulin covering manufactured for army motor trucks by the George B. Carpenter & Co., Chicago, Ill.) 

Though we wish we could spend more time here, we’re excited to head to another of city with a fascinating industrial history – Pittsburgh, here we come!


In the heart of America’s rust belt lies Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The steel city, located at the junction the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers was once the center of America’s steel industry. Despite losing its industry in the 1980’s, Pittsburgh was able to transition its economy to one focused on cutting edge research. Because of this successful transition, the city has experienced a rebirth in the last several years making it the perfect small city for the final stop on our road trip.

At the height of Pittsburgh’s steel industry, it was not uncommon to go days without seeing the sun and sky. The rivers were polluted with heavy metal and the air was not entirely safe to breath. Much like the city’s economic resurgence, the environment has also made a comeback. Nowadays, the city’s sky is clear and its rivers cleaner allowing for visitors to take full advantage of its waterways and surrounding mountains. The below film, from NARA’s Ford Motor Company Collection, captures Pittsburgh in 1917 when the steel industry (and its pollution) was in full force. Through the smog, the film captures several popular attractions that can still be visited today.

At 00:16 a vehicular incline is shown riding passengers and a car down one of Pittsburgh’s many hillsides on a vehicular inclined plane. While this particular incline no longer exists in Pittsburgh (the city once had over 20), visitors can still ride up the Monongahela or Duquesne Incline to get a better view of the city.

Another attraction captured by Ford (at 01:28) is the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. The botanical garden, set in Schenley Park, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The gardens were founded by steel and real-estate magnate Henry Phipps Jr. in 1893 as a gift to the city of Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh’s numerous universities and colleges have no doubt contributed to the rebirth of the city. One of the largest schools, the University of Pittsburgh, was founded in 1787 and has grown into a distinguished university. With most of its campus situated in the city’s major cultural neighborhood of Oakland, it comes as no surprise that Pitt has an entire building dedicated to celebrating cultures from around the world. The Cathedral of Learning is the centerpiece of the University of Pittsburgh’s main campus and its most recognizable building. Built in 1926, the Cathedral of Learning holds classrooms, theaters, offices, and language labs. But what makes this building unique are the 31 Nationality Rooms on the first and third floors. The rooms are designed by members of Pittsburgh’s ethnic communities in the style of different nations and ethnic groups. The following film, Tower of Learning, from Record Group 306: Records of the U.S. Information Agency, explains the building’s significance and takes the viewer inside the rooms as they were displayed in 1961.

After our stop in Pittsburgh, we are catching ourselves using some of the city’s famous Pittsburghese. So, here it goes: Thanks for reading our post abaht Chicago and dahntahn PicksburgYinz better make sure yinz are all caught up on our summer road trip n’at.

You can read all of our trip posts here: Summer Road Trip