There was a time when I didn’t know much about the city of Pittsburgh. I assumed it was just a place, like anywhere else, and that few exceptional things had ever happened here. But as time passed and the city grew on me and started to make its charm known, I learned with surprise and delight that in fact, Pittsburgh has been the site of an unusually high number of “firsts”.
A lot of people know that Pittsburgh is currently a major player in the field of medicine. Biomedical technology is a major industry and The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is the city’s largest employer. But did you know that the first simultaneous heart, liver and kidney transplant was performed at Pittsburgh’s Presbyterian-University Hospital in 1989? And back in 1953, the Polio vaccine was developed here by Dr. Jonas Salk, a researcher and professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Both of these things were obviously major accomplishments, but they aren’t the only things Pittsburgh has given the world – not by any means.
The first pull tab was put on a can here in 1962 by Iron City Brewery. In fact, for many years pull tabs could only be found in the Pittsburgh region. Around 1892, a Pittsburgher invented the Ferris Wheel. The Banana Split, Zippo Lighter, and Big Mac all made their first appearances in and around Pittsburgh. The first bingo game was played here in the 1920s, the first U.S. commercial radio station appeared early in that same decade, and the first gas station opened its doors in 1913, right on Baum Boulevard. Forbes Field was the nation’s first baseball stadium. And in a move that is obviously near and dear to all of our hearts, the emoticon was born here in 1982 – the brain child of a Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist :)
The list of things that were invented or first occurred in Pittsburgh goes on and on. I have often wondered why this might be. Does Pittsburgh produce or attract a disproportionate number of creative people? Is there something about the environment here that encourages people to come up with novel ideas? Perhaps the city and people just have a pioneering spirit. Regardless, Pittsburgh is a good place to be because of its rich and interesting history but also because when the next big thing is invented here, the locals will all have a front row seat.