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Prohibition’s Legacy in Pennsylvania

  This post has been adapted from an article featured in the Spring 2018 issue of Western Pennsylvania History. The Keystone State is known for having some of the strictest alcohol laws in the U.S. If Pennsylvanians want to purchase wine or liquor, they must do so at a state-run store. Beer must be purchased at…

Who’s the Tom Tucker on your Mint Ginger Ale?

  The current label of Tom Tucker Mint Ginger Ale, a staple of Western Pennsylvania pop drinkers. Courtesy of Brian Butko. Pittsburghers love quirky traditions, so when cruising the soda pop aisle in local stores, you’re bound to see green bottles of Tom Tucker Mint Ginger Ale squeezed between the major brands. The logo of…

Pretzels and Prohibition: The Tangled Fate of the “German Biscuit”

  “The Trap,” postcard, 1908. Pretzels and beer feature prominently in this image that portrays the negative views held by many people regarding patrons attracted to the saloon “free lunch.” Courtesy of a private collection. Some foods just go well with beer. Of all the bar treats linked to the rise and fall of the…

In Vino Veritas: The Tradition of Winemaking in the Italian American Home

  Mrs. Gallo, Lena Scalise, and Angelo Borelli process food to store for the winter, 1958. Courtesy of Elissa Scalise Powell. Like all immigrants, Italians brought their traditional methods of food production with them to their new homes in America. From canning garden-grown vegetables and curing meats to home brewing wine and spirits (think limoncello),…

Of Beer and Taxes: Prohibition’s Connection to the National Income Tax

  Income Tax Day, c. 1920. Citizens line up at an unidentified Revenue Office to pay their federal income taxes. Photo: National Photo Company. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. The topic of Prohibition conjures up visions of speakeasies, flappers, jazz, and hidden flasks. But what about income taxes? In addition…

At the Shirtwaist Ball

  This notice advertising the ball as “the Most Democratic Fete ever attempted in Pittsburgh” was quoted often in the event’s press coverage. Winifred Meek Morris Papers and Photographs, Detre Library & Archives at the History Center. Billed as “the Most Democratic Fete ever attempted in Pittsburgh,” the Equal Franchise Federation held its Suffrage Shirtwaist…

Will You Sign the Pledge?: Francis Murphy and Pittsburgh’s Great Temperance Movement

  It’s a January evening in Pittsburgh in 1877. Thirty churches across the city and surrounding suburbs are bursting with people. In some places, the crowds spill onto the streets outside. At the United Presbyterian Church, the aisles are as packed as the pews. Anticipation is in the air. A carriage pulls up outside, and…

Pittsburgh Gets a Tommy Gun, 1929

  Sometimes an object becomes so associated with a certain era that it eventually symbolizes larger issues that shaped part of American history. For the 1920s, one such object was the Thompson Submachine gun, or “Tommy” gun.  Nearly 90 years ago, the Tommy gun’s role as part of an event known as the St. Valentine’s…

Curator Q&A: Leslie Przybylek and American Spirits

Meet Leslie Przybylek, lead curator for the new American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition exhibition, on display beginning Saturday, Feb. 10. Leslie has been hard at work bringing this traveling exhibit from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia to the History Center, adding a local connection that brings to life Prohibition-era Pittsburgh. Read…

Consider the Can: Beer Can Appreciation Day

January 24 is National Beer Can Appreciation Day Looking for something to celebrate? How about singing the praises of National Beer Can Appreciation Day? Today is not just another generic “national day.” Jan. 24 is the very day that canned beer first hit the American market in 1935. “Rushing the Growler” postcard, c. 1910. This…