Pittsburgh Public Schools

The Pittsburgh Public School Records and Photographs contain a rich range of materials, including correspondence, photographs, reports, scrapbooks, minutes, curriculum materials, and business records documenting 90 schools in the Pittsburgh Public Schools District. Together, the records and photographs of the Pittsburgh Public Schools uniquely reflect the educational experiences of students and teachers as well as the administrative actions of the school district over time.

Among the collection’s strengths is the Curriculum and Instruction Division course descriptions and curriculum guides.  Nearly every class offered by Pittsburgh Public Schools is represented, including core classes such as English and Mathematics, as well elective courses such as Russian Languages, Aeronautics, Urban America, Bricklaying, Horticulture, and Ornamental Metal Working. In particular, the curriculum guides provide detailed information about various courses, including defined learning objectives, individual lesson plans, and course content. The evolution of education and instruction in the Pittsburgh Public Schools can be seen through these curriculum materials, which are housed in 62 boxes and span from 1927 to 1985. Additional records in this collection document individual schools and school district administration. This collection of Pittsburgh Public School Records is housed in 197 boxes.

Also noteworthy are the collection of approximately 5,000 photographs documenting the Pittsburgh Public Schools. The images in this collection depict numerous events, educational experiences, and extracurricular activities that feature students, teachers, parents and school district board members from 1880 to 1985. Also included are numerous photographs of school buildings. Chief among these images are classroom activities, educational programs, school building exteriors and interiors, Board and PTA meetings, athletic activities, posed class photographs, and vocational classes.  This collection of Pittsburgh Public School Photographs is housed in 33 boxes.

About Pittsburgh Public Schools

The Pittsburgh Public Schools began operating as an official institution in 1835 after the passage of the “Common School” Law of 1834 by the Pennsylvania Legislature. By 1838, there were 1,420 total students who were attending 12 different schools administered by 18 teachers. These schools consisted of five for young men, five for young women, one African American young men and women, and one school for infants. In 1855, the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education obtained control over the school system.  That same year, the city’s first public high school, Central High School, opened.

During the tenure of Superintendent George Lackey from 1868 to 1899, the Pittsburgh Public Schools organized the Pittsburgh Teachers’ Institute, began offering evening courses, opened the first kindergarten in Pittsburgh, received special service from the Carnegie Library, and offered special classes for the deaf. With a new school board established in 1911, the school district’s leadership began rapidly expanding in order to accommodate the city’s growing student population. Over the next 40 years, the school board would oversee 65 major building projects. Pittsburgh Public Schools currently serves approximately 25,000 students, making it the largest school district in Allegheny County and the second largest in the state of Pennsylvania.

For more detailed information on the history of the Pittsburgh Public Schools, please see the Historical Note of the Pittsburgh Public School Records Finding Aid.