Forging Innovation

Catalyzing economic development in Pittsburgh through collaborative discussion and emergent thought.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Pittsburgh First!

I recently learned of a number of interesting Firsts that occured in Pittsburgh and the surrounding region. This is a great list of things to keep in mind when talking about Pittsburgh. It's a good reminder that Pittsburgh is really a world-class city - and that we can expect many more Firsts here in the years to come! It also means that all of you trying to achieve new Firsts are in very good company!

First Heart, Liver, Kidney Transplant - December 3, 1989 The first simultaneous heart, liver and kidney transplant was done at Presbyterian-University Hospital.

The First Internet Emoticon - 1980 The Smiley :-) was the first Internet emoticon, created in 1980 by Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist Scott Fahlman.

First Robotics Institute - 1979 The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University was established in 1979 to conduct basic and applied research in robotics technologies relevant to industrial and societal tasks. The college is still working on Robots ~~ in fact it is their robots used in the unmanned air crafts that fly over Iraq.

First Mr. Yuk Sticker - 1971 Mr. Yuk was created at the Poison Center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh after research indicated that the skull and crossbones previously used to identify poisons had little meaning to the children of today (for most children it means exciting things like pirates and adventure). Covering 27 counties and 33 percent of Pennsylvania's population, the Pittsburgh Poison Center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh is the largest such center in the United States.

First Big Mac - 1967 Created by Jim Delligatti at his Uniontown McDonald's, the Big Mac debuted and was test marketed in three other Pittsburgh-area McDonald's restauran ts in 1967. By 1968 it was a mainstay on McDonald's menus throughout the country and eventually, the world.

First Pull-Tab on Cans - 1962 The pull-tab was developed by Alcoa and was first used by Iron City Brewery in 1962. For many years, pull-tabs were only used in this area.

First Retractable Dome - September 1961 Pittsburgh's Civic Arena boasts the world's first auditorium with a retractable roof. (This is still being used although the Hockey team wants to tear it down and build a new building).

First U.S. Public Television Station - WQED - April 1, 1954 WQED, operated by the Metropolitan Pittsburgh Educational Station, was the first community-sponsored educational television station in America and was also the first to te lecast classes to elementary schools (1955).

First Polio Vaccine - March 26, 1953 The polio vaccine was developed by Dr. Jonas E. Salk, a 38-year-old University of Pittsburgh researcher and professor, and his staff at the University of Pittsburgh.

First All-Aluminum Building - ALCOA - August 1953 The first aluminum-faced skyscraper was the Alcoa Building, a 30-story, 410 foot structure with thin stamped aluminum panels forming the exterior walls. (This building is still being used today.)

First Zippo Li ghter - 1932 George G. Blaisdell invented the Zippo lighter in 1932 in Bradford, Pennsylvania. Although hardly a community "in the surrounding area," you can even find the name of the manufacturing location, either Bradford or Niagara Falls, Canada, stamped on the bottom of every Zippo lighter. The name Zippo was chosen by Blaisdell because he liked the sound of the word "zipper" - which was patented around the same time in nearby Meadville, PA.

First Bingo Game - early 1920's Hugh J. Ward first came up with the concept of bingo in Pittsburgh and began running the game at carnivals in the early 1920s, taking it nation-wide in 1924 . He secured a copyright on the game and wrote a book of Bingo rules in1933.

First U.S. Commercial Radio Station - KDKA - November 2, 1920 Dr. Frank Conrad, assistant chief engineer of Westinghouse Electric, first constructed a transmitter and installed it in a garage near his home in Wilkinsburg in 1916. The station was licensed as 8XK. (Now there's a real trivia question) At 6 p.m. on Nov. 2, 1920, 8KX became KDKA Radio and began broadcasting at 100 watts from a makeshift shack atop one of the Westinghouse manufacturing buildings in East Pittsburgh.

The First Gas Station - December, 1913 In 1913, the first automobile service station, built by Gulf Refining Company, opened in Pittsburgh at Baum Boulevard and St. Clair Street in East Liberty. It was designed by J. H. Giesey.

The First Baseball Stadium in the U.S. - 1909 In1909 the first baseball stadium, Forbes Field, was built in Pittsburgh, followed soon by similar stadiums in Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, and New York. Forbes Field closed in 1970 when Three Rivers Stadium opened. PNC Park is the newest replacement, accepted as perhaps the best ballpark in the country, which opened in 2001.

First Motion Picture Theater - 1905 The first theater in the world devoted to the exhibition of motion pictures was the "Nickelodeon," opened by Harry Davis on Smithfield Street in Pittsburgh.

First Banana Split - 1904 The banana split was invented by Dr. David Strickler, a pharmacist, at Strickler's Drug Store in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

The First World Series - 1903 The Boston Pilgrims defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates five games to three in baseball's first modern World Series in 1903. The Pirates lost the final game 4-3, before a crowd of 7,455 in Boston. Four of the series' games were played in Pittsburgh.

First Night World Series Game - 1971 Game 4 of the 1971 World Series was the first night game in Series history. Pittsburgh tied the series in that game with a 4-3 win and went on to win the series, 4 games to 3. This was one of the last big moments in the career of well-loved Pirate, Roberto Clemente. Fourteen and a half months after the 1971 World Series, he died in a plane crash off the coast of his native Puerto Rico as he attempted to take food, clothing and medical supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

First Ferris Wheel - 1892/1893 The first Ferris Wheel, invented by Pittsburgh native and civil engineer, George Washington Gale Ferris (1859-1896) was in operation at the World's Fair (Columbian Exposition) in Chicago. It was over 264 feet high and was capable of carrying more than 2,000 passengers at a time.

Long-Distance Electricity - 1885 Westinghouse Electric developed alternating current, allowing long-distance transmission of electricity for the first time.

First Air Brake - 1869 The first practical air brake for railroads was invented by George Westinghouse in the 1860s and patented in 1869. In the same year he organized the Westinghouse Air Brake Company. With additional automatic features incorporated into its design, the air brake became widely accepted, and the Railroad Safety Appliance Act of 1893 made air brakes compulsory on all American trains.

Not bad for a city known for it's FORMER SMOKE! If you know of some more Firsts, please post them!


  • At 7:23 AM, Anonymous Hugh said…

    First commercial nuclear power plant - 1957.

    First "green" convention center - 1993. At 1.5 million square feet, it is also the largest green building in the world.

  • At 9:18 AM, Blogger Hooman said…

    Wow, some of these are pretty amazing "firsts." Nice post, Ed.


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