168 Pittsburgh, PA: Brands

[Mount Washington funicular]

During Pittsburgh's industrial heyday, the influx of immigrants created a serious housing shortage. They came to work the factories that filled the flatlands along the rivers, but they had to live close enough to walk to work because public transit didn't exist. Only the steep surrounding hillsides remained, and the vertical isolation may partly explain why the neighborhoods are isolated.

On the north side of town, across the Allegheny River, in the Manchester and Mexican War Streets neighborhoods, stood steep narrow townhomes and big old Victorian Mansions like Hopper painted. The areas attracted residents escaping the dense inner-city in the late 1800s, who took the streetcar downtown. Here also resided a museum dedicated to the city's most famous son: Andy Warhol. Though the consensus seems to be that no one leaves Pittsburgh, Warhol did. His brother, however, still runs an auto body business here. [Paul Warhola Scrap Metal] I guess they both ended up artisans.

Growing up in an industrial city like Pittsburgh might explain Warhol's industrial approach to art. He mass-produced everything, and used brand names as subjects. One of his "sculptures" reproduced a Heinz tomato ketchup box. The piece was donated by Mrs. Henry J. Heinz II of the local ketchup empire, whose factory sign Warhol would have grown up seeing.

Pittsburgh was rife with other pop culture icons, too. The first Nickelodeon opened here in 1905, which may be why eventual producer David O. Selznick started by opening a Nickelodeon in Pittsburgh. (Later, George A. Romero shot Night of the Living Dead! here.) Pittsburgh was also home to the world's first gas station, opened in 1913, the same year Hopper's painting Sailing sold.

Painter Mary Cassatt came from a well-to-do Pittsburgh family. Hopper wrote in a letter about his Paris days: "As for Mary Cassatt, I did not know her in Paris, although it is possible our times overlapped slightly. After all, why should I know her? I was only an unknown American art student at that time." You can almost hear his resentment at his talent being unrecognized. He also never visited the Paris salon of Gertrude Stein, who was born on Pittsburgh's North Side.

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