Blue-Collar 'Burgh

Explore Pittsburgh's proud working-class culture and history.

Senator John Heinz History Center

Dravo workers take a break during construction of an LST (c. 1943)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Iron. Steel. Glass. Coal.

Pittsburgh’s legacy of mills, foundries, and mines gave this city an enduring reputation as a hard-working town. Photographs capture the grit, passion, and camaraderie forged by making a living here. These images transcend time. Proud faces say, “I built this place.”

Photographs also remind us that it took more than mill workers to keep Pittsburgh humming. Men and women of all ages and ethnicities played their part. They made bricks, drove buses, flew planes, blew glass, ran banks, and operated switchboards. Pittsburghers built roads, funded new ventures, and invented new products. From the Kosher butcher posing with his chicken to the mill workers dwarfed by the Mesta forging press, their collective portrait symbolizes this city built of hard work.

Women at H.J. Heinz Company shuck clams, 1950s, Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center
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Construction inside of the Liberty Tunnels, 1921, Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center
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Workers at Harbison and Walker making refractory brick, Hays Works, 1920s, Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center
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Kaufmann's Department Store (c. 1918)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

The Neighborhood Shops

The women's clothing department at Kaufmann's Department Store, 1918.

Saul Kronzek holds a butchered chicken outside his shop in Highland Park (1987)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Saul Kronzek

Saul Kronzek had reason to smile – so did his customers. For years they lined up waiting their turn at his beloved kosher butcher shop in Highland Park.

The oldest of six brothers, Saul fled with his family from Poland to the United States in 1927 to escape anti-Semitism. Though he studied to be a rabbi, Saul became a butcher’s apprentice in America, his personal goal taking second place to family.

This portrait follows the tradition of merchants photographed with what they made or sold. His butcher shop reminds us of all the small places where Pittsburghers once worked and shopped, building neighborhoods along with sales.

Phillip Silverman’s store on Fifth Avenue, 1880s, Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center
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Chantier’s grocery store, c. 1930, Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center
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John W. Taylor’s tobacco shop on Penn Avenue, Strip District, c. 1885, Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center
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Rubens Furniture Store on Fifth Avenue in McKeesport (1950s)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

McBride Sign Company

McBride Sign Company installs a new neon sign for Rubens Furniture Store on Fifth Avenue in McKeesport.

Interior of a South Side saloon (c. 1900)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

The Neighborhood Saloons

Saloons played a central role in Pittsburgh’s working class neighborhoods. They served as casual social clubs for millworkers, providing more appealing spaces than squalid living quarters. Some saloons supplied workers with hot meals for the price of a nickel beer.

Waiting in line for a beer at a Pittsburgh saloon (c. 1910)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Waiting in line for a beer at a Pittsburgh saloon, c. 1910

Note the boy standing in line at left holding a growler.

Zoglmann’s Saloon interior (c. 1910)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Zoglmann’s Saloon interior, c. 1910

This image of Zoglmann’s in the early 1900s shows all the hallmarks of a turn-of-the-century saloon: long bar, brass railing, ornate back bar, and hunting motifs.

Dan Rooney Café & Bar in the North Side, Pittsburgh (c. 1915)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Dan Rooney Café & Bar in the North Side, Pittsburgh, c. 1915

Many Pittsburghers worked in saloons. They were small business owners, families, new immigrants, and widows. Some lived above or alongside their business, catering to others who shared similar backgrounds—German, Polish, Slavic, or Irish.

Faces along the bar at Chiodo’s Tavern (c. 1970)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Faces along the bar at Chiodo’s Tavern, c. 1970

Although the saloon died with Prohibition, its descendant, the local mill bar, lasted as long as steel held sway over the culture of the region.


Open in Homestead for 58 years, this landmark establishment epitomized the classic “beer and a shot” Steel Valley bar.

Bill Green (1940s)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Bill Green, 1940s

Emma Haberland drives a forklift in the inspection department of Heinz (1984)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Work as a Passion

For some people, their work is their passion. Explore Pittsburghers' various professions and passions over the years.


Photo: Emma Haberland drives a forklift in the inspection department of Heinz, 1984.

The D.L. Clark Candy Company booth at the Allegheny County Fair (1957)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

D.L. Clark Candy Company

These smiling booth attendants, three of more than 500 local residents who worked for the D.L. Clark Company in the 1950s, would have been kept pretty busy since the Allegheny County Fair welcomed 750,000 visitors in 1957.  

With airplanes made of chewing gum boxes and citizens from many nations parading with candy bars, Clark got into the spirit of the event with a whimsical display that epitomized their slogan as the “World’s greatest five-cent candy bar.”


The company often distributed candy and gum at local events and was known for being one of the first candy makers to mix flavors such as peanut butter, chocolate, mint, and coconut. 

Women pilots gather for a portrait at Bettis Field, West Mifflin (1933)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Women pilots at Bettis Field, West Mifflin

Many pioneering women took to the air in the 1930s. Flying for the sheer love of it, they competed in derbies, broke speed and endurance records, and entertained crowds at fairs.

Who were these women? Sally Callahan was a “society girl” drawn by the freedom of flight. Rae Trader and her husband directed the Pittsburgh School of Aviation.


Helen Ball won air races and her husband Clifford held one of the earliest contracts for air mail service. Helen Richey strove to make flying her career. In 1934, she became the country’s first female commercial pilot.

Friends and customers hang out at the local shoe shine parlor, Hill District (1930s)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Shoe shine parlor












Friends and customers hang out at the local shoe shine parlor, Hill District, 1930.

Kaufmann’s switchboard operators work the phones (1950s)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Kaufmann’s switchboard operators work the phones, 1950s

Pittsburgh Public School Escort Madeline Bernard walks with Mark Johnson and Anita Bivans (1967)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Pittsburgh Public School Escort Madeline Bernard walks with Mark Johnson and Anita Bivans, 1967.

A driver greets passengers to a Port Authority Transit (PAT) bus (1970s)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

A driver greets passengers to a Port Authority Transit (PAT) bus, 1970s.

“This is a New Day”Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

“This is a New Day”

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