When I was growing up, Pittsburgh was referred to as the “three shirt a day” town due to the haze and smoke created by this industrial powerhouse. But starting in the 1970s, the city began a renaissance into a medical and educational mecca known for its clean air, riverscapes and diverse ethnic neighborhoods. In recent decades, Pittsburgh has ranked high on the Most Livable Cities in America list, and the pulse of vibrant cultural, corporate and artistic activity has replaced the hum and grime of industry.
The area, however, very much appreciates the layers of colonial and industrial history that made Pittsburgh great, and we are going to get a wonderful sampling of that during the EAIA Annual Meeting.
Our meeting will begin on Wednesday, May 28, at our headquarters at the Pittsburgh Airport Sheraton, which will be newly refurbished shortly before our visit. The room rate will be $99 a night. If you plan to fly in, take advantage of the free shuttle service offered by the hotel. We’ll get things started by saying hello as we tailgate in the hotel parking lot from 1 – 5 p.m. Meanwhile, registration will be take place in the hotel lobby from 1 – 7 p.m.
We will meet again in the morning at our buffet breakfast from 7 – 8:30 a.m. and get ready for our first day of activities. We’ll carpool to Old Economy, the Pennsylvania and Historical Museum Commission’s acclaimed restoration of a 19th century Utopian community about 9 miles and 20 minutes from our hotel. www.oldeconomyvillage.org
Old Economy staff will greet us and give us an overview of the Harmony Society, a Christian commune created by the followers of George Rapp in the 1820s on the banks of the Ohio River. His followers, or “Rappites” grew grapes for wine, started a successful silk industry, ran woolen and cotton mills and made their own unique furniture to fund their venture. In fact, the commune was so successful, President Zachary Taylor visited the Harmony Society to learn more about their business and agricultural practices.
During our visit, we’ll divide into groups to hear special presentations for EAIA:
While you aren’t in a special presentation, there will be plenty of time to wander the restored site. You’ll admire the Germanically inspired early-19th century architecture of Old Economy. The large Feast Hall is a particular marvel, and the Rappites “Natural History Museum” of native animals and plants will amuse and educate. Old Economy’s staff also tells me that many flowers will be blooming in the site’s beautiful gardens.
In the afternoon, you’ll have the option to travel 30 minutes down the Ohio River to Darlington and visit the McCarl Industrial and Agricultural Museum of Beaver County, a property of the Beaver County Historical Society. www.bchistory.org. This new museum, founded in 2007 preserves tools and equipment made in the region between 1900 and 1980.
The museum houses a massive 1903 Champion Horizontal Engine, an operating Corliss Steam Engine and several other large engines in addition to dozens of horse-drawn agricultural items and equipment.
After a full day of exploring, head back to the hotel to rest up and have dinner. We’ll meet again and extend a warm welcome to newcomers at the “First Time Attendees” session and then head over to the famous “Whatsit’s Session.” Every year, someone brings a tool that stumps the audience. Will this be the year you bring one?
Friday, May 30, we’ll meet again for breakfast and announcements. After breakfast, we’ll get into busses to travel 20 minutes to downtown Pittsburgh and the Fort Pitt museum, located in beautiful Point State Park—so named for its location at the very point where the Ohio River is formed by the meeting of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers.
Native Americans, the French and the English fought over the strategic point, desperate to control access to the interior via the Ohio River. The English built Fort Pitt, named for Prime Minister William Pitt, Pittsburgh’s namesake, between 1759 and 1761. Over the past few years, a new museum staff has updated the museum and its exhibits into a showcase of the importance of the Pittsburgh area and the “Ohio Country” during the Colonial Era.
During our visit to the Fort Pitt Museum, we’ll divide groups to:
After our enjoyable morning, we’ll get back on the busses for a short drive across town to the Heinz History Center. This award-winning museum, housed in a former ice warehouse, focuses on the region’s rich iron, steel and glassmaking heritage, and has incredible displays on those industries.
We’ll get a chance to examine the museum’s special visiting exhibit: “Treasures from the Steamboat Arabia.” Those of you who attended the Kansas City meeting will remember our visit to that amazing Arabia museum and will get another chance to examine the incredibly well-preserved tools, textiles and everyday items excavated from a fully-loaded supply steamboat that sank in the Missouri River before the Civil War. Those of you seeing the artifacts for the first time—you are in for a treat!
Of special interest to many of us in EAIA, the Heinz holds the Charles W. Prine Collection of Hand Planes, a fascinating collection of wooden planes made in the Early Federal Period in the Western Pennsylvania region. Like me, many of you may own Prine’s book, “Planemakers of Western Pennsylvania and Environs,” and I am delighted to tell you Mr. Prine, an EAIA member, will meet us at the exhibit to discuss his collection and to sign his book. So if you own it, bring it to get signed. If you don’t, you’ll be able to purchase them there!
We’ll head back to the hotel in plenty of time to for dinner and to peruse the offerings for the Great Planes Trading Company auction. Mike Urness, owner of Great Planes, tells me he has been stockpiling some fantastic tools for the auction. If anyone would like to donate an item for the auction and have the proceeds benefit EAIA, contact Mike at 314.497.7884 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday morning. May 31, we’ll begin the day after breakfast with the tool sale and trading show, and of course, the fantastic exhibits of amazing items from your collections. I’m amazed every year by the rare and unique artifacts that are displayed. Just another reminder of the importance of our organization in protecting our craft and industrial heritage. This year’s theme will be: “Tools for the New Frontier: 1790 to 1840.” That’s a tip of the hat to Pittsburgh’s important role in providing goods that were shipped down the Ohio River to enable America’s rapid growth.
Did you know that in 1815, plane making was the 12th most important industry in Pittsburgh, as plane makers got premium prices for their goods? Charles Prine told me that fascinating tidbit. Want to know what the first 11 industries were? Come to the meeting!
We’ll have some interesting lectures in the afternoon on Saturday, I’m still ironing out those details, and will have those surprises posted in the February newsletter! But you’ll want to make sure you get some rest before our banquet that evening. Before our main meal, we’ll enjoy some appetizers and the Silent Auction, one of the meeting highlights. Every dollar raised in the auction goes to our great organization.
Billy and Judy McMillen have graciously agreed to run this year’s silent auction. But don’t worry, I’ll still be around to whip everyone into a buying frenzy!
I can’t wait for this meeting and seeing you all again. As a native of the Western Pennsylvania area, I’m so anxious to show off the region’s rich heritage. Stay tuned for final details on the conference in the February Shavings!
Meeting Schedule: Details <– For More Information Please Click Here
Pre-Meeting Gallery Slideshow
Sheraton Hotel:(Our room rate will be $99 a night!)
Old Economy: oldeconomyvillage.org
Heinz History Center and Fort Pitt Museum: www.heinzhistorycenter.org