Historic Pittsburgh
Texts Maps Images Finding Aids Census Chronology About .
About Historic Pittsburgh
News | FAQ | Contact Us

Historic Pittsburgh provides online access to a portion of the archival and manuscript collections held by several local cultural heritage institutions in Pittsburgh, namely the Archives Service Center at the University of Pittsburgh, Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center, Carnegie Museum of Art,Carnegie Museum of Natural History Archives, Oakmont Carnegie Library, Historical Society of Upper St. Clair, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, Northland Public Library, Chatham University Archives, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Archives, Point Park University Archives, Rodef Shalom Congregation, Monroeville Historical Society, and Pitcairn Historical Society. It is managed and hosted by the Digital Research Library within the University Library System at the University of Pittsburgh.

Although Historic Pittsburgh welcomes its use by anyone interested in the Pittsburgh area, its primary purpose is to facilitate the study and research of students, faculty, scholars, and historians. It provides an alternative means of access to materials that otherwise could not be viewed at one time or in one place as a single coherent collection. Also, the full-text searching and other access tools of the project enable faster and more efficient means of finding information.

Project Background

In early 1998, discussions between the Digital Research Library Planning Working Group, bibliographers, History Department faculty, Archives Service Center, and the University Librarian resulted in the idea for the Historic Pittsburgh project. The project was initiated once a project team was appointed and funding provided. Soon afterward, the University Library System became a member of the University of Michigan's SGML Server Support Program. This membership allowed the ULS to use the middleware developed for the Making of America digital library as a basis for the Historic Pittsburgh project.

A pilot Web site was created for demonstration purposes. By the end of 1998, the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania became an official partner of Historic Pittsburgh. Also at this time, funding to develop a digital collection was provided by the Hillman Library Endowment.

A digital production librarian was appointed to the project in January 1999. Two production assistants were added shortly thereafter. In early spring, a contract was arranged with Northern Micrographics in La Crosse, Wisconsin, for scanning and reformatting original materials with bound facsimile reprints. Another contract was signed with Chapman Corporation in Washington, Pennsylvania, for scanning plat-book maps.

Ten years later, the project continues to grow in its content and technical capabilities. The Archives Service Center coordinates new content to add to the site while the majority of the new content is digitized in-house by the ULS Digital Research Library, now comprised of three full-time scanning technicians and a variety of digitization equipment.

For more information about each component of the Web site, please see below:

For more information on the workflow and procedures for the Historic Pittsburgh project, please refer to the DRL Project Documentation webpage.

About the Full-Text Collection

Most of the materials in Historic Pittsburgh's Full-Text Collection were published or produced before the early 1920s and are out of print or not readily accessible. These materials cover the growth and development of Pittsburgh and the surrounding Western Pennsylvania area from the period of exploration and settlement to the period of industrial revolution and modernization.

Items that offer information thought to be, or to approximate, primary source materials are given priority over items considered to be interpretive history. The collection also includes representative works of the general history of Pittsburgh. It should be understood that Historic Pittsburgh does not represent a complete body of work that covers the entire history of the region, but rather an informed selection of materials that should serve to introduce and assist in the scholarly study of Pittsburgh and the surrounding Western Pennsylvania area.

Most of the items selected for the Historic Pittsburgh collection were published before the early 1920s. They reflect the attitudes and beliefs -- the historical context -- of the time in which they were produced. Certain materials in the collection may be offensive to some readers. The user should keep in mind the historical context of the material when searching for information. The user also should be aware of the possibility that there will be variations in spelling and meaning (for example, the use of native Americans in early published works generally refers to the caucasian people who settled in America, rather than the native American Indian tribes).

Some of the original source materials used for Historic Pittsburgh may have marginalia, torn pages, or other physical defects which appear on the digital images. Every effort possible has been made to maintain the integrity and ensure the completeness of each item. In some cases, though, an item with limited missing information may be included in the collection because its content has siginificant research value.

Selection Criteria

Various criteria are used to select materials for the Historic Pittsburgh Full-Text Collection. During the selection process, the copyright, informational value, physical description, condition, and artifactual value of each item are taken into consideration. Is the item in the public domain? Will the intellectual content of the item be of value to the research and scholarly study of the history of Pittsburgh and the surrounding Western Pennsylvania area? Will the physical characteristics and the condition of the item allow for high quality scanning and OCR processing? These and other questions must be answered for each item before a decision can be made to digitize a work.

Items that offer information thought to be, or to approximate, primary source materials are given priority over items considered to be interpretive history. Every effort is made to include materials that will have enduring value, and to apply the principle of bibliographic integrity to the digital editions. Only complete works will be included in the Historic Pittsburgh Full-Text Collection; articles from journals, and selected pages or chapters of books will not be considered for selection.

The selection of a particular item to be included in the Historic Pittsburgh collection does not represent an endorsement by the University of Pittsburgh or the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania of the views expressed in the content of that item.

Digitization Process

The first step of the digitization process is to create a unique document structure spreadsheet for each book. The purpose of a spreadsheet is to classify every page of text. Such items as chapter titles and image captions are recorded as the spreadsheet is prepared. Random pencil marks are delicately erased and torn pages are mended during spreadsheet creation. The spreadsheet is proofread and then sent with the book to the vendor.

The vendor disbinds the book and scans each page using the spreadsheet as a guideline. The vendor then produces a facsimile reprint of each book and returns it, along with the original book and a CD-ROM containing the scanned images of each page.

Quality control is performed by comparing the original book to the facsimile reprint and its corresponding scanned images. Batch OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is performed on the scanned images in order to make the text fully searchable on the Web. OCR errors are manually corrected wherever the OCR program had difficulty in recognizing the text.

Building the Database

An SGML-encoded document is created from the information collected when preparing the spreadsheet, the OCR output, and bibliographic information. The SGML encoding allows access to an automatically generated table of contents as well as full-text searching.

Getting the Information Ready for Searching

The page images and SGML encoding are then put on the server. Each SGML document created from a book is put into the same file as documents created for the other books. That file is indexed using SGML-aware software. This program not only indexes the location of words, but it also collects information about which region (or element) contains the word.

There are many blank pages and rotated images in the original book. The native form of the pages has been captured such that facsimile reprints can be produced. When the images are mounted on the server, scripts are run to insert a message on blank pages; "This page in the original is blank." Scripts are also run to rotate images to the correct orientation for viewing.

Making the Material Accessible from the Web

Every time a user fills in a query box or clicks on a link in the Historic Pittsburgh site, a Common Gateway Interface (CGI) script takes the query from the Web form and translates it into the language of the search engine. The CGI script gathers the results from the search engine and returns them to the user in an understandable format. The CGI scripts used for the Making of America project at the University of Michigan have been modified to work with Historic Pittsburgh materials.

When the user wants to view a particular page, another CGI script retrieves the correct page, sending it through a tif2gif program that converts it from a 600 dpi TIFF image to a GIF image. The image and the page navigation tools are returned to the user's browser.

About the G.M. Hopkins Maps

History and Background of the Maps

Maps produced by the G.M. Hopkins Company have made a lasting impression on the boundaries of many American cities. Between 1870 and 1940, the company produced over 175 atlases and real estate plat maps that primarily covered the Eastern sea board, including cities, counties, and townships in 18 different states and the District of Columbia. In the early years, the company produced county atlases, but gradually focused on city plans and atlases. They were among the first publishers to create a cadastral atlas, a cross between a fire insurance plat and a county atlas prevalent in the 1860s-1870s. These real estate or land ownership maps (also known as plat maps) not only depict property owners, but show lot and block numbers, dimensions, street widths, and other buildings and landmarks, including churches, cemeteries, mills, schools, roads, railroads, lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams.

Originally named the G.M. Hopkins and Company, the map-making business was jointly founded in 1865 in Philadelphia, Pa., by the Hopkins brothers, G.M. and Henry. The true identity of G.M. Hopkins remains somewhat of a mystery even today. “G.M.” either stands for Griffith Morgan or George Morgan. There are three different possibilities for the confusion over his identity. “Either the compilers of the earlier [city] directories were negligent; G.M. Hopkins changed his first name; or there were two G.M. Hopkins (father and son) working for the same firm” (Moak, Jefferson M. Philadelphia Mapmakers. Philadelphia: Shackamaxon Society, 1976, p. 258).

Credited with creating two maps between the years 1860 and 1861, Henry supervised much of the surveying field work for the company and served as chief assistant of the firm. When G.M. retired in 1900 (he died a year later), Henry took control of the business and changed the name in 1902 to the G.M. Hopkins Company. Retiring in 1907, he passed the company out of family hands to George B.C. Thomas, who had started working at the company around 1896 as an engraver. Thomas moved the company to the Insurance Exchange Building (Room 501) at 136-138 South Fourth Street, Philadelphia in 1914. Henry Hopkins died in 1921.

The company's fortunes declined during the Depression, and it was purchased by the Franklin Survey Company of Philadelphia in 1943. Established in 1928, Franklin Survey Company “cashed in on the well-known brand and continued publishing atlases for those areas accustomed to the Hopkins name” (Moak, Jefferson M. “The All-American Mapmaker.” Mapline, No. 10, June 1978). Renamed Franklin Maps in 1986, the company is still in business today and is located in King of Prussia, Pa. It is owned by Andrew H. Amsterdam whose father started the Franklin Survey Company.

According to our research, the G.M. Hopkins Company published 47 plat map volumes and atlases of Pittsburgh between 1872 and 1940.

Selection Criteria

The first 26 volumes of map plates we selected were scanned by a vendor and mounted online by the Digital Research Library between 2000 and 2004. The original selection objective for the Historic Pittsburgh collection was to cover as many decades and as much geographic area as possible given our resources at the time. We selected maps that represented an effort to reflect the changing urban landscape of the greater Pittsburgh area from the early 1870s to the late 1930s. Beyond this consideration, priority was given to damaged or deteriorating atlases or plat books that could benefit most from preservation treatment.

In 2008 we decided to digitize the remaining 21 volumes due to continued interest and use of the online maps in order to complete the entire set of Hopkins maps. Plus in the intervening years, the Digital Research Library procured a scanning device capable of digitizing maps of this size. Further, the majority of the needed volumes were held by the Archives Service Center. Others were borrowed from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. So in 2009 we commenced scanning the remaining volumes which are now all presently available on this website.

Publication Dates and Revision Dates

Hopkins Real Estate Atlases that were maintained by city departments and bureaus were often systematically updated to reflect extensive housing development, annexation, and street changes within Pittsburgh and the vicinity. Revisions and additions were often ordered from the G.M. Hopkins Company and pasted onto the original map plates. Newly annexed areas were also noted and stamped by hand in some of the original volumes.

Hopkins Real Estate Atlases have actively been used through the decades, and in many cases, it is rare to find some of these volumes in their original form. The Digital Research Library originally acquired some of these revised volumes for inclusion in the Historic Pittsburgh Maps Collection. When researching family history or history of a house, the researcher should pay special attention to revision dates. We cannot guarantee that the property owners, street names, or city limits presented on some of the online maps were part of the originally published volumes. We have made every effort to note revision dates on the index pages of any volume that has been altered since its publication.


To scan the maps, it is necessary to disbind the atlas or plat book (frequently, the original binding is in poor condition). After the volumes are disbound, the condition of each plate is assessed. Treatment procedures include surface cleaning, mending, deacidification, and encapsulation. After scanning, the plates are either rebound using a post-binding structure or stored in an acid-free flat storage box.

Digitization and Online Presentation

The maps in this collection are scanned as 24 bit RGB 300 dpi uncompressed TIFF images. Throughout the course of the project, the maps have been scanned both by vendors (2000-2004) and in-house (2009), using a variety of different scanning technology. Currently, we scan all maps in the University Library Systems' Digital Research Library, using a i2S DigiBook SupraScan A0 scanner.

After digitization, the TIFF images are processed into jpeg tiles to support viewing using the Zoomify image viewer. Zoomify permits dynamic panning and zooming within large images without the need to reload the entire web page.

The Zoomify viewer is embedded in DLXS ImageClass, a digital library collections software developed and distributed by the University of Michigan. The DLXS software powers the search, browse, and descriptive record display for the digital map collections.

About the Image Collections

In 2002 the University Library System received a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to create a single Web gateway to nationally significant collections of visual images of the Pittsburgh region held by the Archives Service Center at the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art, and the Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center.

Please see the following information and resources about this grant project:

Project Events and Articles

  • Lecture: "Digital Libraries in Theory and Practice: Common Elements, Collaborative Strategies." Dr. Paul Conway, Director, Information Technology Services, Duke University. Friday, April 4, 2003
  • Web-Wise 2004 Presentation (ppt): "Imaging Pittsburgh" Ed Galloway, Project Principal Investigator, University of Pittsburgh. Thursday, March 4, 2004
  • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (12/21/04): Picturing Pittsburgh: Two-year collaboration makes century of images available online
  • University Times (9/16/04): Birth of a campus historical photos
  • First Monday (9/3/04): Imaging Pittsburgh: Creating a shared gateway to digital image collections of the Pittsburgh region
  • D-Lib Magazine (November 2005 issue): Featured collection

The grant project ended in 2005 after mounting several thousand images. Since then, we are continuing to add images, new photographic collections, and institutional partners (e.g., Chatham College, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, Point Park University, and Oakmont Carnegie Library) to the site.

About the Finding Aids

The Historic Pittsburgh website provides finding aids that describe archival and manuscript collections housed at several University of Pittsburgh Library System departments, including the Archives Service Center and Special Collections. Finding aids to collections at the Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center are also available through this site. Together these respositories hold over 1,000 archival collections, many of them closely related to the history of the Pittsburgh region.

What is a finding aid?

A finding aid is a description of an archival collection that provides information about the history and significance of the collection, the types of materials in the collection, information about use and availability of the collection, and is often a guide to where things are within the collection.

What is EAD and where can I find out more about EAD?

The Encoded Archival Description (EAD) Document Type Definition (DTD) is a standard for encoding archival finding aids using Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML). You can find out more about EAD at the Library of Congress Encoded Archival Description Official Web Site.

How are finding aids converted to EAD?

Finding aids produced by the University of Pittsburgh Library System are now created in the Archivists' Toolkit open source software system. They are exported as XML documents and subsequently indexed (see below). Finding aids created by the Heinz History Center are converted manually from MS Word files to XML. Information is transferred from the original finding aid into the encoded version using a template developed by archives staff. The XML text editor Oxygen is currently used to perform the encoding. In some cases, portions of the container lists are able to be automatically encoded using Perl scripts modified to the particular collection. This automation greatly speeds the encoding process.

How are the collections made accessible on the Web?

The Finding Aids collection is indexed using the XPAT SGML-aware search engine. When a user enters a query into our seach form, the query is then sent to a CGI script (a component of DLXS "middleware" that retrieves the information from the XPAT index and then transforms the results to display them in HTML, which is delivered back to the user's web browser.

About the Census Schedules

This site only offers the census schedules for the city of Pittsburgh (1850-1880) and for Allegheny City (1850-1870), presently Pittsburgh's North Side. Due to the circumstances under which we received the census data (see below), we have no plans to add census data from subsequent decades.

History and Accuracy of the Census Data

These data were given to the Digital Research Library by Dr. Larry Glasco, a professor in the History Department at the University of Pittsburgh, who gathered this information for a department project some years ago. Dr. Glasco transcribed from the microfilmed versions of the original census schedules held by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Later, the DRL imported the electronic files into a database and made them searchable from the Historic Pittsburgh website.

Since the Digital Research Library was not directly responsible for transcribing this original data, nor do we know the techniques and methods with which it was originally gathered, we cannot ensure the accuracy of the data or make any changes, corrections, additions, etc. to it.

Because the original census sheets were handwritten, there were occasional problems in interpreting and transcribing the information. In cases where there were problems reading words (particularly names), alternate versions of spellings are displayed. We apologize that the "Full Record" for any individual does not provide specific bibliographic data of the exact volume, page number, and line number of the original census schedule. This data did not allow for easy replication in our database.

Additional Census Information

For more information on schedules for other states, counties, and years, check our Microforms Collection at Hillman Library. Statistical publications from the U.S. Census can be found in the Government Publications Collection at Hillman Library. Paper-based volumes (copies) of the census schedules can be found in the Pennsylvania Department at the main branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

For more information about the history of the U.S. Census and using the U.S. Census as a reference source, you can refer to the Virginia Center for Digital History's census reference pages for their The Valley of the Shadow Project. Please note that not all of the information on the Virginia website is relevant to the census data in the Historic Pittsburgh Project. We also hope you will consult the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), especially their Genealogy Page for more information on using census records.

Downloading the Historic Pittsburgh Census Data

Users interested in downloading our census data can do so as a WinZip file. Please note: This data are copies of the files the DRL was given for this project. As we constructed our database, we found errors in the data which we corrected. These corrections will only be seen in the data that are searchable on our site; the corrections have not been made in the data available for downloading.

About the Chronology

During the initial planning stages of Historic Pittsburgh, members of the project team envisioned the development of a chronology or timeline to accompany the web site. A chronology would provide an overview of the rich history of Pittsburgh and assist users in their effort to contextualize the city's broad social, political, and economic climate in their research.

Pittsburgh: The Story of an American City

The renowned photojournalism pioneer and author, Stefan Lorant, wrote perhaps one of the best-known books about the history of Pittsburgh. In Pittsburgh: The Story of an American City, Lorant includes as an appendix an exhaustive chronology of Pittsburgh, dating from 1717 and continuing to July 1999 (fifth edition). Over 3,000 events from Pittsburgh’s past are chronicled in this timeline.

DRL Partners with Publishing Group

The DRL negotiated with Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group (RLPG) for the rights to reproduce the chronology in electronic form. As part of the agreement, the DRL is collaborating with the Library & Archives of the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania at the History Center to update the chronology over a five-year period. Every year the staff of the History Center cull through microfilm reels of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh covering the past year, recording dates and events of significance.

Building the Electronic Version

The DRL captured the 84 pages of text by scanning and employing optical character recognition (OCR) technology. Next, this information was entered into a database, creating fields for the year, month, date, and event. During a proofing stage, the DRL corrected OCR problems so that entries would accurately reflect the text found in the printed source. The DRL added the new entries provided by the History Center to the database.

The chronology data was transferred to a MySQL database for online searching and presentation. A CGI script takes queries from the search forms, queries the database, and returns results formatted in HTML.

Browsing and Searching the Chronology

In thinking about how to build the online version of the chronology, the DRL wanted to keep the best features of print chronologies while adding the value of the powerful searching and grouping tools possible with an electronic database. To achieve these goals, the DRL decided to build a system that would permit both browsing and searching, and to allow easy movement between the two kinds of views. Because searching necessarily pulls events out of their chronological context, the DRL built in functionality that makes it easy to see what other events happened in any particular year included in the search results.

Since every calendar date is represented in the online chronology, the DRL included a dynamically-generated "On This Day in Pittsburgh History" feature on the chronology homepage.

About Vendors and Software

The Digital Research Library (DRL) is pleased to provide the names of vendors contracted for the Historic Pittsburgh project. The list also includes the names and types of software implemented for the project. For more information on the workflow and procedures for the Historic Pittsburgh project, please refer to the DRL Project Documentation webpage.

Data Creation and Processing


Most of the page images for the Full-Text Collection have been scanned as 600 dpi Group IV compressed bitonal TIFF images by Northern Micrographics, Inc. (NMI), in La Crosse, Wisconsin. In addition, NMI has created facsimile reprints on acid-free paper to replace brittle and deteriorating original materials.

G. M. Hopkins maps for the Maps Collection have been scanned in 24 bit RGB color as 300 dpi uncompressed TIFF images by Chapman Corporation in Washington, Pennsylvania.


Automated batch Optical Character Recognition (OCR) processing has been performed on the images for the full-text collection using Prime Recognition multi-engine OCR software. Minimal corrections have been made by the Digital Research Library staff.

Data Searching and Presentation

Search Engine

Both the Full-Text Collections and EAD Finding Aids have been indexed and made searchable by using Open Text pat50, an SGML-aware search engine.

The Maps Collection and the Census Schedules are searchable using a MySQL database.

Image Display

Maps are compressed and displayed using MrSID from LizardTech.

CGI Scripts

The University of Pittsburgh is a member of the University of Michigan's Digital Library eXtension Service. This membership has given the University of Pittsburgh access to CGI scripts that act as middleware between the Web-based search forms and the pat50 SGML search engine. Scripts have been modified to meet the particular requirements of the Digital Research Library.