Is it progress if a cannibal uses a knife and fork?
Stanislaw Lec, Unkempt Thoughts

Price of Progress

Smoke in the Valley

John Duss played in green fields and woods as a child. He lived to see it come to this. And it took only thirty eight years.

The winters were especially bad. Every house was heated by bituminous coal and every chimney expelled its own gases and greasy dirt. Pollution blocked daylight so effectively that automobiles sometimes used headlights at noon.

Snow covered the grime, but as soon as the snowfall stopped, the white was quickly buried under a black crust. It seemed that we had clean air only when strikes shut down the mills.

We had noise 24 hours. Steam locomotives moved freight in and out of the factories. Motor traffic to and from Pittsburgh went through town taking either Merchant Street or Duss Avenue. Steel was lifted, moved, and dropped and the sounds rang out for blocks. Whistles announced the noon lunch and every shift change.

We accepted this as normal until we grew up and had our visions changed.

In the1950's, under the leadership of Mayor David Lawrence, Pittsburgh and Allegheny County enacted and enforced laws which banned visible emissions from the smoke stacks. As these clean air initiatives spread though the region, non complying processes were eliminated or converted. Natural gas replaced coal as the primary fuel for industrial and home heating.

Photo Credits: Arthur Rothstein, June 1938
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