Steel Heritage Curriculum

Curriculum Information & Activities

Pittsburgh started as a trading post along three rivers. Because of the benefit of river transporation, battles were fought to control the trading post and the fort that was built for protection.

As settlers headed west, the area grew as a main stop along the trail. Many pioneers passed through, gathering supplies as they started their trek. Others built flatboats to take advantage of the Ohio River that flowed west, toward exciting new lands.

Lewis and Clark commissioned a boat to be built on the river, and they began a journey to explore the uncharted lands for President Thomas Jefferson. During the first part of their journey, they made it as far as Missouri before winter set in. The following spring, they left the St. Louis area, and historians consider that to be their official starting point—but the journey actually began in Pittsburgh.

With the discovery of rich coal seams, and the subsequent introduction of the steel industry, Pittsburgh became an important location for business and commerce.

As the steel industry grew, the city also grew—in size and importance. For decades, Pittsburgh led the region, the country, and the world in the production of steel for a variety of uses. The millworkers worked long, hard hours under difficult conditions. The region suffered from air and water pollution that resulted in dark days and darker nights. The blue-collar lifestyle led to tough men who were loyal to their families and enjoyed their beer and fanatically supported their hometown sports teams.

Mark Twain referred to this Pittsburgh as "hell's kitchen".

Then, production stopped. Mills shut down. Men were out of work with no marketable skills. Families struggled. Then the air cleared up. College populations grew. Mills were torn down and replaced with technology centers. Blue-collar was replaced with white-collar.

The new Pittsburgh is no longer "hell's kitchen". It is a vibrant, exciting city with numerous computer, technology, and research centers. The air is clean and the water is clear. Once named as "America's Most Livable City", today's Pittsburgh bears little resemblance to the city that once led the world in the production of steel.

But steel remains as the single most important influence in the development of Pittsburgh and the western Pennsylvania region. Although mills are no longer alive with production, the heritage of the steel mills must not be forgotten.

Curriculum Areas

The following pages of information and activities are designed to assist teachers and educators in the preservation of our steel heritage. All activities have been designed to be adapted for classroom use. The activities can be altered, as needed, for age, ability level, curriculum area, or for any other reason necessary to make them useful within the classroom.

The information is organized into curriculum areas, with eachcurriculumsorted into subtopics.The information is in pdf format.Adobe Acrobate Readeris required to view these documents. You have permission to print out the information and activities you want to use, and you may adapt anything to meet your needs.

The curriculum areas include:




Social Studies








Suggested Reading

Recommended literature


Our Rivers: Yesterday and Today

Our Rivers
The story of the Monongahela River is one of our nation’s history, our industrial revolutions and one of the men and women whose labors, previously and presently, earned the Monongahela River the title of “Ruhr” – The River of Sweat.

The Monogahela: River of Dreams, River of Sweat

The history of the hardest working river in America.