Smithsonian ferriswheel

Both the Smithsonian and the Senator John Heinz History Center (a Smithsonian affiliate museum) have taken a special interest in gas stations, ketchup, and banana splits.

The History Center is celebrating Pittsburgh’s long history (about 16,000 years to put a date on it) of creating innovative products and concepts with a new long-term, two-floor exhibit.

In an article for, Max Kutner includes three such innovations just in his title: “Celebrating Pittsburgh, the City Behind Pro Football, Big Macs, and the Polio Vaccine. The Pennsylvanian city has more lives than a cat and thrives as a hub of innovation.”

Kutner writes, “The two-floor show moves chronologically, beginning with descriptions of the earliest Pittsburghers fashioning tools at the Meadowcroft Rockshelter thousands of years ago, and moving all the way to the recent developments in science and medicine that have come out of the city.”

Kutner reports that Pittsburgh has managed to maintain its creative spirit due to its lucky geographic location. “Because of its location, it became a ‘gateway to the west’ for easterners venturing into the frontier. Later, the city attracted industry because of its crucial position near the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela rivers.”

Any good Pittsburgher will tell you we invented putting fries on our sandwiches, and that we definitely had something to do with ketchup. But the list is so much longer–and more impressive– than even we might know.

“Among the long list of innovations to come from the city and its hometown heroes are ground coffee, canons and warships, labor unions, aluminum, professional football, ketchup, the Ferris wheel, banana splits, gas stations, movie theaters, numbers on sports jerseys, road maps, bingo, commercial radio broadcasting, bebop music, pull tabs on cans, the Big Mac, emoticons and, most notably, the polio vaccine,” says Kutner regarding the exhibition.

You can read the full article here, and find more information about the exhibition here.

Rebekah Zook is a Duquesne grad and all-around story-telling enthusiast. A former fellow at WESA, she worked as a production assistant for their daily talk show. Most recently, she taught in the Propel Charter School system as a visiting artist. When she isn’t writing, Rebekah is a trip leader for the local non-profit organization Venture Outdoors. You can usually find her in a bright yellow kayak.