History with Professor Ginny UPDATED

Update:  Thanks to reader Tom, we now know that the boy is not selling canes, but rather Forbes Field pennants!


Wherein “professor” means “Bachelor’s in Business Administration” and “history” means “looking at old pictures.”

My good friend Jonathan Wander sent me this link ages ago and I’m just now getting to it. This is Forbes Field in 1912 and the great thing about the embiggened photo is that it is in such detail that you can really hunt around the picture and allow yourself to sink deep into this frozen Pittsburgh moment.

These men on the ledge. Nothing stopping them from falling to the street below. I want to shout at them to please take care, good sirs!

What is this boy selling? Walking canes?

Look at all the fancy cars and then down the way, there’s a horse-drawn carriage with a smart-looking driver in a top hat. SQUEEEE.

I wonder if there’s a line to check luggage at Forbes Field. Also, what a lovely hat she sports.

What are these boys selling? Are those newspapers? What are they speaking of to each other? Does all that litter bother them like it’s bothering me? Who are they? Who did they grow up to be? One of your grandfathers?

Those signs indicate that tickets to the Grand Stand are 75 cents, which is about $17 in today’s money.

I love it all so much my heart aches for no reason I can put my finger on. I’m so sorry my love for old Pittsburgh is becoming a burning, raging, hellfire obsession.

I promise not to bog the blog down too much with my finds. Not another one until Thursday. PROMISE!


  1. spoon
    March 12, 2012 11:14 pm

    Would love to see if someone could make a 3d rendering of Forbes Field where it used to be in present day Oakland. I saw home plate when I was a student at pitt and obviously the wall but i could never visualize how big it really was and whats there now.

    Hey Google, make that happen

  2. suzie-Q
    March 12, 2012 11:44 pm

    I love these old photos…I wish we could see more faces in the crowd…and then someone would write..”that was my grandmother, grandfather, uncle, aunt…” . Who are those boys selling papers and canes?? How much did they get paid to stand there in a black suit before the game and sell these items….and did they get to watch the game??

    I’ll stop wondering….for now….until you post the next delicious photos of “Old Pittsburgh”. Thanks Ginny….they are wonderful…

  3. AngryMongo
    March 13, 2012 7:42 am

    Oddly enough, in 1917 they were 51-103. But they beat Washington in 1925 for the World Series. Maybe… just maybe.


  4. Julie
    March 13, 2012 8:25 am

    I wish I had a copy to share, but my Grandma has a picture of my grandfather, who was a painter, painting the bleachers at Forbes Field, and he had stopped for a moment to chat with one of the Pirates. I don’t remember who the Pirate was, either. I’ll have to find out where that picture is!

  5. Magus Patris
    March 13, 2012 8:29 am

    Thanks for sharing these. I love looking at old photos and maps too. One of the other things I like which some people find creepy is to go to old cemeteries (especially from the Civil War, when I lived in VA) and stop at a grave and wonder who the person was, if he had a family, how exactly did he die. One of the cool things about Geocaching (www.geocaching.com) is that it takes you to cool historical places that you never knew were there like Rosslyn Place, Westinghouse Pond in Schenley Park, and the WWI cemetery in McCandless.

    • Pensgirl
      March 13, 2012 10:21 am

      Some of the churches downtown have small old cemeteries. When I was in high school, my best friend and I walked around some of them and found them quite fascinating. I like to think the inhabitants “appreciate” (so to speak) being visited and remembered, even if only through speculation.

  6. Cassie
    March 13, 2012 8:33 am

    I love this! Please keep it coming. Please?

  7. Tom Thomas
    March 13, 2012 9:18 am

    I think the boy selling “walking canes” is actually selling pennants. In exchange for a coin, he’ll pull one of the thin bamboo sticks out of his bundle. Wrapped tightly around the stick and tied with two knots just below the curved end, there’s a triangular felt pennant, which the fan can unfurl and wave in support of his team.

    A couple of examples of these pennants on “canes” are pictured at these sites:

  8. ketchup is a veggie
    March 13, 2012 10:25 am

    I love seeing how dressed up everyone is to attend a game. The woman are wearing white dresses! Do you think the cars let everyone make a Pittsburgh left?

    • bucdaddy
      March 13, 2012 10:47 am

      And the men are virtually all wearing hats. We know now that a lot of men can’t really pull off wearing a hat, but they were operating under no such reality then. If you were a man and you left the house, you wore a hat. Period. There’s a photo I’ve seen, the particulars elude me, but I think it’s from a World Series game in the men-in-hats era, which runs right up through the 1940s, taken from the upper deck and shot down the first base line, probably includes 10,000 people, and they’re all men, and they’re all wearing hats.

      If the hat wasn’t dead by 1960, I know who killed it: JFK. The man wasn’t going to hide his hair. He was following Eisenhower, who for all intents had no hair. JFK represented a generational leap, and damned if he was going to hide that fine head of hair and handsome face under a hat. I think he knew good and well how pretty he was. Hats were for ugly old men like Ike.

      And now the only men wearing hats are punk idiots with their baseball caps sideways.

      Thanks a lot, JFK. Vietnam and sideways baseball caps. You have a lot to answer for in the afterlife.

      • Noelle
        March 13, 2012 3:27 pm

        Yes, but he got to sleep with anybody he ever wanted to without consequences. I’m just sayin.

        • bucdaddy
          March 14, 2012 1:39 am

          I have a theory he got away with it because … Marilyn! Who didn’t want to boink Marilyn?

          Clinton didn’t get away with it because … Monica? Paula Jones? Keee-rist, man, you’re the effing president, you can have better taste than THAT.

  9. Nick
    March 13, 2012 10:44 am

    Keep it up, I love old Pittsburgh stuff!

    It’s not updated very often, but have you scene this blog?:

  10. bucdaddy
    March 13, 2012 11:25 am

    Also, that’s some marvelous depth of field on that photo to be able to see sharp detail that far in the background.

  11. hellpellet
    March 13, 2012 11:28 am

    Do not go to Retronaut.co

    Do not go there and expect to have any life outside of that website. I lost MrsCrappy to that evil (goooood) site about a month ago.

  12. Noelle
    March 13, 2012 12:35 pm

    This was taken the same year the Titanic sunk. I’d die to wear pretty long dresses and hats everywhere. LOVE LOVE LOVE.

  13. Jonathan
    March 13, 2012 12:37 pm

    Really does feel like you can dive in a walk around those pics. Glad you like them!

  14. Gina
    March 13, 2012 1:18 pm

    I love these old photos, too!

  15. unsatisfied
    March 13, 2012 2:32 pm

    whenever the succos decide to have another “throwback game”, they should “throwback” to 1912. and, every guy has to wear a bowler hat and every gal has to wear a white frilly dress.

    when I was still in college….for a newspaper writing class, I had to interview someone about something pittsburgh. so, I interviewed my 70-or-80-some year old italian barber who ran enrico’s in oakland. he proceeded to tell me that, in addition to cutting hair, he was also an usher at forbes field back in the day. told me a bunch of old stories about the players…clemente, groat, etc. I wish that I still had that interview tape around somewhere.

    it was also the first time that I had ever heard the word “paesano”. I had to call my italian friend who had to ask her grandmother what it was. (the dark days before google…..)

  16. T
    March 13, 2012 2:47 pm

    Here is a great video with old pictures Pitt student pictures in celebration of the 225th anniversary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=L5bhIPmlHDE

  17. Brian
    March 13, 2012 4:35 pm

    I really hope you DO keep posting these finds. The transformation of a city over the course of a century is so intriguing!

  18. Robin
    March 13, 2012 4:55 pm

    My Dad sold papers at Forbes Field, but it would have been in the early ’40’s. Great photo! Love this stuff!

  19. Noelle
    March 13, 2012 8:39 pm

    When I was renovating my kitchen in 07 we found a letter behind an original baseboard dated 1922 and it’s in Polish (we think). Does anyone read Polish who can translate it?

  20. Nick
    March 14, 2012 2:44 am

    Sorry, typed the wrong address in above…

    But if you have a copy somewhere online, send a link and I can ask for a translation.

  21. dayvoe
    March 14, 2012 8:15 pm

    I’m thinking the date of the picture has to be sometime after July of 1912. The flag on the side of Forbes Field has 48 stars on it.