The Vast Melting Pot

No one ever captured the poetry and mystery of the city of Pittsburgh better than Mary Roberts Rinehart, one of the bestselling American authors of all time, who lived here when she wrote her famous mysteries. Here is the opening of her novel A Poor Wise Man, first published in 1920.

The city turned its dreariest aspect toward the railway on blackened walls, irregular and ill-paved streets, gloomy warehouses, and over all a gray, smoke-laden atmosphere which gave it mystery and often beauty. Sometimes the softened towers of the great steel bridges rose above the river mist like fairy towers suspended between Heaven and earth. And again the sun tipped the surrounding hills with gold, while the city lay buried in its smoke shroud, and white ghosts of river boats moved spectrally along.

Sometimes it was ugly, sometimes beautiful, but always the city was powerful, significant, important. It was a vast melting pot. Through its gates came alike the hopeful and the hopeless, the dreamers and those who would destroy those dreams. From all over the world there came men who sought a chance to labor. They came in groups, anxious and dumb, carrying with them their pathetic bundles, and shepherded by men with cunning eyes.

Raw material, for the crucible of the city, as potentially powerful as the iron ore which entered the city by the same gate.

The city took them in, gave them sanctuary, and forgot them. But the shepherds with the cunning eyes remembered.