Thanks to the United States Board on Geographic Names, big cities and little towns alike lost a lot of character in the late 1800s. In 1891, with President Benjamin Harrison’s stamp of approval, the board decided to change a few things about how towns and cities should be named. One of the newly adopted rules impacted Pittsburgh, and in typical Pittsburgher fashion, we demanded we get “our” Pittsburgh back. Let’s all be honest with ourselves…Pittsburg, PA, just doesn’t seem right, does it?
One of the newly adopted rules read as such: “IN NAMES ENDING IN ‘BURGH,’ THE FINAL ‘H’ SHOULD BE DROPPED.”
The city was happily using that “h” for more than a century! We had newspapers, baseball teams, and buildings already bearing the consonant. “Too bad”, said the committe. Thus, Pittsburgh became “Pittsburg”.
Never going quietly into the night, the city said, “Not so fast, my friend.” While most cities weren’t bothered enough to fight for their heritage, Pittsburgh wouldn’t make the change to “Pittsburg” quietly. The city was originally named to honor William Pitt the Elder, but it was General John Forbes who did the naming. His Scottish background is the reason for that extra “h” (think Edinburgh). To edit the spelling to the German “burg” was akin to editing the city’s founding.
After 20 years of complaints, the Board finally overturned their previous decision on Pittsburg(h)’s controversial consonant on July 19, 1911. Town representatives even got a little sassy when they announced victory, claiming they were from “Pittsburgh, a city in Pennsylvania (not Pittsburg)”.
Never change, Pittsburg. I mean…PITTSBURGH!!!