Collection Theme

The Early Arts of Western Pennsylvania

The arduous journey over the Allegheny Mountains from the East Coast to Pittsburgh served as a catalyst for production and trade in Western Pennsylvania during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The position of Pittsburgh at the headwaters of the Ohio River offered the city commercial advantages in the expanding American frontier. By 1825, DeWitt Clinton, governor of New York, lauded Pittsburgh as the “unrivaled domicile for manufacturing skill and ingenuity, and a grand emporium of internal commerce.” 

Glassmaking was one of the earliest industrial arts developed in Pittsburgh; settlers capitalized on the region’s ample supply of sand, ash, and lime, the main ingredients to glass, as well as plentiful Appalachian coal to fuel furnaces. The region also had a thriving trade in furniture, often strongly influenced by designs from Philadelphia and Baltimore. Furniture produced in Western Pennsylvania in this period is marked by lively surface decoration and characteristic motifs, such as vine-and-leaf ornamentation. Carnegie Museum of Art’s focused collection of Western Pennsylvanian glass, furniture, ceramic, and textiles reflects its commitment to the varied arts of our region.