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The City of Pittsburgh (Harper's Magazine, December, 1880) - Page 53

smoky city, and whose suction disks are the station-houses that draw the life from the trade of each stream. On the Alleghany this trade has long disappeared entirely; the Monongahela bears upon its slack-watered current a line of fine boats that have existed since the earliest days of steam navigation, buy whose business begins to feel railway encroachment. The Ohio is plied by a line of Cincinnati and Pittsburgh packets, and by smaller craft earning a precarious existence between "way" points, but the glory of the river is departed.
View of Pittsburgh from the Opposite Heights
And yet, at favorable stages of water in the fickle Ohio, the levee at Pittsburgh shows most animated scenes. A stranger reaching the city during a state of water favorable for boating—say four to eight feet of water in the channel—would be treated to a most interesting sight on the Monongahela Wharf, between that many-piered and venerable structure the Monongahela Suspension-Bridge and the "Point." This scene is especially characteristic when witnessed from the upper or "hurricane" deck of some big 1000-ton steamer. The observer is reminded of nothing so much as of a freshly disturbed ant-hill. This simile is born out by the action of the double stream of big black "rousters," i.e., colored boat hands. As these pass in opposite directions over the gang-plank, each biped ant bears, not a milk-white egg, but a fat sack of bran as to the out-goers, or a box of glass or bar or steel as to the incoming procession.
This double process goes on until the great hull has exchanged its St. Louis freight for Pittsburgh's products. And so skillfully is this same hull fashioned and adapted to the precarious channels of Western rivers, that, with a thousand tons of freight aboard, a Pittsburgh and St. Louis passenger and freight boat will scarcely "draw" four and a half feet of water. And in this way, during the first three months of 1880, 10,000 tons per month of the varied products of Pittsburgh's fiery-hearted furnaces were wafted by steam and current 3500 miles toward the setting sun. Kindly showers thus washed away 30,000 tons of freight from the railroads.
But the magic wand which most potently transforms the river-front of Pittsburgh, which brings intense energy out of apathy, which turns day to night and silence into a Babel of sounds, is the sudden advent of a "coal-boat" stage of water, i.e.