The City with an H

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Pittsburgh, to my knowledge, is the only city in America with that random “h” at the end of the name. But so that “h” remains. When I lived in Ohio, I hastily corrected my friend on Twitter who misspelled Pittsburgh as Pittsburg. That looks weird to me.

According to the book I am reading called Pittsburgh and the State of Pennsylvania, in 1891 President Benjamin Harrison approved a report to drop the “h” in all burghs across the country. But Pittsburgh (surprise surprise) continued using that “h” until it came back. And so here it stays.

Why are we as a city so obsessed with that h?

I found an article online that claims Pittsburgh is “the most misspelled city in America.” I can believe it. There are other Pittsburgs: in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. And none of them have the unnecessary “h” at the end. EXCEPT for Pittsburgh, North Dakota!

But that still doesn’t answer my question. What in Pittsburgh people’s minds made them think their city deserved the “h” even though the President tried to take it away? Was it tradition? The way things have always been done?

What do you think about the h? If you’re not from Pittsburgh, what’s your opinion? I’m interested to know…

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4 thoughts on “The City with an H

  1. Sharon

    Thought-provoking! I assumed the “h” came from the German. Not so, it is Scottish. Since the leadership of the iron and steel industry was primarily Scottish, perhaps this explains retaining the “h.”

    • This could very well be. The book I read said that most people still used the “h,” which resulted in its official return. Apparently, John Forbes, who named the city after William Pitt, was Scottish and intended the city name to be pronounced similar to Edinburgh.

  2. Michael

    Here’s the deal: what Ive always been taught is that the H used to be added after a city got to 100,000 people, but this practice dropped out of style in the 1910s-20s. If you examine iron and steel products made here during that period, you will find it spelled “Pittsburg” (theres an old manhole cover in Annapolis from that period). However, it didnt stick, and the H came back. Ive never researched it to know if its a fact, though.

    • That’s interesting. I never heard that before, but I suppose once upon a time that would make sense. I’ll research that myself because I’m curious. Thanks for that!

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