Thursday, June 2, 2016

Black and Gold - With a Red Stripe

By Monte Bohna, PhD
Coordinator, Study Pittsburgh Initiative

From its earliest days, Pittsburgh’s “Black and Gold” colors have had a line of red running between them: the red stripe of the Schwarz-Rot-Gold national flag of Germany.  People like Alethea Wieland, Suzi Pegg, and the city’s German honorary consul Paul Overby (not to mention that most redoubtable of the city’s marketing tools, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra!) are trying to paint that red stripe in the Pittsburgh Black and Gold as bright and wide as possible by encouraging economic links between Pittsburgh and Germany.  And they have met with remarkable success: 77 German firms employ more than 10,000 people in the Pittsburgh region and the number is steadily climbing.  But that presence rests on a German connection to Pittsburgh which extends almost to the earliest origins of the city; even in the 1760s a handful of “Pennsylvania Dutch” German settlers and traders lived in the vicinity of Fort Pitt, and in the first US census of 1790, half of the twenty-seven heads of families recorded as living in "Pittsburgh Town" bore German surnames.
Moreover, one of the most important figures in the early days of the steel industry, basis of the city's prosperity for more than 150 years, was a German immigrant, Dr. Peter Shoenberger.  Shoenberger was born in Hannover in 1782, the son of Johan George Schoenberger (Peter dropped the "c"), who himself came from the village of Ober Mossau in the county of Erbach, one of the many micro-principalities of the Holy Roman Empire.  Having arrived in Philadelphia in 1785, by the time of the father's death in 1815 the family lived in Huntingdon County where Shoenberger’s uncle, also called Peter, had founded the town of Petersburg, a mountain-valley village whose setting must have reminded the Schoenbergers of their Odenwald Heimat
While studying medicine in the Lancaster practice of Dr. Samuel Fahnestock, the younger Peter Shoenberger was involved in the iron industry in Huntingdon County as early as 1817, when he built an ironworks there eventually called the Juniata Iron Mill.  (Shoenberger’s union of medicine and entrepreneurial technology may have seemed less unusual in his time than now: Dr. Fahnestock, his medical mentor, also happened to be the inventor of the first soda machine, patented in 1819).
In 1824 Shoenberger moved to Pittsburgh and soon afterwards built the city’s first rolling mill, the Juniata Iron and Steel Works, on the left bank of the Allegheny River between 11th and 16th Streets, complimented by 1830 with a warehouse on Wood St.  Having formed a partnership in the late 1840s with another early pioneer of steel manufacture (and his namesake), Thomas Shoenberger Blair, he eventually united his Huntingdon and Pittsburgh operations under the title of the Shoenberger Steel Company.  Shoenberger had business interests in several other firms as well, among them Johnstown’s Cambria Iron Company, of which he was co-founder and president 
By the time of his death in 1854, Shoenberger was known as the “Iron King” of Pennsylvania and one of the wealthiest men in the commonwealth.  Apart from his extensive business interests in the steel industry, he invested in stagecoaches and canals across the state and was one of Pennsylvania’s largest landowners with more than 100,000 acres of timber, ore and limestone.  He built a mansion near Highland Park and helped to found both Lutheran and Episcopalian churches in Pittsburgh. 
The experience of later generations of German immigrants arriving in Pittsburgh was very different. At the same time that Peter Shoenberger was establishing the foundation of a steel business which made him a leading figure in the city, Michael Friedrich Radke, eventually and briefly his employee, was facing an uncertain future in the Prussia of King Friedrich Wilhelm III. The son of a farmer whose village, near the Baltic port of Stettin (Szczecin), had been burned to the ground in the wars of Napoleon, Radke found work as a distiller, conscript soldier in a Prussian infantry regiment and finally, after moving to Berlin, gardener at the royal park of the Tiergarten in charge “of the flower beds near the goldfish pond and the Floraplatz”. 
The reasons which made Radke decide to emigrate might well have been familiar to Shoenberger’s father Johan sixty years earlier:
I worked day and night and walked in many places, spent many a sleepless night, and the money I earned there was scarcely enough to feed my family. At the same time I saw thousands emigrate to different parts of the world, to America and Australia. When thinking about it more closely, I realized that all of these emigrations were nothing more than the fault of the poverty that progressed with gigantic steps. And so within me, too, rose the thought to emigrate!
Leaving from the North Sea port of Bremerhaven in the first days of March 1848, just in time to hear rumors of revolution in France before their ship sailed, the Radke family endured a two-month voyage in a vessel packed with 226 emigrants.  Finally reaching Baltimore on May 1st, Radke learned “to my horror and astonishment” that the revolution had spread “all over Germany”, and that in his former home of Berlin, “such terrible things happened on the 18th and 19th of March, 1848, that many thousands of people lost their lives”.  The street fighting which claimed so many lives had begun when the army attempted to disperse a mass demonstration in the Tiergarten, his former place of employment: “I said”, writes Radke, “God be thanked that I'm not there”.
After another lengthy and wearying journey by rail, canal boat, and finally “Stimmboth” (i.e. steamboat), the family arrived in Pittsburgh in mid-May, whereupon Radke “immediately rented an apartment and bought the necessary furniture, but I didn't have any work until the 3rd of July” when he was hired on at the Schoenberger steel mill, at the weekly salary of $4.50.  Like many new arrivals to the city who found work in the mills, even after a life inured to hardship and manual labor, the demands of heavy industry in its first era could be shocking: “it was heavy hard work, work such as I had never done before”. Nor was it a certain route to prosperity: “every month I had to pay $4.50 rent. I worked in the Schoeneberg [sic] Steelmill until the 15th of November, 1849, but with my daily work and earnings I was unable to save anything because both rent and food cost too much”. 
After seventeen months’ work in his fellow countryman Shoenberger’s employ, Radke had had enough: “since I couldn't make any progress in Pittsburgh, I decided to choose something else, and that is farming. So on the 15th of November, 1849, I traveled from Pittsburgh to the state of Indiana…There I rented land, and there I lived after all better and made better progress.” 
What, after such a long and difficult journey, must have been for the Radke family a disappointing – perhaps bitterly disappointing – experience of life in Pittsburgh was certainly not unique.  At the industrial revolution’s ground zero in the 19th century, life was harsh for Pittsburgh’s immigrant workforce. Fortunately, while working conditions are generally a great deal better than Michael Radke encountered in the steel mills of the 1840s, the enormous potential for prosperity which steel represented for Pittsburgh then has been renewed in the lively emerging-technology, medical and educational sectors of the local economy.  And just as fortunately, the German link in Pittsburgh’s past, reflected in the two very different experiences of Peter Shoenberger and Michael Radke, remains just as strong today, with the promise of growth and benefits to share between our Black-Gold city and the country of the Black-Red-Gold flag which has contributed so much to Pittsburgh’s story.
Homer T. Rosenberger, "Migrations of the Pennsylvania Germans to Western Pennsylvania, Pt. II", Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, v. 54, no. 1 (1971), 58-76.
Quentin R. Skrabec, Jr, The World’s Richest Neighborhood: How Pittsburgh’s East Enders Forged American Industry (Algora: New York, 2010).

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Win two Delta tickets to Europe at GlobalPittsburgh International Barbecue on June 25!

GlobalPittsburgh will host its second annual International Barbecue on June 25 at Bayardstown Social Club. We are keeping the admission minimal (only $5 for members and $7 for non-members until May 31) to encourage more people to come celebrate the diverse cultures in the Pittsburgh region. At the event, we will be selling chances to win 2 round-trip airline tickets to any destination served by Delta in Europe!

Attendees will be able to choose from a wide selection of grilled foods from different cultures and imported beer. Entertainment will be provided by DJ Pandemic, there will also be a photo booth and activities for adults and children.

Gail Shrott, Director of International Leaders Program, GlobalPittsburgh,
Bill Hennessey (winner of 2 Delta tickets),
and John Hindman, GlobalPittsburgh's Chairman of the Board at our International Barbecue last year


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Pittsburgh Universities Shine at EducationUSA Leadership Institute

GlobalPittsburgh was chosen from among a very competitive field of international organizations and universities to hold one of three EducationUSA Leadership Institutes in early March this year. For ten days, officials from seven countries joined Pittsburgh international educators in considering ways to increase global awareness and international study opportunities for their students and faculties. 

The fourteen officials represented universities and government ministries in Burma, Egypt, Estonia, Nepal, Panama, The Philippines and Turkey. Monte Bohna, GlobalPittsburgh’s coordinator for its higher education initiative Study Pittsburgh, joined with Jeffrey Whitehead, Director of Study Abroad at the University of Pittsburgh, to design a program which drew on the talent and resources of a wide cross-section of Pittsburgh-area institutions of higher learning, including Chatham University, Duquesne University, La Roche College and Robert Morris University.  World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, study-abroad organizations CAPA: The Global Education Network and Athena Study Abroad (recently relocated to Pittsburgh), Avonworth School District, Winchester Thurston School, and The Ellis School also participated in the institute program.

The Leadership Institute is an initiative of EducationUSA, a section of the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs assisting American universities to internationalize their campuses and promote U.S. higher education around the world.  GlobalPittsburgh’s participation marks the Leadership Institute’s third year; the two previous rounds, on a variety of topics related to international education, were each organized by universities and other academic institutions in cities across the United States, including Denver, CO, Charlotte, NC, St. Louis, MO, and Champaign, IL.  This year, GlobalPittsburgh was joined by Portland State University in Portland, OR and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH to organize the most recent round.

While EducationUSA provides direction, oversight and financial support, the Leadership Institute program is administered on its behalf by the Institute of International Education, a non-profit educational organization which since its founding in 1919 has long acted as a partner with the Department of State in a variety of initiatives including the Fulbright exchange program.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Nominate Immigrant Entrepreneur for an Award!

GlobalPittsburgh will host an Immigrant Entrepreneur Celebration and Award Ceremony at the Rivers Club on October 13, 2016.

GlobalPittsburgh is currently accepting nominations for entrepreneurs and professionals who were born outside of the U.S. whose entrepreneurial efforts have benefitted our region. Nominees should reside in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington, or Westmoreland Counties. Some of the anticipated categories for awards will include: Technology, Professional Services, and the Arts.

The Immigrant Entrepreneur Celebration will take place on the evening of Thursday, October 13, 2016 at the Rivers Club. Mayor William Peduto has been invited to speak at the event. "I'd like to thank GlobalPittsburgh for creating this opportunity to celebrate and recognize immigrants as valuable contributors to the economic and cultural landscape of our city. Our history is rooted in the contributions of immigrants and our future is based on the innovation of what the next generation of immigrants will bring,” said Mayor William Peduto. This new annual event will showcase the wide range of enterprises and services in the Pittsburgh region provided by immigrant entrepreneurs.

“We are excited to recognize the achievements of some of the many entrepreneurs who have enriched our region with their talents and tenacity,” said John W. Hindman, GlobalPittsburgh Board Chairman. “We are a region that was built on the hard work and innovation of immigrants and that continues to this day thanks to newer generations of immigrant entrepreneurs.”

Since 1959, GlobalPittsburgh (founded as the Pittsburgh Council for International Visitors) has been developing a local network of resources and creating for the region a pool of valuable contacts worldwide through its work with federally-funded international professional exchanges. GlobalPittsburgh has a network of over 500 members, volunteers, and citizen diplomats who ensure that visiting leaders’ and students’ feel welcome in the Greater Pittsburgh community. For more information about GlobalPittsburgh programs, please visit, call 412.392.4513, or send an email to

To submit your nomination, please visit To learn more about registering to attend the Immigrant Entrepreneur Celebration, please contact Nadya Kessler at or call 412.392.4513.ere is the beginning of my post. 

Tribute to Barbara Platt Gumbiner

By Gail Shrott, Director, International Leaders Program, GlobalPittsburgh

Barbara Gumbiner
On March 31, GlobalPittsburgh lost a true friend and former Executive Director, Barbara Platt Gumbiner. Although many of our current hosts and members did not have the opportunity to meet  her, through her work for the organization between 1978 and 1989 and her unfailing belief in the power of what can be accomplished through citizen diplomacy, she was a long-time supporter of our organization and our national network.   

I arrived at the Pittsburgh Council for International Visitors as Program Coordinator shortly after Barbara had left the organization to work in Washington, DC, for the Institute of International Education. The first time I met her, she shared with me the pride that she felt for having been able to work at our organization with such an amazing network of volunteers who forged lasting connections to people from around the world every day. Barbara instilled in me the importance of our organization’s legacy; all of the individuals whose time and energy had made a profound difference in connecting Pittsburgh to other parts of the world. Barbara went on to work for what was the National Council for International Visitors  (now Global Ties U.S.) until her retirement in 2002, always retaining a pride in Pittsburgh and unfailing belief in the power of international exchanges. For more than a decade, she would volunteer at the national meeting for what is now Global Ties that she could warmly greet her many friends in the network. I believe that Barbara’s spirit will live on in every volunteer taking the time to meet a young international leader  or group for a professional meeting and in every host family sharing a lively dinner conversation over a hospitality dinner.  

"How I have made connections through the IVLP and GlobalPittsburgh"

Gulin Bulbuloglu and Monika Wilcox, 2016
By Gulin Bulbuloglu, GlobalPittsburgh volunteer from Turkey

I met Monika Wilcox, a Program Officer for the national program agency FHI 360 in 2009 when I was a participant from Turkey in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) in Washington, D.C. She accompanied us as our Program Officer throughout a 2 week long exchange for young leaders. The main theme of our project was the importance of giving back to the community in which we lived.

One year after the completion of our program, Monika had the opportunity to visit me in Istanbul, Turkey, where I was attending university. We had a chance to catch up, and talk about how the IVLP impacted our lives.

Nearly 7 years after my IVLP experience, I moved to Pittsburgh, and started to look for an opportunity to give back to the new community in which I was living. While looking for an organization at which I could volunteer, I discovered GlobalPittsburgh. Its mission was something I strongly believed in: creating international connections within the community and beyond to other parts of the world.

Shortly after I started volunteering at GlobalPittsburgh in January 2016, I found out that Monika Wilcox, now Program Manager, International Cultural and Youth Programs, Global Connections, FHI 360, was going to visit Pittsburgh to attend the March 3, 2016, closing session of a project for an IVLP group of Peruvian environmentalists. The world was small after all! Gail Shrott, GlobalPittsburgh’s Director of the International Leaders Program, told Monika that she had a surprise for her at breakfast before her closing session. I was the surprise! Monika was astonished when she saw me at the lobby of her hotel. We sat down and started to catch up from where we left off 6 years ago. We have remained in contact and I expect that our paths will cross again.

On May 3, 2016, a gift to GlobalPittsburgh will go a little further!

The Pittsburgh Foundation will host the seventh Day of Giving on My 3, 2016.
Please go to this website between 8 am and midnight to make a donation.  If you search by categories on the right column, you will find the Pittsburgh Council for International Visitors/GlobalPittsburgh as one of the four organizations listed under the category International, Foreign Affairs, and National Security. Consider this an opportunity to honor the legacy of our organization and the many volunteers who have contributed their time and  expertise or who have opened their homes and their hearts to visitors form around the world.

Please consider making a tax deductible donation and supporting GlobalPittsburgh on the Day of Giving.

Participants in “Disability Issues in the U.S.” program (July 17-21, 2015) .
Their visit coincided with the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which banned discrimination based on disability in employment, government services and public accommodations.