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Travel Articles by David Bear
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John Scull marker to be rededicated


Regular readers may recall a column I wrote last November looking into the matter of a missing historical marker dedicated to John Scull, Pittsburgh's pioneering printer.

In the spring of 1786, the 21-year-old Philadelphian brought a printing press over the mountains of Pennsylvania to the frontier outpost at the forks of the Ohio. On July 29 of that year, he published the first edition of the Pittsburgh Gazette, the direct precursor of this newspaper and also the first periodical west of the Alleghenies.

In 1789, Scull was named Pittsburgh's first postmaster, and for seven years he conducted both enterprises from his log cabin home on Water Street, near what is now the corner of the Boulevard of the Allies and Market Street.

John Scull's publishing business and civic standing prospered with the growth of Pittsburgh. He served on the city council in 1804. In 1822, Scull retired to Brush Hill, the estate of his wife's father, Col. John Irwin, who settled the area of Westmoreland County around the town now named for him. Scull died there on Feb. 8, 1828, at the age of 62.

In 1958, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission commemorated John Scull's contribution to the area with one of its 5-foot-high blue markers with gold lettering near the site of his log cabin.

Several years ago, I was writing about the Commission's Historical Marker program and planned to cite the Scull marker, which I remembered passing frequently on my daily commute, as an example. But when I went out to check the location, the marker was nowhere to be found.

My investigation into what happened to the marker (which strangely vanished about the time a bus shelter was erected nearby) turned up no clues. Neither did the aforementioned column.

But what it did turn up was a surprising number of people who still honored John Scull's memory and accomplishments almost two centuries later, including a handful of his direct descendents, and in particular George Scull Cook, the longtime president of Somerset Trust Co.

Through their interest and generosity, along with a matching grant from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, we have raised the money for a replacement, and, with the assistance of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center and the city of Pittsburgh, will be replacing the marker in its rightful place on Thursday.

The new marker says:


Pioneering editor and publisher who issued first edition of Pittsburgh Gazette, 1786. First newspaper west of Alleghenies, it became the Post-Gazette, 1927. A Berks County native, he was active in Western Pa's civic affairs; home & print shop were here.

We're planning to unveil the marker about 3:45 p.m., and Clarke Thomas, author of the recently published "Front Page: Pittsburgh," will offer remarks about Scull and his importance in the city's history.

Any reader who is interested in participating in this small slice of Pittsburgh history is welcome to drop by. The location again is the corner of the Boulevard of the Allies and Market Street.

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