For many years, owner Todd August Mathias has been serving Pittsburghers and visitors delicious food and generous drinks in comfortable surroundings.
Todd's attention to detail and concern that every customer's experience is memorable for all of the right reasons are traits that he inherited from his great grandfather, August Henry “Gus” Mathias, for whom the restaurant is named.
In the late 1800s, as a teenager who spoke no English, Gus emigrated from Germany to Philadelphia, where he got a job cleaning horse-drawn streetcars. Noticing his conscientiousness, a regular passenger offered Gus a position making blueprints at Baldwin Locomotive Works. At night, he learned English through the Philadelphia Public Schools, graduating in 1890.
In 1892, the 20 year-old blueprint maker, sensing a need for his talents in the emerging heavy industries of steel, coal, aluminum and glass, settled in Allegheny City (Pittsburgh's North Side today) on the north shore of the Allegheny River, across from the bustling city of Pittsburgh. It was in Allegheny City that Gus founded A.H. Mathias & Co., making blueprints on the roof of a three-story building on Federal Street, near the site of PNC Park.
Why the roof? Because there was no electricity, and sunlight was needed to activate the photo-sensitive coating of the blueprint paper, which was hand-processed through a developer bath, rinsed in water and hung up to dry. The dry-but-wrinkled print, which was difficult to make because of the smoke and soot that Bessemer Converters, and open-hearth steelmaking furnaces and coke ovens belched into the sky, was then ironed by hand and trimmed to size.
Despite those obstacles, A.H. Mathias & Co. survived. In 1900, electric blueprint machines made 24-hour printing possible, and the company, which grew along with the city, moved to larger space in Downtown Pittsburgh, where it produced blueprints for roads, bridges, tunnels, schools, commercial buildings, universities, religious institutions, homes and more.
Although A.H. Mathias & Co. closed its doors since - a casualty of changing technology — the company's history, and that of Pittsburgh at the turn of the 20th century, remain alive on the walls of August Henry's City Saloon.
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