Let's Learn From the Past: 'Unconquered: History Meets Hollywood at Fort Pitt'

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During the summer of 1763, the residents of Pittsburgh successfully defended themselves against an American Indian uprising. In 1947, more than 175 years later, this historic tale inspired a star-studded Hollywood movie.

Shortly after the conclusion of the French and Indian War, American Indians resisted restrictive British trade policies and the invasion of white settlers west of the Appalachian Mountains. Several tribes banded together in a widespread revolt known as Pontiac's Rebellion, named for the Ottawa leader who organized the siege of Fort Detroit.

The uprising reached the Forks of the Ohio by June 1763, as panicked settlers retreated behind the walls of Fort Pitt. After two months of sporadic attacks, the Indian force moved 25 miles east of Pittsburgh to intercept a British column marching toward Fort Pitt. Led by Col. Henry Bouquet, the British defeated the Indians at the Battle of Bushy Run, effectively preserving Fort Pitt and restoring a tenuous peace to the frontier.

In 1947, Cecil B. DeMille brought the story of the siege of Pittsburgh to the silver screen. DeMille, known for blockbusters such as "Cleopatra" and "The Ten Commandments," directed the Pittsburgh epic "Unconquered," featuring an ensemble of cast members at the peak of their careers during Hollywood's Golden Age, including Gary Cooper, Paulette Goddard, Boris Karloff and Howard Da Silva.

The film premiered at Loew's Penn Theatre in September 1947 with plenty of Hollywood fanfare, featuring one of the largest parades in Pittsburgh history. Gov. James Duff, Mayor David Lawrence and director DeMille led the procession of covered wagons through the Downtown streets.

Visitors to the Fort Pitt Museum can see authentic 18th-century artifacts from the siege of Pittsburgh alongside original props, photographs and costumes from the movie as part of the exhibition "Unconquered: History Meets Hollywood at Fort Pitt." For more information, visit www.heinzhistorycenter.org and click on Fort Pitt Museum.


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