History of the Signing of the Pittsburgh Agreement
The signing of The Pittsburgh Agreement on May 31, 1918, was an important occurrence in the course of events leading to the establishment of an independent Czechoslovak state after the First World War. The catalyst for drafting and signing of this Agreement was the visit to Pittsburgh of Tomaš Garrigue Masaryk (1850-1937), who was the leader of the Czech and Slovak independence movement, and later became the first President of Czechoslovakia.
During Masaryk’s visit to the U.S. in 1918, he was welcomed by members of Congress in Washington, D.C., encountered large crowds of supporters in Chicago and New York City and, on June 19th, met with President Woodrow Wilson to discuss Czechoslovak independence and sending a Legion of Czech and Slovak soldiers, 50,000 strong, to join the Allies fighting on the Western front in France.
Masaryk was welcomed to Pittsburgh on May 30th, a holiday called Decoration Day. He participated in a parade that included 20,000 immigrants, including Czechs and Slovaks, parading through the streets of downtown leading to Pittsburgh’s Exposition Hall. Inside the hall, Masaryk received official greetings from the mayor and the Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh before giving a passionate speech about the need for independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The next day, May 31st, members of the Czechoslovak National Council in America met with Masaryk at the Loyal Order of Moose Lodge on Penn Avenue. In attendance were representatives from Czech and Slovak fraternal organizations from around the United States.
At that meeting, the conditions for establishing an independent nation were incorporated into a final document called The Pittsburgh Agreement. This document became a memorandum of understanding between members of the Czech and Slovak immigrant communities in the United States to create an independent Czechoslovak Republic.
Over time the Agreement was signed by 29 leaders of national Slovak and Czech fraternal organizations who supported the formation of a united independent country. The political unity expressed by this public document was also important to Masaryk’s strategy of winning official sanction from the U.S. and European governments and increased the chance of gaining recognition for an independent Czechoslovakia at the Paris Peace Conference after the war.
The independence of Czechoslovakia was officially proclaimed in Prague on October 28, 1918. On November 14th, Tomaš Garrigue Masaryk was elected President of the Czechoslovak Republic by the National Assembly in Prague and remained President until his retirement in 1935.
- A plaque honoring the efforts of both President Masaryk and President Wilson and the role of The Pittsburgh Agreement in the formation of the nation of Czechoslovakia resides in the lobby of the EQT Building at 625 Liberty Avenue, the site of the Loyal Order of Moose Lodge.
- A Pennsylvania Historic Marker recognizing the signing of The Pittsburgh Agreement is located in EQT Plaza at the corner of Seventh and Penn Avenues.
- A copy of The Pittsburgh Agreement is on permanent display at the Senator John Heinz History Center on Smallman Street in Pittsburgh.