Q: When exactly was it signed?
The Pittsburgh Agreement (sometimes Pact) was concluded at a meeting of Slovak-American and Czech-American activists toward the end of World War I. It played a role in the Allies' goal to carve new countries out of the ethnic German- and Hungarian-dominated Habsburg monarchy after its capitulation.
The Pittsburgh Agreement approved of one of the countries to be set up jointly for the Slovaks and Czechs, and stipulated aspects of its future makeup. The activists voted on and passed its wording in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Friday, 31 May 1918.
Memorial Day 1918
The first day of the two-day event focused on the festivities around the arrival of Prof. Tomáš Garrigue-Masaryk, Chairman of the Czechoslovak National Council and the future country's president. It was Memorial Day (Thursday, 30 May), which was still celebrated on a fixed date in 1918. The holiday was chosen in order to give Slovak-Americans and Czechs (not a significant immigrant community in Pittsburgh at that time) a chance to attend – downtown Pittsburgh was indeed flooded with 10,000 revelers by The Pittsburgh Press estimates.
Work day, Friday, 31 May
The working session of the Czechoslovak National Council in America (CSNCA – the members present were 9 Slovaks, 7 Czechs, and Masaryk of Slovak and Czech parentage) met on Friday, 31 May, from 10:30 a.m. till 8:45 p.m., with a lunch break from noon to 1:55. While it was a CSNCA meeting, another dozen people trickled in throughout the day and were allowed to attend as guests.
What came to be known as the Pittsburgh Agreement was passed late in the afternoon. The CSNCA meeting was interrupted, and only Slovaks and Masaryk met in a separate room to draft it. The about a dozen lines of the original text of the Pittsburgh Agreement are buried, with some grammatical irregularities and typos, on page 13 (see below):
... of the 16-page minutes from the CSNCA meeting, jointly recorded by the meeting's two elected secretaries, Slovak Ignác Gessay and Czech Ferdinand Písecký, both later replaced by Alois Koukol, and typed in Czech.
Although no Czechs were at the Slovaks' session with Masaryk that drew up the text of the agreement, and the CSNCA meeting voted on it, the two groups the minutes named as entering the agreement were the Slovak League (the Slovak-Americans' umbrella organization) and the Czech National Alliance. Masaryk was not formally a member of either of them.
The minutes list the names of those who attended the CSNCA meeting and note no dissenting vote on the agreement. There is no indication, however, that, in addition to the recorded vote, the participants actually signed any document on that occasion, and at least one participant recalled later that no document was signed then. Except for the brief vote, the day-long CSNCA Pittsburgh meeting spent its time covering other issues.
The Slovak League later commissioned a calligraphic lithograph with the text of the Pittsburgh Agreement and collected signatures on it. Masaryk signed it in Washington, D.C., on 14 November 1918, the day after the new country's Provisional Constitution was adopted in Prague and defined the role of the emerging country's President.
The lithograph does not mention the CSNCA (founded on 12 February 1918 as the American branch of Masaryk's Paris-based CSNC by the following U.S. groups) at whose meeting the vote took place. It names three groups as concluding the Pittsburgh Agreement – the Slovak League of America and the Czech National Alliance, both noted in the minutes, as well as the National Alliance of Czech Catholics not recorded in the minutes.
The significance of the agreement took on a life of its own, signatures on the post facto lithograph were also collected from activists not present at the meeting, but not from all the participants who were (see the left sidebar).
There is no record of why the lithograph contains a wrong date, Thursday.
It could have been a simple mistake, the Memorial Day festivities probably loomed on people's minds. Many may not have known about the main meeting taking place on Friday. Or a Slovak participant may have recalled a discussion with Masaryk on Thursday but forgotten the subsequent joint Slovak and Czech activists' vote on the wording during Friday's session (Masaryk made the same mistake in his work from 1927).
Or it may have been the Slovak League's deliberate decision.
Entering the date of the massive Slovak-American festivities in Pittsburgh may have been seen as a symbolic link between the activists' agreement and the will of the people.
It may also have been a gesture toward the immigrants' new home. Especially during World War I when the Habsburg monarchy was the United States' enemy, immigrant groups from there often wanted to display their allegiance to the U.S. along with the maintenance of their heritage. Linking a key Europe-oriented document to an American national holiday may have seemed appropriate.