A poor area of Pittsburgh popularly known as “The Strip” became Kane's home in 1929. Before this time he had focused on the city's industrial landscape. Across the Strip, painted the year of Kane’s move, depicts daily activity in the rundown district, complete with produce yards, factories and mills surrounded by the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Allegheny River. Though many sites have been identified in Across the Strip, the exact location (or locations) from which Kane painted this work is difficult to determine because the buildings, including Kane's former dwelling, were destroyed in the 1970s. In constructing this work, Kane may have initially sketched multiple views on site, combining and adjusting them to create a single composite work in his studio. His careful process of assembly gives strength and unity to Kane’s depiction of his beloved city. This democratically additive vision, the hallmark of his style, places him squarely within the American folk tradition.
Within Across the Strip, Kane lovingly depicted his neighborhood and its environs in minute detail. The painting derives its vitality from the evidence of human labor that is catalogued with energetic concentration: each brick and shingle gives testimony to Kane's firsthand knowledge of the trades at which he earned his livelihood for sixty-six years. He included broken windows, nesting birds, crumbling brick, women putting out laundry, and the calligraphy of commercial signs, which he could not possibly have read from his distant vantage point. Today, these signs are a faithful record of Pittsburgh's dominant industries and enterprises: Heinz, P. R. Butler Co., and Pittsburgh Maid Bread. His practice of including portraits of friends and neighbors in his paintings invites speculation: is the prominent profile of the bread man a self-portrait, and the solid woman by the doorway Kane's wife? While the composition is rich and varied in detail, the color scheme is restricted to shades of rust and green.
The poetic and lyrical quality of Across the Strip fascinated many. Attracted to what he termed "the honesty of [Kane's] point of view and the quaint charm of his unconscious style," Duncan Phillips purchased Across the Strip from its public premiere at the Carnegie International Exhibition in 1930, making The Phillips the first museum to own a Kane painting. At its first Washington showing, Phillips, whose own family was from Pittsburgh, changed its title to Old Pittsburgh and exhibited it as an example of "Pictorial Language of the People, Direct and Spontaneous...."