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From Humble Beginnings to Queen City


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Cincinnati's history is as rich as that of the bratwurst sausage.

Three Revolutionary War battles were fought on Cincinnati's soil, and its county, Hamilton, is named after Alexander Hamilton, George Washington's successor for secretary-general of the Society of the Cincinnati. To this day, a disproportionately large number of Revolutionary War soldier's descendants, whose ancestors were granted lands, call Cincinnati home.

With the north Ohio River below and seven hills behind it, Cincinnati's environs are similar to Rome's. In 2010, greater Cincinnati-comprised of the southwest corner of Ohio, northern Kentucky, and southeast Indiana-had a population of 2,130,151, necessitating many jobs, homes and storage facilities.

Let's take a quick peek at the birth of the fine city of Cincy.

Humble Beginnings

Called Losantville by early settlers, Cincinnati was founded in 1788. Its first thirty settlers received two lots - one acre near the center of town and four in the outlying areas.

After surviving three Native American Indian attacks, the early settlers, who lived in log cabins, saw their village grow. Fort Washington, which provided military protection for the settlers, was built in 1789. Its soldiers, who sometimes established martial law in the territory, increased the population right alongside of those migrating.

According to the Ohio History Central website, "…hundreds of settlers continued to come to the town. They believed that they could make their fortunes providing the soldiers and people traveling down the Ohio River with supplies." More than thirty warehouses were built to meet the storage needs of the new settlers.

In 1790, the governor of the Northwest Territory, Arthur St. Clair, changed the settlement's name to Cincinnati in honor of

  • Cincinnatus, a Roman general credited with saving his city
  • The Society of Cincinnati, an organization of Revolutionary War officers, of which St. Clair was a member
  • General George Washington, whom the society considered a latter-day Cincinnatus.

America's First Boomtown

Chartered as a village in 1802, Cincinnati's first mayor was German immigrant and former Revolutionary War soldier David Ziegler. One year later, approximately one thousand people called Cincinnati home. Just sixteen years later, when Cincinnati achieved official cityhood, the population, including many German immigrants, had climbed to nearly 10,000.

In the mid-nineteenth century, Cincinnati saw increased activity, including the following:

  • 1853: The creation of America's first full-time, salaried fire department, which was the first in the world to use steam fire engines.

  • 1863: Two American Civil War battles. Cincinnati also played a vital role in supplying goods for the Union Army.

  • 1867: The erection of the Roebling Suspension Bridge, which spans the Ohio River.

  • 1869: Development of the first professional baseball team - the Cincinnati Red Stockings (known today as the Cincinnati Reds).

Two distinctly different Cincinnati nicknames emerged from the nineteenth century-one given by American poet and educator Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who dubbed the city "the Queen City," and the other "Porkopolis," commemorating Cincinnati as the pork-processing center of the United States.

The Opportunistic Ohio

In the nineteenth century, Cincinnati became a major center for commerce. Its growth continued, bolstered by the Ohio River, the introduction of steamships, and the construction of the Miami and Erie Canal. By 1850 the population had grown to 115,000.

"Cincinnati emerged as a major city, primarily due to its strategic location on the Ohio River," states the Ohio History Central website. Business opportunities, such as hotels, restaurants and taverns, sprouted up to meet the needs of the many settlers who were traveling west.

The Ohio would also help Cincinnati weather the Great Depression better than most large cities, as people returned to river trade, which was less costly than rail.

Twentieth Century Cincy

Notable events of the 1900s added to Cincinnati's history. Its rich German heritage fostered an equally rich brewing industry during America's pre-prohibition, allowing Cincinnati to become a national brewing forerunner. The twentieth century also saw the following take place in Cincinnati:

  • The Sons of Daniel Boone, forerunner to the Boy Scouts of America, got its start in Cincinnati.

  • Harriet Beecher Stowe penned her seminal Uncle Tom's Cabin while living in Cincinnati.

  • Professor and Reverend William Holman McGuffey published his famous McGuffey Readers, standouts among America's first and most-commonly used textbooks.

  • UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill called Cincinnati "the most beautiful of the inland cities of the Union."

Cincinnati Today

Cincinnati is the fortunate beneficiary of grand buildings erected by late nineteenth-, early twentieth-century corporate giants, some in need of restoration.

"Today Cincinnati is undergoing a renaissance that combines aggressive historic preservation with an economic development strategy based on sports, culture, and food - all three deeply embedded in Cincy's view of itself," writes Julia Vitullo-Martin in an article for Untapped Cities, aptly named, "Downtown Cincinnati Rises - Gloriously."

If you are fortunate enough to play a part in Cincy's continuing rich history, or if you soon will be moving to the Queen City and find yourself in need of storage, check out our user-friendly storage facility finder.

"Welcome to Cincinnati, Ohio", Move In And Out -

"Choose Cincinnati", Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitor's Bureau -

"Cincinnati, Ohio", Ohio History Central -,_Ohio

"Downtown Cincinnati Rises - Gloriously", Untapped Cities -

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