Cincinnati: “The Queen City of the West.” By 1850, Cincinnati was the fastest growing city in the nation and the largest in the Midwest, sustaining a population of over 115,000 residents.

Thriving industries in soap and candle-making, textiles, leather goods, furniture, hardware, and most notably, meatpacking (earning it the nickname Porkopolis), made Cincinnati the second largest manufacturing center in the U.S. Economic ties linked the city to the South as a producer of raw materials and consumer of processed goods.[1]

The multiracial, multiethnic city bustled with steamboats and dockworkers along the riverfront, immigrants (particularly from Germany and Ireland), and African Americans, enslaved and free.[2] The city’s diversity created a rich mixture of ideas, customs and institutions, but it also caused tension among groups divided by race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and political views.

As elsewhere in the country then and now, immigrant and nativist groups clashed in the urban environment.[3]

Cincinnati’s immigrants were primarily German and Irish Catholics and, to a lesser degree, Ashkenazi Jews, and issues of religion and national origin often intersected as native-born Protestants expressed anti-Papist and anti-Semitic resentment. Located in a free state separated by the Ohio River from slaveholding Kentucky, Cincinnati attracted abolitionists who flocked to the city promoting the antislavery cause. Many Cincinnatians who relied on trade with the South felt threatened by the abolition movement and the increasing African American population in the city. At times, these tensions erupted into open conflict.[4]

This webpage explores some of these contending groups in the Queen City and the relationships between them in the years leading up to the Civil War.

[1] John Fairfield, “Cincinnati, Ohio,” The American Midwest; an interpretive encyclopedia,  (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011): 1153-55.

[2] “Cincinnati, OH,” Ohio History Central, April 16, 2014, http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Cincinnati,_Ohio? rec=681.

[3] John Fairfield, “Cincinnati, Ohio,” The American Midwest; an interpretive encyclopedia, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011): 1153-55.

[4] Patrick Folk, “‘The Queen City of Mobs’: Riots and Community Reactions in Cincinnati, 1788-1848” (Ph.D. diss., University of Toledo, 1978), 59.