Founded in 1788, Cincinnati became the leading riverfront city in the Ohio Valley because of its position on the great northerly bend of the Ohio River, located roughly halfway on its course from Pittsburgh to the river’s confluence with the Mississippi. In addition, the city’s proximity to the mouths of the Little and Great Miami Rivers (and from 1828, the Miami Canal) and to the Licking River on the Kentucky shore gave Cincinnati access to interior markets on both sides of the river. With the development of the steamboat, this access connected Cincinnati upstream to the markets of the East and downstream to the Mississippi Valley and New Orleans. By 1841, when the businessman, statistician, and journalist Charles Cist published his favorable history and assessment of Cincinnati’s future prospects, the city was the largest interior port in the United States and second only to New Orleans in its population and commerce among American settlements west of the Appalachians. By 1850, it was the second largest manufacturing city in the country, after New York.
This view of Cincinnati’s busy landing on the Ohio River, which is flanked by warehouses, insurance companies, and other businesses engaged in the river trade, was meant to emphasize the city’s eminence. “There are few places in the United States,” Cist wrote, “which more favorably impress a stranger who reaches it by water—the usual avenue—than Cincinnati. His eye glances upon that superb quay—our public landing, a space of ten acres, nearly, and a front of almost one thousand feet, with which our eastern cities have nothing of the kind to compare, in beauty and convenience.” (p. 234)
Aaron, Daniel. Cincinnati: Queen City of the West, 1819-1838 (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1992.
Abbott, Carl. Boosters and Businessmen: Popular Economic Thought and Urban Growth in the Antebellum Middle West Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981.
Glazer, Walter Stix. Cincinnati in 1849: The Social and Functional Organization of an Urban Community during the Pre-Civil War Period Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1999.
Stradling, David. Cincinnati: From River City to Highway Metropolis. New York: Arcadia Publishing, 2003.
Doolittle & Munson, “Cincinnati Landing,” from Cincinnati in 1841: Its Early Annals and Future Prospects by Charles Cist (Cincinnati: Charles Cist, 1841), frontispiece. The Newberry Library, Case G 8921 .1705