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CINCINNATI IN 1877.
In 1877, after a residence in Cincinnati of thirty years, we returned to our native city of New Haven, when we gave, in a publication there, the annexed described of Cincinnati as it then was. The article is now historical, and hence proper here for permanent record; beside, we which to preserve it as a heartfelt tribute to a city where, and a people among whom, our children were born, and when we had so much enjoyment of life. The caption of the article was “Cincinnati on the Hills.”
Recently an Eastern gentleman, a divine of national reputation, at one time like the writer a resident of Cincinnati—a gentleman of broad experience of travel and association in this and other lands—remarked to us: ‘‘Cincinnati is the exceptional city of the world, for the social character of its people and the wise generosity and the public spirit of its wealthy men and citizens generally.” We had long felt this, and were pleased to see it so emphasized by one with such opportunities for a correct opinion.
In April, 1832, Catherine BEECHER, arrived at Walnut Hills, then largely in the primeval forest, and before her sister Harriet had come to eventually marry Calvin Stowe, and fill up for the writing of “Uncle Tom.” To her Catherine wrote ‘‘I never saw a place so capable of being rendered a paradise by the improvements of taste as the environs of this city. ‘‘Thirty years later the improvements were well started when out came Theodore WOOLSEY president of Yale College, to Walnut hills for a visit, and, alike enthused, said: “No other city on the globe has such beautiful suburbs.”
Prevalence of Public Sprit—While other of our great cities may each point to one or two citizens who have contributed in single gifts tens of thousands to objects promotive of the public welfare, Cincinnati can point to five gentlemen of this class now walk-ing her streets, pleasant to meet, as seeing them recalls their beneficence. They are Reuben SPRINGER, who gave $175,000 toward a music hall, and later regretted that he had not given its full cost, $300,000; Joseph LONGWORTH, $50,000 for a Free Art School, Henry PROBASCO, $105.000 for a public fountain; David SINTON, $33,000 for a Christian association building, and also $100,0000 for the Bethel Sunday-School, where every Sab-bath from 2,500 to 3,000 children of poor are gathered under one roof; and William S. GROSEBECK, $50,000 for music in the parks. Beside these are scores of others equally lib-eral, according to their means, often dispensing hundreds and sometimes thousands in their gifts
Cincinnati’s Blessings.—The people are so social, come together so much for social objects that everybody worth knowing is generally known. Pride in themselves, in their city and in their public spirit, is a manifest and righteous characteristic. They stand on tiptoe when their city is named, and feel a foot taller.
The city is near the centre of population in the very heart of the Union. It is said to be more familiarly known on the continent of Europe, more noticed in the public prints, especially in Germany, from its peculiar
Within the city is a public fountain, a free gift, the finest in the Union; a free public library of over 80,000 volumes, in a magnificent library building, where nearly a score of assistants stand ready to loan out the choicest books to the humblest citizens without price: a free art school, where one can learn, without cost, to draw and paint, carve and mould, and listen to attractive lectures from Benn PITMAN on art; and a music hall and organ, both the largest on the continent, and costing unitedly nearly a third of a million, also a free gift. The steam fire engine is a Cincinnati invention, and the city the first to adopt, which it did through a severe conflict, largely through the indomitable pluck and will-power of Miles GREENWOOD, one of the city’s strongest citizens, literally an iron man.
Musical Festivals.—A distinguishing feat-ure of the city has been her musical festivals, to be still greater, for she is to be the centre of music in this country, especially so now that she has secured as her guiding spirit the graceful, manly maestro, Theodore THOMAS, whom simply to see while wielding the baton is alone worth the price of admission. The opening of these festivals is always a gala day. The streets are gay with flags, the hotels and public buildings resplendent with artistic adornments, illustrative of music and musical celebrities, and at night illuminated. Multitudes come, some from hundreds of miles away, to attend these festivals; from Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, and other Western states and it is said that once there was a man who came all the way from Boston! But we never believed it. At the seasons of these festivals the streets are crowded with a body of ladies and gentlemen, elegantly attired, with refined mind thoughtful expres-sions, perhaps beyond anything seen there on any other public occasions, thus attesting to the elevating influence of music upon her votaries, and the elevated class which time art divine brings within the circle of her magic wand.
Industrial Expositions.—In the past years Cincinnati has taken the lead in her indus-trial expositions. Her experience was so great that when Philadelphia gave her Centennial she wisely went there for her Director General. This she found Alfred C. GOSHORN, the Cincinnati manager, a gentleman of but few words, who, by silent energy and brain power, could bring order from chaos and master inharmonious and distracting elements to unite and move together as in the harmony and beauty of a grand sym-phony.
Incline Planes.—The city proper is on two planes, one called the “Bottom,” 60 feet and the other 112 feet above low-watermark in the river. This, with the exception of New York and Boston, is the most densely populated area in the Union. Owing to the contracted dimensions of the plains, population is rapidly extending on the river hills. There are nearly 400 feet above the city, and take one on to the general level of the country. Besides roads leading to their summits, there are in all four inclined railway planes—on the north, east and west—where, by stationary engines at the top, people are taken up, sometimes nearly a hundred in a car, and in ninety seconds. They are hauled up by a wire rope large as one’s wrist, which winds around a drum with a monotonous humming sound, quick resounding, as though in a hurry to get you up. An extra rope is attached to each car as a precaution in case the one in use should break
Bird’s-eye Views.—The views from the hills are unique. Seemingly within a stone’s throw one looks down from a height of between 300 and 400 feet into a huge basin-like area filled by a dense, compact city. Beyond this wilderness of walls, roofs and steeples, is seen the Ohio, with its magnificent bridges, the Kentucky towns of Covington and Newport opposite. Encircling hills everywhere bound the view, through which the Ohio pierces, turning its broad silvery surface to that sun which shines equally for us all.
Beer Gardens and Music.—At the summit of these planes are immense beer gardens with mammoth buildings, when on stifling summer nights the city hive swarms out thousands upon thousands of all classed and nationalities, who thus come together and alike yield to the potent influences of music and lager, One, the Highland House, trav-elers say, is not only the largest in the world but is unequalled in splendor and appointments. It is on Mount Adams, east of the city plain, where nearly 40 years ago John Quincy Adams, “the old man eloquent,’’ delivered his oration on the occasion of lay-ing the cornerstone of the Cincinnati Ob-servatory, the first astronomical building erected in human history by the joint con-tributions of private citizens. Thus early had this people initiated those habits of public beneficence which bring down blessings from the stars. In the summer of 1877 Theodore THOMAS with his orchestra gave there three continuous weeks of music, with audiences on some nights of from 6,000 to 8,000 people, many of them around tables and taking in music with their beer.
Viewed from the city the long lines of hundred lights, in places rising tier above tier, marking the spot, made the place appear as an illuminated palace in the skies; While the lighted car in incessant motion up and down the inclined plane looked like a huge fire ball in transit.
The city itself, hundreds of feet below,
The Germans.—The prevalence of music and lager in the city is largely owing to the Germans. Of the 300,000 inhabitants at this centre nearly one-third are Germans or of German stock. In these respects the American have become largely Teutonized.
The Germans are notably frugal and thrifty. The ambition of each family is to own its dwelling—their great ambition a three-story brick. They associate with and cultivate the acquaintance of there own families more thoroughly than our people do theirs. They resort on Sunday afternoons, with their wives and children, to the beer gardens on the hill tops, where there is music, green arbors, kindly skies and soft airs. The utmost decorum prevails. All classes of Germans with their families to the toddling infant thus mingle in calm, peaceful recreation. They learn to know and sympathize with each other, a matter seemingly impossible with a certain class of our snobbish country-men who ever seem dreadfully apprehensive of soiling their gentility.
Love of Flowers.—A pleasing characteristic of the Germans is their passion for flowers. While American woman of humble rank will spend money for an article of personal adornment that perchance may destroy all grace of movement and crucify all beauty, a German woman will purchase a pot of flowers. On passing even tenements houses occupied by Germans, one will often see every window, may be thirty or forty in all, story upon story, filled with pots of flowers. These please the thoughtful passer-by as he thinks of a people who thus endeavor to make fragrant their hard work-day lives.
German Peculiarities.—The original Germans are largely of the working class. Like old-country folk, generally, they are clannish and let their affections go back to the father-land, while their children take especial pride in being thought Americans; indeed some manifest shame at being overheard by Americans talking in the German tongue.
A very common sight in the German quarters is to see old men, grandfathers, on their last legs, acting as nurses for babies, pushing them around in carriages or dangling them on their knees, they meanwhile regaling themselves with their everlasting pipes.
The common class of Germans in the city know next to nothing of the inner life of Americans. Some of them stigmatize us as “Irish.” Their gross ignorance after a residence on our soil of often half a life-time impressed us with the sheer folly of people traveling in Europe, fancying they receive anything more than a surface knowledge of Europeans. Of the earnest spiritual life of our orthodox Christian people they have not the faintest conception. Nothing like it exists among them. As to Sunday; even the Protestant Germans, attach to it no especial sanctity, while the Catholics everywhere every day is equally “the Lord’s.”
The Crusaders Among the Germans.—When the temperance crusade opened the Germans were dumbfounded. Beer is with them as water is with us, and it used from infancy to old age. They received the crusading bands with stolid silence, looking at the ladies from out of their round blue eyes with an expression that showed that their sensations must have been queer, indescribable. Not a saloon in the city was closed. The ladies might as well have prayed and sang before the Rock of Gibraltar. One day the crusade among the Germans came to a sudden end. An entire band of ladies, wives and mothers of the very best citizens, were arrested by the city police—respectfully arrested and escorted to the police station, and charged with violating the city laws in obstructing the sidewalks. As in usual with criminals, they were compelled to register their names, residence and ages! As they were not put in “the lock-up,” their pockets were saved the usual emptying.
During those exciting times the temperance meetings were crowded, and men and women alike addressed the multitudes, the exercised being varied with prayer and song. It was noted that while the men always more or less hesitated, the women never. Their words always flowed as from an everlasting fountain. Pathos, poetry and matter of fact were the concomitants in varied measures of their speech.
At some of these meetings the narratives were so touching that hundreds were melted in tears. We remember one we attended when we were so affected by an involuntary twitching of the facial muscles, that to conceal anything that might happen we bowed our head and looked into the bottom of our hat to study and see if we could not improve the lettering of the hatter’s advertisement. And we believe we succeeded!
And the speaker who so aroused our emotions by the plaintive melody of her voice and the heart-melting scenes of her narrative, was a woman, and she with crispy hair and black as the ace of spades! The earthly tabernacle is as nothing, but it is the divine spirit, wherever it enters, that gives dignity to its possessor, lifts and unites with the Infinite.
In the interior of the State, among an American orthodox population, the Crusaders were wonderfully successful. Peter the Hermit had come again—this time in the form of Dio LEWIS. In some villages every saloon was closed. It seemed for a time as though another age of miracles had dawned upon mankind.
Some ladies spent weeks in the open air, often exposed in cold, inclement weather. Two whom we knew of caught colds and died; another, from being lean, dyspeptic and com-
plaining, grew fat and cheerful and has looked smiling from that day to this. She had been to Palestine arid got back.
This speaking of the Holy Land carries us back by association to childhood years, to our father’s house, to a pretty picture acted there, wherein the maid of the broom, moving from room to room, rosy, blithe and happy, doing the useful things, as making the beds and spatting the pillows, was wont from the abundance of her heart, to burst out birdlike in song, her mind being upon love and the gay cavaliers in the days of chivalry, as she caroled froth:
“It was Dunois, the young and brave,
Was bound for Palestine.”
The word Crusade, which the good ladies used to designate their forays upon the saloons, we verily believe, by the association of ideas—the romantic word with the prosaic fact—helped to lighten their disagreeable labors. To them every saloon was a Jerusalem to be taken, but without the holy places.
The Original German Immigrants to Cincinnati are mainly of the humble classes. But very few people of elegance are among them. They are a highly valued body of cit-izens, commanding respect for their industry and general sobriety of deportment.
An excellent and very wealthy part of the German element is the Hebrew. They, how-ever, are German but little more than in lan-guage. Everywhere they are the same pecu-liar people.
The routine of their domestic daily lives, the preparation of their food, etc, is regulated by certain rules and ceremonies which form an essential part of their religion, so that they never can socially assimilate with other people. There is very little visiting between the families of Jew and Gentiles.
Cincinnati is a sort of paradise for the He-brews. They number about 10,000 souls. Among them are some very learned men, as the Rabbis WISE and LILIENTHAL. Finer spe-cimens of mercantile honor and integrity do not exist than are exemplified in some of their leading merchants.
These people—we speak from knowledge and neighborhood—carry out among themselves more closely perhaps than is common even with Christians, the Christly injunction, “Love one another.” This is not surprising as previous to the year A. D. 1, they had all Christianity there was anywhere. They allow none among them to sink into pauperism, but help each other with stinted hand. And when one returns from a journey his friends run to embrace and kiss him. Music, dancing, theatricals, gayety, bright colors and a good time in this life are the cardinal objects with them. Originally an Oriental people, they naturally take to bright sensuous things. As many of them nowadays have serous doubts of immortality, these act on the principle of “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” This is pitiful when we reflect that the highest joy and the loftiest virtue only can come to the soul when it feels its inestimable value through its conviction of immortality.
The Cause of Cincinnati’s Pre-eminence.—It may be asked, why has Cincinnati obtained its pre-eminence in art, literature, and public spirit over other Western cities, for instance Chicago? We answer, Cincinnati is older than this century. More than forty years ago, when Chicago was a mere fort and Indian trading post, Cincinnati was a city of 25,000 people with a cultured society noted even then for its fostership of literature and art. In those days Cincinnati had such men as Chief-Justice MC LEAN, Salmon P. CHASE, Jacob BURNETT, Dr. Daniel DRAKE, James C. HALL, Nicholas LONGWORTH, Nathaniel WRIGHT, Nat. G. PENDLETON, Charles HAMMOND, Henry STARR, Bellamy STORER, Larz ANDERSON, Bishop MC ILVAIN, Lyman BEECHER, D. K. ESTE, John P. FOOTE, Nathan GUILFORD, General William LYTLE, General William H. HARRISON, Colonel Jared MANSFIED, etc. The last named had been Surveyor-General of the N. W. Territory and Professor of Mathematics at West Point.
Brilliant Women.—Colonel MANSFIELD, with Mrs. MANSFIELD, where natives of this city, and she it was who introduced into Cincinnati society the custom of New Year calls. Probably there is scarcely a single individual, aside from this writer, in this, the city of her birth and childhood, who remembers this lady, now long since deceased. But New Haven never produced, nor Cincinnati never held, a more queenly woman. Her son The Hon. E. D. MANSFIELD, the statistician of Ohio and well-known writer of Cincinnati, who graduated at the head of his class at Princeton, and the second at West Point, is New Haven born. Although about as old as the century, his spirits are as buoyant, as youthful as those of any school-boy who now carries a happy morning face through the streets of his native city. Among other ladies who have figured in the old society of the city were Mrs. TROLLOPE, Fanny WRIGHT DARUSEMONT and Harriet BEECHER STOWE.
Cincinnati’s and Chicago’s Characteristics.— Cincinnati has ever been a great manufacturing and creating centre, instead of a great trading, distribution, land speculating point like Chicago. The latter in consequence has drawn to itself from its first uprising out of the box, hosts of wild speculators and adventurers of all sorts, who came under the influence of the elixir of an exhilarating climate, with their imaginations excited to money making by the sight of vast prairies of wonderful fertility stretching away in easy gradations for its site, forming a greater body of rich land than lies around any other city in all Christendom.
The growth of Cincinnati having been comparatively slow, its best elements have had time to take root, unite and strengthen with the rolling years. Her population has been stable and not changing. Hence there is in this generation an aristocracy of “town born,” of culture united to wealth, as the
LONGWORTHS, GROESBECKS, DEXTERS, PENDLETONS, ANDERSONS, GOSHORNS, etc. who take immense pride in their native city, forming a nucleus around which gather those forces which are impelling it on its upward career.
Cincinnati a Literary Centre.— Cincinnati, more than any other Western city, has been a literary centre—a great book-publishing, book-selling mart. The bookstore of Robert CLARK & Co. is the literary focus of the city and adjoining States. There one meets with the most eminent characters of society. Said a prominent bookseller of Chicago to a member of this firm: “I don’t understand how you Cincinnatians sell such quantities of the higher class of scientific works—the books of the great thinkers and specialists; we have very little call for them here.” A partial solution of this may be found in the partial solution of this may be found in the capacity of the Cincinnati bookseller! The value of a bookseller, genial, book-loving and book-knowing to any community that has his services, are they not, Oh! Appreciative reader, beyond your arithmetic?”
The Hills and Clifton.—Eventually the city plain will be devoted entirely to business and the homes of the people be “Cincinnati on the Hills.” Now the finest of the palatial residences are there with the outlying districts of Mount Auburn, Walnut Hills, Price Hill, and Clifton.
Clifton is a collection of magnificent chateaux, four miles from the city, amid groves and grassy lawns, which in architectural display, combines with landscape adornment and picturesque outlooks, had not, says a German author, its equal but in one spot in Europe. Clifton has been the astonishment of foreigners who have accepted the hospitalities of its price-like dwellers, among whom may be mentioned: The Price of Wales, Charles Dickens, Thackeray, and those Queens of Song, Jenny Lind, and Christine Nilsson. There in a palace resides Henry PROBASCO, once a penniless youth, who gave the Tyler-Davidson fountain to Cincinnati. He alike proposes the same with his magnificent picture gallery valued at $200,000 soon as the citizens erect a suitable building, which they are certain to do some day. Another resident is William S. GROESBECK, who gave $50,000 for music in the parks. He it was who told his brother Democrats at the close of the rebellion, that they must accept the issue of the question of State Rights as ended. Said he, “war legislates, the trial of arms is the final Court of Appeals.” George PENDLETON, the famous Democratic leader, is also there. He is sometimes called “Gentleman George,” from the suave manners and good fellowship generally. He is what is termed “a handsome man,” compact full rounded, with dark sparking eyes. Richard SMITH, proprietor of the Cincinnati Gazette also dwells in Clifton. He is a plain, unostentatious citizen, who will receive in his office with more attention a poor crone of a woman who comes to crave charity than any swelling individual who calls under circumstances of pomp and state.
Beauty of the Country.—The country on the hills is surpassingly beautiful. The formation is the blue limestone, and geologist say peculiar. Trilobites—perfect marine shells—are found in abundance. The surface is disposed in soft, exquisitely graceful swells with no abrupt transitions. In places the beech woods stretch away over hills and through dale in billowy swells, the ground one continuous green lawn with no underbrush to mar the prospect under the lights and shadows on the leafy canopies. For height combined with massiveness and luxuriance of foliage, no tree within our knowledge is equal to the beech to the New England elm. Where the beech grows the soil is fat and luxuriant for the corn, the wheat and the good things that plump out the ribs rejoice and make laugher the inner man.
On these hill sides, amid the lesser value, within easy rides from the city are many charming suburban homes of the well-to-do citizens, sweet surprises to the stranger as they suddenly burst upon him from out a wilderness of green things. These are often reached by some sequestered by-road, winding through some lesser vale, where one might easily fancy they were a hundred miles away from any city. There are many such places all unknown to the masses who delve and sweat out their lives in the great hot, sooty town. At one of these, on a lofty eminence opposite Clifton, called “Makatewah” from the Indian name of the deep, broad valley which they each overlook—the first from the east and the last from the west and near two miles apart-we had passed so many happy days, escapes from the heat, dust and brain worrying life of the hot city, that although unused to versification, we could not refrain from tribute.
While generous vines the nectar yields
That lifts sad hearts in genial flow.
Mid fragrance insects happy hum,
The wood bird beats his rataplan.
The peacock* struts with speckled mates
And stately swings a glittering fan.
When evening’s shadows solemn steal
O’er Clifton’s lead-crowned, height,
There sweet to watch the fading day
Die in the arms of night.
The valley sounds rise on the air,
The tinkling bells, the rolling cars,
While o’re the deep’ning gloom below
Look down the sad, mysterious stars.
O. Makatewah! peaceful spot,
Where Nature’s sweetest charms are spread;
My weary spirit finds repose,
To calmest thought is led.
Then “Cincinnati on the Hills” will be one of the choice spots of this earth. This form the extraordinary resources and beauty of the country, combines with the extraordinary public spirit of her citizens:--the latter moving with an accelerated increase from the habits already established, all combining to render this a great art centre and focus of all which broadens life and renders it sweet and beneficent.
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