this post goes into some generalizations about migration to (and-oh-so through) cincinnati. this post actually came out of a paper i wanted to write, but couldn’t because its was wrong. to summarize: i wanted to write a paper about ideas of migration to the queen city focusing on the perception of a shift from [A] Early Good White Person Migration from EAST:WEST, followed directly (right around the time of cincinnati displacement as the biggest Western city but chicago and STL) by [B] Later Bad Black Person Migration from SOUTH:NORTH (as an causal explanation for the city’s decline). this was completely wrong because wedged in between [A] and [B] is about 25-30 years of EAST:WEST scummy euroamericans (italians, hungarians, austrians, etc–scummy in a different way than the germans had been, more or less like the irish). anyway this post grew out of the fact that 25-30 years of history is absent from the 2 migration histories [A & B] you get in reading about cinci, and to explore what/how this mushing is produced. so about these 2 migration histories:
(i’m drawing from a fairly limited set of samples but i think you can extend outwards more to some other sort-of ephemera histories of cincinnati).
the general all-inclusive picture, if you do a little bad math, is that cincinnati’s migration history looks like this:
so first, is the east:west migration. i am drawing here almost exclusively from art history synopses. here is an example of their formula (this is from that hundred years of cincinnati art book/magazine that you find all over [Holt 1982 – whoops]):
- “Established in 1788, the queen city underwent a prodigious growth in size, population, trade, and manufacturing as a result of its favorable location on the ohio river. far more important was the impact cincinnati had on the american imagination. poised on the brink of the frontier, the queen city was seen almost from the beginning as a noble experiment that would give rise to a new civilization vindicating popular democracy. the ohio river was the principal route not simply for carrying new settlers and trade goods but also for transmitting the ethos and culture of democracy, with cincinnati as the main diffusing point, throughout the ohio valley and beyond to the midwest as a whole…cincinnati was very conscious of its cultural leadership, and harbored ambitions of becoming the “athens of the west,” as it was fond of calling itself. more than overweening pride, this sense of obligation was the direct outgrowth of the american vision and the nation’s sense of its place in history”
now, it doesn’t hit you over the head with it, but there are a couple assumptions here shared by a lot of the quick hit cincinnati art histories.
- our time frame begins in 1788, there is no defined ending
- the definitive and glorifying aspect of cincinnati is the ohio river and its dominance in the move of US from east:west.
- this is assumed to be mostly whites moving from east:west
- cincinnati’s cultural claims are deeply (and possibly solely) connected with this place/movement in american history (we are nothing without it).
but then that wasn’t the case anymore. i’ll do the next migration and the Conclusion in another post