Fig. 2 - Public Landing by John Caspar Wild, ca. 1835, Cincinnati Museum Center

Fig. 2 – Public Landing by John Caspar Wild, ca. 1835, Cincinnati Museum Center


Cincinnati was established in 1788 on the Ohio River across from the mouth of the Licking River in Kentucky, fifteen years before Ohio became a state in 1803. Originally known as Losantiville until 1790, the city was renamed after The Society of the Cincinnati, an organization of Revolutionary War officers. They took their name from Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus (519 BC–430 BC), a statesman who led the Roman Army only to give up his power and return to farming when the crisis ended. In the 1820s, Cincinnati became known as the Queen City when it was viewed as a cultural center and the gateway to westward settlement.

For its first fifty years, Cincinnati was dominated by Protestant settlers of English ancestry who came primarily from the coastal New England states. Cincinnati changed dramatically after the 1830s as German immigrants arrived with their families. They brought different cultural values, religions, and lifestyles that clashed with the earlier established citizens. After 1846, millions of Irish came to the United States to escape starvation caused by disease that hit their potato crops. German Jews came around the same time, leaving their European homeland to pursue better opportunities. Several decades later, Eastern European Jews followed, escaping persecution. After the end of the Civil War in 1865, free blacks and fugitive slaves came across the Ohio River to Cincinnati seeking better lives and less prejudice.

After the Great Depression of the 1930s, Appalachian families from rural areas sought new hope as they came across the Ohio River into Cincinnati for work. Later in the 20th century, as modern jobs required higher levels of education and significant computer skills, the country suffered from a lack of workers who would do the physical labor that was needed to move the country ahead. By the 1990s, Hispanic immigrants, primarily from Mexico, were coming to the United States to fill those requirements. This booklet, Cincinnati: a City of Immigrants, illustrates how the Queen City has become a rich blend of diverse cultures, traditions, and celebrations.


This booklet highlights six major waves of immigrants that made a dramatic impact on Cincinnati. A brief summary of the history of each group is followed by SELECTED QUOTES from writers who recorded the harsh attitudes and hostility toward each wave of new arrivals.  Whether they were immigrants from Europe or Americans of a different religion, color, or culture, each group was eventually accepted.