Sunday, November 9, 2008

Why I Like Cincinnati (Part 2)

Unusual History

I'm  a nut for unusual history.  I like to know all the unique tidbits that make a place interesting.  For example did you know that Cincinnati is home to worlds first fireman pole?  It's things like this that bring character to the place I love to call home.

1.  The Queen City - Going back to about 1850 Cincinnati was the fastest growing city in the country.  This gem among all the cities in the midwest made many people start calling it the queen city.  The phrase "queen of the west" was started in a book titled Cincinnati written by Benjamin Drake and Edward Mansfield.  It was later cemented into use by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "Catawba Wine."  The "queen city" has been given many other nick names as well.  Cincinnati was the first major american city away from the original 13 colonies and the influence of Europe.  Cincinnati's population wasn't even surpassed by Chicago until the 1860's.  Because of this Cincinnati is sometimes considered the first truly American city.  Another nickname given to Cincinnati is so unique that it deserves its own bullet point.

2.  What's up with the flying pigs? - I grew up 80 miles away and had never heard of the flying 
pigs.  I guess if I was a marathon runner I would have known earlier.  When I moved to Cincinnati I thought it was odd to see so many flying pig statues around the city.  For those of you who don't understand, here is the scoop.  Cincinnati grew very quickly in the 1800's partly because of their huge pork processing facilities.  It quickly became the largest pork processing city in the world, earning itself the nickname "porkopolis."  The flying pig thing supposedly came from the barges that carried the pigs across the river.  In the early morning, fog would cover the barge and all you would see are the pigs floating over to Cincinnati.  The phrase "when pigs fly" has been around longer than Cincinnati.  

3.  Chili is just chili right? - Across the US ask people what makes a good chili.  I doubt that 
very many people would include cinnamon, cocoa, or spaghetti noodles in the list of ingredients.  Then ask people in Cincinnati.  Again, even growing up 80 miles away I never knew that Cincinnati made chili any different from the rest of the world.  Cincinnati Chili began when an immigrant from Macedonia named Tom Kiradjieff decided to make a chili using spices from his homeland to boost the business of his Cincinnati restaurant the Empress.  Skyline chili's founder started in the chili business as a chef for the Empress.  When I worked at Lunken Airport near downtown, I saw one family fly in to eat at Montgomery Inn.  When they returned to their jet a couple hours later they were carrying boxes and boxes of Skyline's Cincinnati chili.  

4.  The U. S. Playing Card Company - Ever since I was a kid I always thought it was cool that nearly every pack of cards I ever used said Cincinnati, U.S.A.  This and going to a Reds Game constituted my entire childhood connection to Cincinnati.  I just thought it was cool that the largest playing card company in the world was so close to home.  You would think it would be in Vegas, but since 1881 these cards have been manufactured right here in ohio.  Over the years the U. S. Playing Card Company has produced some products with interesting history.  According to their website, "during World War II, the company secretly worked with the U. S. government in fabricating special decks to send as gifts for American prisoners of war in German camps.  When these cards were moistened, they peeled apart to reveal sections of a map indicating precise escape routes."  There is even significant symbolism in the ace of spades.  The image is of "a woman who rests her right hand on a sword and shield while she holds an olive branch in her left.  The image was inspired by Thomas Crawford's sculpture, "Statue of Freedom," which, in 1865, had been placed atop the Capitol Building in Washington, DC."


Cincinnati is full of quirky history.  Did you know that Jerry Springer used to be the mayor of Cincinnati?  How about the fact that Cincinnati is where the first cooperative education program in the country was established.  Did you know that Cincinnati is the first and only city to own and operate a major railroad.  Cincinnati is home to the country's first Jewish Hospital, first licensed public TV station (WCET), and first professional baseball team (without any unpaid players).  The list could go on and on.

I like Cincinnati.  In part because it is such a unique city with some unusual history.

4 comments:

Scott said...

I couldn't have said it better myself. Good show. Truly. Good show.

Rebecca and Brandon said...

I find it amazing that you know so much more about Cincinnati than I do, and I've lived here most of my life!

Kathy said...

I'm impressed. I do love Cincinnati - it's a great place! Someone actually flew their plane here just to eat at Montgomery Inn or did they have other business...

Joey Novak said...

Hey Brandon,

Love your blog, it is great.

Joey