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Let's begin our virtual adventure - VIDEO
Welcome to Shaping Our City

Cincinnati Museum Center

Shaping Our City:
First Settlement to 1920

Venture through time to explore the Cincinnati region from before the 1700s to 1920. From canoes and flatboats, to steamboats and trains, to inclines and streetcars, discover how Cincinnati’s transportation story has changed and is still being written. Explore historic vehicles and objects, maps, photographs, media and interactive elements to see how Cincinnati’s urban design has both connected and divided the city and its people.

Adventure Roadmap
ADVENTURE ROADMAP

Shape the City

First Settlement to 1810

Click each box to reveal the topics you will explore in this virtual field trip.

1810 to 1860

1860 to 1920

Meet the Experts

MEET THE EXPERTS

Meet the experts from Cincinnati Museum Center and partnering learning institutions that will be guiding your virtual adventure!

Citizen of the Muscogee Nation
Education Coordinator for the Greater Cincinnati Native American Coalition

April Hester

Associate Professor of Social Studies Education & History, Faculty Senate Parliamentarian, Black Studies and History Department Affiliate, Northern Kentucky University

David Childs, PhD

Cincinnati Museum Center

Archivists and Researchers

Cincinnati Museum Center

Learning Team & Youth Program Volunteers
Shape the City - Video
Shaping Our City

SHAPING OUR CITY

Use the interactive video below to explore how the region has changed over time.

General Photo Collection (Delta Queen)

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Learn more about Shaping Our City.

First Settlement to 1810

FIRST SETTLEMENT TO 1810

Native stewardship of our region goes back at least 13,000 years. People were attracted to the level, elevated land and a system of overland trails. At 981 miles long, the Ohio River and three major tributaries provided plentiful water, fertile soil for farming and routes for communication and trade. 

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Learn more about Shaping Our City.

LAND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

LAND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

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Prehistory to 1810 - Gallery
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Artifacts Case - Gallery

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Birchbark Canoe - Gallery

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Map of Trails - Gallery
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Flatboat - Gallery

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YOU DECIDE - Changing Currents – In-hand Interactive
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1810 to 1860

1810 to 1860

In the nineteenth century, new technology influenced big changes. At one point, canals were the way of the future. Steam engines – specifically external combustion engines – dramatically changed transportation and industry. 

Although steamboats could go up and down the river as they pleased, people preferred trains for their ability to move people even more quickly and affordably over land. 

Advances in Technology

Advances in Technology for Transportation and Industry

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Ferries and Canals

FERRIES AND CANALS

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Learn more about canal boat Senator

Residents of southern Ohio and northern Kentucky used ferries to maintain social and business connections. Canals were built to more quickly connect farmers and manufacturers north of Cincinnati with markets in the city.

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Learn more about canal boat Lady Hamilton

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Lady Hamilton canal boat

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Learn more about Canal Boats

1810 to 1860 - Gallery

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Steam-Powered Inclines

STEAM-POWERED INCLINES

It quickly became inexpensive to travel by steam on land and water. People and goods could easily travel great distances but it also became affordable to use steam power to move local traffic up Cincinnati’s hills. Steam-powered inclines would soon follow, but would be eclipsed by the next leap of technology by the mid-twentieth century.

Mt. Auburn Incline, Cincinnati, Ohio
Photo by Charles H. Muhrman, 1872-1873
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

YOU DECIDE - Picking Up Steam – In-hand Interactive
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1860 to 1920

1860 to 1920

By 1860, Cincinnati was the seventh largest city in the United States.  With the surrounding hills confining the city to its founding footprint, Cincinnatians began to push their way out of the basin and up the hills. As Cincinnati began to annex new territory, inclines and streetcars provided a way to easily travel up the hills and still access downtown.

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Learn more about Shaping Our City.

1860 to 1920 - Gallery
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Annexation

ANNEXATION

Are there any neighborhoods you recognize today? 

When were smaller neighborhoods annexed? 

What time periods are associated with the different colors?

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Incline Houses - Gallery
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Streetcar - Gallery

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YOU DECIDE - Beyond the Basin – In-hand Interactive
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Thank You for Visiting CMC

THANK YOU FOR VISITING

Thank you for exploring Shaping Our City: First Settlement to 1920 at Cincinnati Museum Center. To discover more, check out our other virtual field trips and a wide array of online resources, including Ohio History Day, CMC’s interviews with WMKV, and our curator-led blog, Off the Shelf, all found on www.cincymuseum.org. 

To discover more about Cincinnati’s transportation history, we encourage you to reserve
Shaping our City: 1920 to Today.

To explore CMC’s epic exhibits, such as Shaping Our City, in-person, click the button below to purchase tickets. *Due to COVID-19, some exhibits may be closed. Please check www.cincymuseum.org prior to visiting for the most up-to-date list of open experiences.

To reserve other Virtual Field Trip experiences, click the button below to explore CMC’s current offerings! Remember to check back soon, as we frequently add new experiences.