National history through local social evils and the origin of municipal services in Cincinnati

A I Marcus
1981 American Studies  
national history through local social evils and the origin of municipal services in Cincinnati alan i. marcus Cincinnatians, beginning in the late 1830s, uttered frequent and bitter complaints about the state of their city. In particular, they claimed to face an unprecedented reign of crime, vice and filth. To deal with these disturbances, city residents engaged in a number of new endeavors. Their effors culminated in the late 1840s and early 1850s with the erection of several new municipal
more » ... l new municipal institutions; midnineteenth-century Cincinnatians inaugurated a system of municipal services to clean up their city. These events seem neatly drawn and apparently can be explained in a straight-forward manner. The articulation of concern in Cincinnati suggests the onset of new social conditions, while the formation of municipal service agencies appears to stand as a natural response to and consequence of the new conditions. In fact, the creation of the institutions seems little more than a step on the road to modernization and indicates that the city copied them from other municipalities that had already progressed through that stage of development. This paper takes a different approach. It argues that the discovery of urban problems in mid-nineteenth-century Cincinnati came not from real social changes, but rather from a new perception of social reality. Furthermore, it maintains that the discovery of mid-nineteenth-century urban problems-and, by extension, the perception of a new social reality-was neither unique to Cincinnati nor to any American locality. Instead, it contends that the perception of a new social reality was a nationwide occurrence, one peculiar to mid-nineteenth-century American civilization and one effecting many spheres
pmid:11614184 fatcat:c426utw6wrf4bisth2oadyb4rq