I’m not sure what it is about October but it always seems to get us thinking about the past. Maybe it’s the onset of fall, the cooler air, the harvest moon, the end of baseball season, the changing colors of the leaves—or the intimations of mortality that dance in the lengthening shadows as the days grow shorter. Bergmanesque thoughts of the Grim Reaper aside, autumn is the most nostalgic time of year—the moment to look back before we leap forward.
Hence, our first-ever History Issue. To anchor the feature well, we set ourselves a nearly insurmountable goal: Come up with a list of the 50 objects that tell the history of Cincinnati from the time of trilobites to the last days of haute cuisine. It turned out to be a lot of work—and a lot of fun. Deputy Editor Amanda Boyd Walters drove the train, amassing a longer list of items than we could ever hope to fit in one issue. It took a few passes, but once we had our core list whittled down to 50, we shifted from hunt to gather mode.
One of the (many) great things about Cincinnati is that: A) It’s a 225-year-old city with a rich vein of history that stretches back beyond the arrival of the first settlers, from the time of the Adena people to the Ordovician period; and B) Folks care enough about their past to have preserved an impressive amount of pretty cool stuff. And I’m not just talking about the old Hudy bottles. With the help of archivists all over town—shout-outs to our friends at the Museum Center, the UC Archives & Rare Books Library, the Art Museum, the Reds Hall of Fame, Cowan’s Auctions, and numerous private collectors—we were able to come in close contact with a cavalcade of strange, beautiful, and weirdly profound artifacts. Marge Schott’s baseballs. A mastodon jawbone. Mary Ludlow’s shoe. A ticket stub from the 1979 Who concert. Matches from the Beverly Hills Supper Club. RJ Smith meditated on the water flowing from the Genius of Water’s palms, giving the city a spritz. Amy Brownlee touched original limestone slabs once used to create gorgeous lithographed poster art. Linda Vaccariello mused at what a big deal the German-American athletic contests called Turnfests used to be.
If you’re at all curious about the makeup of the city’s DNA, the sprawling, exquisitely photographed and designed package that begins on page 64 will keep you occupied for a while. Plus, we give you an illustrated guide to some of the visionary projects that could have changed the city’s future but didn’t; a deep dive into the world of George Sperti, the man who helped America get hooked on vitamin D; and a portfolio of classic images excerpted from longtime Enquirer photographer Michael E. Keating’s new book, Cincinnati: Shadow & Light. Go ahead and look back. It’s all right.