Dr. Know Examines Mysterious Queen City Symbols

The good doctor investigates symbols of Cincinnati, from the Bengals’ new stripes to the numbers on our iconic bridges.

Illustration by Lars Leetaru

Our riverfront’s bridges have painted columns of numbers on the concrete supports underneath. What do they mean? The numbers closest to the water are largest, so they can’t mean the water level. And the numbers are different under each bridge. Are they some kind of secret nautical code? —COUNT ME IN

We receive this question regularly from landlubbers. The numbers have different meanings depending on which direction boaters are going when passing Cincinnati’s five riverfront bridges. Traveling east, numbers on the top lines show the combination for unlocking the secret entrance to Hillary Clinton’s Pizzagate underground lair. Going west, add up all the numbers on the second lines, multiply the total by 1,062,021 (the date of the January 6 insurrection; easy to remember), and you have the number of vaccination victims injected with government microchips.

Or maybe it’s this: The numbers are “clearance gauges” showing the river’s water level in relation to the bridge above. Let’s say you’re approaching a bridge and you see the water line resting at the number 40. Translation: If your boat’s height exceeds 40 feet, you are about to join the many YouTube videos of trucks that sheared off their tops at a railroad overpass. Trust the science, and pay your insurance premiums.

During September’s “White Out” Bengals game, I noticed something about the uniforms: Black stripes on white helmets make the safety warning decal on the back impossible to read. The decal’s text disappears over the black stripe. Doesn’t this violate some NFL safety rule? —A CONCERNED WHISTLEBLOWER

You must know, having watched that Bengals game and others, that it’s a bad year for poking the NFL about rules and regulations. Their voicemail has probably been full since Week 5. Still, you have a point. The standard orange and black Bengals helmet displays legible white text on its safety warning decal, but on the “White Out” helmet, whether black or white text is used, some portion of the warning disappears.

There are decals with alternate-colored text, but a sleek White-Out Bengals helmet with a green or purple blob on the back would inflict an aesthetic head injury. Maybe this factored into things. Besides, do you think any NFL player has looked at the decal since receiving his first helmet in middle school? It isn’t there for the safety of players; it’s for the safety of lawyers.

The Doctor dutifully contacted the Bengals organization to determine if some safety regulation may have been violated on that September night. They politely suggested contacting the NFL. The NFL’s voicemail seems to be full.

At Spring Grove Cemetery we saw The Sentinel, the statue overlooking the graves of Civil War soldiers. They say it stood on Fountain Square originally but that merchants got it moved because they thought Civil War memories were bad for business. Sounds like a fable to me. Please confirm. —STANDING WATCH

This column has fearlessly debunked several entrenched Cincinnati myths, such as the “damage” from the first ringing of St. Francis de Sales Church’s tower bell, the supposed “vaudeville” history of Bogart’s in Corryville, and others. Let’s look at this one.

Modern stories of The Sentinel all say the statue was “banished” from its downtown location in 1866 because it somehow upset Civil War veterans. We don’t know where that legend started, but it ends here. Fifth Street Market (as it was called in pre-fountain days) was intended from the outset as a short-term stopover for The Sentinel, awaiting the financing and building of its proper pedestal at Spring Grove Cemetery. Newspapers reported this plan long before the statue even arrived in the U.S. from its Munich foundry.

The Sentinel could not make you “uncomfortable” at Fifth Street Market unless you paid 25 cents to step inside a wooden building (described as “temporary” before it was even built) and view it. Some complained that the statue’s face looked a little “foreign”—whatever that means—but that’s all. There was no “banishment.” Spring Grove Cemetery was always going to be The Sentinel’s destination. The Doctor has the receipts. He awaits his Pulitzer Prize.

Dr. Know is Jay Gilbert, radio personality and advertising prankster. Email him your questions about the city’s peculiarities at drknow@cincinnatimagazine.com.

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