Zinzinnati Reflections | Archived Productions | CET Connect

Zinzinnati Reflections

Nick ClooneyIn the sequel to Cincinnati Reflections, the Emmy Award-winning look back at well-loved local landmarks, veteran TV personality Nick Clooney guides CET viewers from the Rhine to the Ohio in ''Zinzinnati'' Reflections.

Beginning with the 1790s, when German-American veterans of the American Revolution originally settled in Ft. Washington, in areas like Over-the-Rhine, Price Hill, Corryville, Fairview and Covington, Cincinnati has long been home to a large number of German immigrants. Their influence, in industry as well as socially, has played an important role in shaping the future of Cincinnati. The German work ethic was prevalent in many businesses like breweries and meat packing, but could also be found in just about any company in the greater Cincinnati area - like bakeries, stone masonries and tailors.

Zinzinnati Reflections-Baptist Church From the local Turner society centers (a social organization that promoted physical activity) to the many neighborhood churches like the German Evangelical Church in the East End (which has since changed its name), the German culture has long been an integral part of Cincinnati's identity.

The influences of Cincinnati's earliest German residents are still evident today. From the long-running May Festival - which began with the first "saengerfests" in 1849 - to the rich history of world famous breweries and one of the largest Oktoberfests outside of Germany, the German heritage both past and present is alive and thriving in ''Zinzinnati.''

Beginning in 1795, when Martin Baum, a Maryland German industrialist, came to Cincinnati and quickly established himself as one Cincinnati's wealthiest and most influential citizens. Through his agents in Baltimore, New Orleans and Philadelphia, Baum attracted even greater numbers of German immigrants to work in his various enterprises - steamboats, a sugar refinery, a foundry and real estate. Soon, Cincinnati's German population began to soar.

Zinzinnati Reflections-Riverfront As the result of the Napoleonic Wars, a huge wave of German immigration began in the 1830s, settling in an L-shaped district - right in the elbow of the old Miami-Erie Canal. Since non-Germans called the canal the "Rhine," crossing the small canal bridges to get to the German district was called going "Over-the-Rhine" - hence the name for the Cincinnati neighborhood that endures to this day.

At the beginning of the 19th century, German immigrants were about 5% of Cincinnati's population. By the time of the Civil War, Germans were one-third of the population, and by the end of the century, about 60% of Cincinnati's citizens were of German heritage. So not only did German immigrants influence society in Cincinnati, the changed it completely.

The balance of political power was shifting, as politicians catered to the German vote. Bilingual education and "continental" Sundays (allowing beer gardens to be open on Sundays) were hotly debated topics leading up to the Civil War.

Also on the rise were German language newspapers, so that well-educated and politically-active recent German immigrants could follow the events of their homeland, as well as the local news, theater, literature, the arts and society. Until World War I, most telephone operators in Cincinnati were bilingual, often speaking in German more often than English. Court cases were even conducted in German, in order to cut down on confusion amongst both parties and in some cases, the judges.

Zinzinnati Reflections-Old Vine But perhaps the longest-lasting remnant of Cincinnati's German heritage is their cuisine. From wurst to sausages, goetta, brats and other pork-based German delights, greater Cincinnati became the pork-producing mecca of the Midwest, leading to the establishment of companies like Kahn's and Edelman's.

The German contribution to Cincinnati's architecture, particularly in the building trades of brick laying stone masonry and carpentry, is evident in a walk through any older neighborhood. From Music Hall to the churches of Over-the-Rhine and Covington to the Taft Museum and buildings at the Zoo, reflections of our German heritage can be found, discovered and celebrated throughout Cincinnati today.

The original Cincinnati Reflections received Regional Emmy Awards in 1998 for Outstanding Documentary and Outstanding Writing (Joyce Wise) and a 1999 Telly Award.