After Cincinnati was initially settled in the 1780s and 1790s, it experienced phenomenal growth. Incorporated as a town in 1802 and an official city in 1819, Cincinnati exploded as a center of arts and commerce. The city quickly became a creative and economic hub over the next 40 years and attracted thousands of new settlers. By 1820, Cincinnati locals had begun calling it “The Queen City” and “The Queen of the West” in conversation and local writing, in reference to the culture, arts, and civilization the city offered in the midst of the wildness of the emerging West.
Cincinnati’s royal moniker was also likely inspired by journalist Ed B. Cooke’s article in the Inquisitor and Cincinnati Advertiser. In the May 4, 1819, issue of the paper, he wrote, “The City is, indeed, justly styled the fair Queen of the West: distinguished for order, enterprise, public spirit, and liberality, she stands the wonder of an admiring world.” At the time, Cincinnati was the primary symbol of America’s westward movement and the promise of western expansion and “civilization,” due to its status as the first major city built west of the Alleghenies by settlers.
But that’s not all! Cincinnati’s queenly title has poetic origins, too. Celebrated poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote his poem “Catawba Wine” as a tribute to the Ohio River Valley vineyards and the fragrant wines produced there. In particular, the poem celebrates the vineyards run by Nicholas Longworth, a member of the well-known Cincinnati Longworth family and a winemaker (sometimes called the “father of the American wine industry,” in fact) who created the first American sparkling wine.
The poem’s final stanza contains yet another reference to Ohio’s status as “Queen of the West,” likely furthering the term’s popularity:
“And this Song of the Vine,
This greeting of mine,
The winds and the birds shall deliver,
To the Queen of the West,
In her garlands dressed,
On the banks of the Beautiful River.”
The terms “The Queen of the West” and “The Queen City” haven’t been abandoned by locals and regional brands, who still use it to describe their beloved Cincinnati and its historic legacy.