Cincinnati in 1812 with a population of 2,000
Cincinnati was founded in 1788 when Mathias Denman,
Colonel Robert Patterson and
Israel Ludlow landed at the spot on the north bank of the Ohio River opposite the mouth of the
Licking River and decided to settle there. The original surveyor,
John Filson, named it "Losantiville".
 In 1790,
Arthur St. Clair, the governor of the
Northwest Territory, changed the name of the settlement to "Cincinnati" in honor of the
Society of the Cincinnati, made up of Revolutionary War veterans, of which he was a member.
Ethnic Germans were among the early settlers, migrating from Pennsylvania and the backcountry of Virginia and Tennessee. General
David Ziegler succeeded General St. Clair in command at Fort Washington. After the conclusion of the Northwest Indian Wars and removal of Native Americans to the west, he was elected as the mayor of Cincinnati in 1802.
The introduction of steamboats on the
Ohio River in 1811 opened up its trade to more rapid shipping, and the city established commercial ties with
St. Louis, Missouri and especially
New Orleans downriver. Cincinnati was incorporated as a city in 1819. Exporting pork products and hay, it became a center of pork processing in the region. From 1810 to 1830 its population nearly tripled, from 9,642 to 24,831.
 Completion of the
Miami and Erie Canal in 1827 to
Middletown, Ohio further stimulated businesses, and employers struggled to hire enough people to fill positions. The city had a labor shortage until large waves of immigration by Irish and Germans in the late 1840s. The city grew rapidly over the next two decades, reaching 115,000 persons by 1850.
Cincinnati in 1841 with the Miami and Erie Canal in the foreground.
Construction on the Miami and Erie Canal began on July 21, 1825, when it was called the Miami Canal, related to its origin at the
Great Miami River. The first section of the canal was opened for business in 1827.
 In 1827, the canal connected Cincinnati to nearby
Middletown; by 1840, it had reached
Toledo. During this period of rapid expansion and prominence, residents of Cincinnati began referring to the city as the "Queen City".
Cincinnati depended on trade with the slave states south of the
Ohio River, at a time when thousands of blacks were settling in the free state of Ohio, most from Kentucky and Virginia and some of them fugitives seeking freedom in the North. Many came to find work in Cincinnati. In the antebellum years, the majority of native-born whites in the city came from northern states, primarily Pennsylvania. In 1841 26 percent of whites were from the South and 57 percent from the eastern states, primarily Pennsylvania.
 They retained their cultural support for slavery. This led to tensions between pro-slavery residents and those in favor of
abolitionism and lifting restrictions on
free people of color, as codified in the "Black Code" of 1804.
The volatile social conditions produced white-led
riots against blacks occurred in 1829, when many blacks lost their homes and property. As Irish immigrants entered the city in the late 1840s, they competed with blacks at the lower levels of the economy. White-led riots against blacks occurred
in 1836, when an abolitionist press was twice destroyed; and in 1842.
 More than one thousand blacks abandoned the city after the 1829 riots. Blacks in Philadelphia and other major cities raised money to help the refugees recover from the destruction. By 1842 blacks had become better established in the city; they defended their persons and property in the riot, and worked politically as well.
After the steamboats, railroads were the first major form of commercial transportation to come to Cincinnati. In 1836, the Little Miami Railroad was chartered.
 Construction began soon after, to connect Cincinnati with the Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad, and provide access to the ports of the
Sandusky Bay on
In 1859, Cincinnati laid out six streetcar lines; the cars were
pulled by horses and the lines made it easier for people to get around the city.
 By 1872, Cincinnatians could travel on the streetcars within the city and transfer to rail cars for travel to the hill communities. The Cincinnati Inclined Plane Company began transporting people to the top of Mount Auburn that year.
In 1880, the city government completed the
Cincinnati Southern Railway to
Chattanooga, Tennessee. It is the only municipality-owned interstate railway in the United States.
In 1884, outrage over a
manslaughter verdict in what many observers thought was a clear case of murder triggered the
Courthouse riots, one of the most destructive riots in American history. Over the course of three days, 56 people were killed and over 300 were injured. The riots ended the regime of political bosses
John Roll McLean and
Thomas C. Campbell in Cincinnati. In 1889, the
Cincinnati streetcar system began converting its horsecar lines to
An early rejuvenation of downtown began in the 1920s and continued into the next decade with the construction of
Union Terminal, the post office, and the large
Cincinnati and Suburban Telephone Company Building. Cincinnati weathered the
Great Depression better than most American cities of its size, largely because of a resurgence in river trade, which was less expensive than transporting goods by rail.
The flood of 1937 was one of the worst in the nation's history and destroyed many areas along the Ohio Valley. Afterward the city built protective flood walls.