City Reports Offer Wealth of Information for Cincinnati Researchers

Loan Sharks

In 1912 the Department of Charities and Correction launched a crusade against loan sharks who were targeting the poor of Cincinnati

By Janice Schulz

The Archives & Rare Books Library holds City of Cincinnati Annual Reports from 1853-1870, 1875-1876, 1905-1914, and 1926-1958. These reports contain valuable information for anyone researching the history of Cincinnati, its departments, its people, and its issues.

While reports included in each volume vary, the Mayor’s report is always available.  Also available may be various city financial reports and reports from City Council, schools, the Health Department and health care facilities, the House of Refuge, the Fire Department, the Police Department, Public Works, the City Engineer, jails, Civil Service Commission, City Solicitor, Parks Department, the University of Cincinnati, and other city commissions. Until 1914, each individual annual report is published in full, but after that time the reports take on more of a summarized format under the title Municipal Activities.

City Bulletins are also available and the Archives has issues from 1927-1991. The bulletins record the work of the City Council and contain proceedings of meetings, ordinances, resolutions, bids, and miscellaneous Council notes.

Annual reports and city bulletins can help us understand Cincinnati’s history, which in turn can help us understand, debate, and defend today’s issues. Read any news source in Cincinnati today and you will undoubtedly be met with stories on subjects like jails, utilities, streetcars, and housing – all are issues that we are dealing with in Cincinnati today, but according to the City’s historic annual reports, they were also issues that our ancestors faced in yesteryears…

In 1854, Cincinnati Mayor David T. Snelbaker urged City Council to erect a reform-centered “Work-House” as an alternative to the county jail for “vagrants, rogues, vagabonds, and incorrigibles,” as he believed that they too should “be treated with kindness and mercy.”

In 1880, each Cincinnatian used an average of 75 gallons of water per day, pumped throughout 188.86 miles of iron pipes. That’s three times more usage per person than in 1839.

In 1914, Cincinnati Chief Street Car Inspector Harry Wiesenhahn reported that 6,837 street cars were inspected and that tracks on the many grades throughout the City had been “constantly under observation.”

In 1953, the Division of Urban Redevelopment was dealing with the problem of arranging temporary housing for 1,700 families in the West End, where “slum clearance” was being planned.

And then there is my favorite piece of information gleaned from the pages of the 1862 annual report ….  four females were arrested for dressing in male attire and nine men were arrested for insulting ladies. Scandalous!

Annual Reports

Rare Books JS 735.A2 1853-1870, 1875-1876, 1905-1914, 1926-1958

Cincinnati City Bulletins

Rare Books JS 731.C6 1927-1991