Love wins in the Queen City

From Aric Olnes on Facebook yesterday:

(#1) [AO:] “Love Wins” mural [by artist Matthew Dayler] in Cincinnati, Ohio … Flamingos 🦩, Drag Queens 💃🏿 and winged Leather Pigs 🐖, oh my!

For me, it’s the two guys on the left; I’m a fool for men kissing (in fact, this blog has a Page devoted to my postings about men kissing).

More about the mural. From AO, Queen City Radio’s announcement of the official mural dedication (on Sunday 8/27) on Facebook. Queen City Radio is at 222 W 12th St, where the mural is displayed.

Why Queen City? There’s no evidence that queens — drag or otherwise — are thicker on the ground on the banks of the Ohio River in Cinci than they are other places. It turns out that Cincinnati has been the Queen City for over 200 years.

From the Cincinnati Enquirer site, “Why is Cincinnati called the Queen City?” by Jeff Suess on 12/22/20:

Cincinnati has been known as the Queen City since at least 1819.

That’s when the nickname first made it into newspapers, but it was probably already passed around on the streets.

That’s also when Cincinnati, founded in 1788, was first incorporated as a city. There were efforts by civic boosters to bolster the young city’s reputation as a grand, cultured city, the finest in the west. Cincinnati was known alternately as the Queen City, Queen of the West or the Athens of the West. (Also, Porkopolis, as the preeminent meat-packing city of the time, but that’s a different story.)

The earliest reference to the nickname found was in the Inquisitor and Cincinnati Advertiser, a precursor to The Enquirer, on May 4, 1819, when Ed. B. Cooke 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.”

The Queen City nickname was cemented by the 1854 poem “Catawba Wine” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The poem, which extolls the virtues of Nicholas Longworth’s winery, describes the city as “Queen of the West” in the final stanza:

(#2) From Longfellow’s poem

Why Queen of the West? At the time in question, the West consisted of the settled lands west of the Appalachians: among them, Wisconsin and Michigan; Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio; and Kentucky (which is on the other, southern, bank of the Ohio River from Cincinnati). This is why Northwestern University is in Illinois, and why Cincinnati was the Queen City of the West (aspiring to classical virtues in a way that, it was thought, the Chicago of the time did not).

An idiosyncrasy: I have always understood the personification in Queen of the West to be identifying Cincinnati with the American folksong’s Lily of the West — named Mary, Molly, or (in Joan Baez’s version) Flora, from the other side of the Ohio, in Kentucky.

From Wikipedia:

“Lily of the West” is a traditional British and Irish folk song, best known today as an American folk song, listed as number 957 in the Roud Folk Song Index. The American version [set in Kentucky] is about a man who travels to Louisville and falls in love with a woman named Mary, Flora or Molly, the eponymous Lily of the West [from Lexington]. He catches Mary being unfaithful to him, and, in a fit of rage, stabs the man she is with, and is subsequently imprisoned. In spite of this, he finds himself still in love with her. In the original version, the Lily testifies in his defense and he is freed, though they do not resume their relationship.

The lyrics to the first verse, as famously sung by Joan Baez:

When first I came to Louisville, some pleasure there to find
A damsel there from Lexington was pleasing to my mind
Her rosy cheeks, her ruby lips, like arrows pierced my breast
And the name she bore was Flora, the lily of the West

— and every verse ends with a repetition of the phrase, Flora, the lily of the West.

There are several stunning performances of this folksong — in its Irish version by Mark Knopfler and the Chieftains; in its Kentucky version by Bob Dylan and by Joan Baez.


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