Ohio History Journal

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Urban Education and the New City:

Cincinnati's Elementary Schools, 1870

to 1914




In 1903, Richard G. Boone, the Superintendent of Schools in Cincinnati,

announced that schools in the city were "gradually workng toward the

modern idea." The elementary course, he stated, had been enriched,

treatment of children was more humane and reasonable, and teachers were

awakened to what was being done elsewhere in the nation.1 While still

plagued with traditional problems of finance, facilities, and adequate

staffing, a new elementary educational program had appeared in the city at

the turn of the century. During the late nineteenth century, the Common

Schools of Cincinnati, a collection of semi-independent and pseudo-

proprietary district schools struggling to offer a uniform academic

program, gave way to a new elementary school system which provided a

wider variety of educational programs and attempted to meet the varied

needs of children in Cincinnati in the early 1900s.2

A number of forces at work in the late nineteenth century influenced

these changes. Increased urbanization and industrialization, population

growth, and innovations in transportation and communication combined

to alter the form and structure of the urban community. The advent of the

telephone and electric streetcars generated an outward migration of people

on an unprecedented scale and reversed familiar residential patterns. Mid-

nineteenth century Cincinnati, a walking city with its 216,239 residents

crowded into the basin, evolved by 1900 into a modern city, with the poor

in the basin or core of the city, the wealthy on the hilltops or beyond, and



Janet A. Miller is Associate Professor of Education at Northern Kentucky University,

Highland Heights.



1. Cincinnati, Board of Education, 74th Annual Report for the School Year Ending June

30, 1903 (Cincinnati, 1903), 25-26. Annual Reports herein after cited as AR.

2. For a detailed study of the elementary schools during this period, see Janet A. Miller,

"Urban Education and the New City: Cincinnati's Elementary Schools, 1870-1914"

(University of Cincinnati, Unpublished Ed. D. dissertation, 1974).