University of Rochester

Cincinnati Waterfront Panorama Daguerreotype

Plate 2
Front and center: The steamship Embassy sits in port one year before its boiler exploded and it burned to ashes killing 10 passengers and injuring 25 others. It carried both passengers and freight and should have already left port at the point when this photograph was taken, but newspaper accounts from the time reveal that a drought had made the water too shallow for it and many other steamers to depart. Steamships of the time were notorious for exploding. In fact, they had such short lives (five years, on average) that examining what ships were in port helped historians get their first rough idea of when the undated photograph was taken.

Famous residents: Stephen Foster, the most famous American musician of the time who wrote classics like “Oh! Susanna” and “Swanee River,” was living on his own for the first time in Cincinnati. He and his brother were ship commission officers (essentially travel agents for cargo and passenger ships) and they had a shop front that you can see in Plate 2. It is just to the right of the “Athearn and Hibberd” sign on the ground floor below a white awning. Foster wrote some of his most famous tunes during this period.

The abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe also lived in town at the time with her husband. In Plate 3 you can see the two steeples (the highest edifices in the picture) that mark the church where her father preached.