ABOUT THIS BOOK
A case study about the formation of American pluralism and religious liberty, The Spires Still Point to Heaven explores why—and more importantly how—the early growth of Cincinnati influenced the changing face of the United States. Matthew Smith deftly chronicles the urban history of this thriving metropolis in the mid-nineteenth century. As Protestants and Catholics competed, building rival domestic missionary enterprises, increased religious reform and expression shaped the city. In addition, the different ethnic and religious beliefs informed debates on race, slavery, and immigration, as well as disease, temperance reform, and education.
Specifically, Smith explores the Ohio Valley’s religious landscape from 1788 through the nineteenth century, examining its appeal to evangelical preachers, abolitionists, social critics, and rabbis. He traces how Cincinnati became a battleground for newly energized social reforms following a cholera epidemic, and how grassroots political organizing was often tied to religious issues. He also illustrates the anti-immigrant sentiments and anti-Catholic nativism pervasive in this era.
The first monograph on Cincinnati’s religious landscape before the Civil War, The Spires Still Point to Heaven highlights Cincinnati’s unique circumstances and how they are key to understanding the cultural and religious development of the nation.