December 15, 2017

Everyday Life of Cincinnati in the Late 1930s Through Nelson Ronsheim's Lens

Nelson Ronsheim (1905-1981) attended the Cincinnati Art Academy when still in elementary school, perhaps the youngest student ever to do so. After working a short while for an advertising firm, at the age of 23, Ronsheim set out on his own as a commercial artist.

Though skilled with pen and brush, Ronsheim gravitated to photography as a means of artistic expression. From as early as 1923, he mastered the use of a complex camera to record life in Cincinnati. After acquiring additional photographic equipment in 1938, Ronsheim embarked on an intense effort to capture on film the familiar scenes of his native city.

Cincinnati in 1938-39 by Nelson Ronsheim

As a student of history, Ronsheim appreciated the transitional nature of the late 1930s and sought to preserve in photographs the city as he knew it, anticipating that these images would become more fascinating with time.

This period of intense photographic activity lasted just four years, brought to an end by World War II's rationing of fuel and raw material. Yet Ronsheim created roughly 800 images of Cincinnati during this time. He entered photographs in the Master Photo Finishers of America annual contests in 1939 and 1940 and each year received several awards.

These amazing pictures from Michael G Smith that were taken by Nelson Ronsheim documenting everyday life of Cincinnati in 1938 and 1939.

A streetcar riding the Mt. Adams incline provides the backdrop for children on the steps up the hill, November 1938

Construction of Columbia Parkway viaduct over Eggleston Avenue in January 1938

Construction of the Columbia Parkway Viaduct over Eggleston Avenue, looking north, January 1938

Kenton St. overpass looking west down Florence Ave., January 1st, 1938

Kilgour St. in Mt. Adams as seen from Fort Washington Way ramp, below Columbia Parkway, 1938

Morning in the city, April 1938

 View of downtown Cincinnati, 1938

Young man contemplates downtown Cincinnati's skyline, Feb. 11th, 1938

9-year-old girl in Fairview Park, April 1st, 1939

A Civil War era cannon on Mt. Adams overlooks Ida Street, March 1939

A dairy farm in the city; Glenwood Avenue near Canyon Drive, September 19th, 1939

A workman studies a massive drum farm at the Proctor and Gamble factory, July 15th, 1939

 Downtown Cincinnati from Immaculata Church in Mt. Adams, May 27th, 1939

Girl at Dudley's Farm, October 7th, 1939

Holly Cross Monastery as seen from Elsinore Pl, March 1939

Kids riding tricycles, May 1939

Laurel St. (now Ezzard Charles) looking west; Union Terminal looms in the distance, April 1939

Looking across the Ohio River from Eden Park toward Bellevue, Kentucky, May 1939

Looking down Monastery St. toward downtown Cincinnati, December 30th, 1939

Looking east down Hill Street in Mt. Adams, April 15th, 1939

Looking south from the lower deck of the Western Hills Viaduct (Union Terminal and the post office building are visible in the distance on the left), August 12th, 1939

Mt. Adams as seen from E. Liberty St. and Highland Ave. (Ida Street Bridge in the distance), May 1939

Mt. Adams from Bellevue, Kentucky, July 29th, 1939

Mt. Adams, Kilgour St., Oregon St. and Imaculata Church, April 1939

Night in Over-the-Rhine, June 1939

Ohio River and Eastern Ave. from Cliff Drive in Eden Park, October 12th, 1939

Row boats at rest in Burnet Woods at 8.30 am, Cincinnati, Ohio September 19th, 1939

Sixth Street, December 29th, 1939

Skiers in Burnet Woods, February 1939

The corner of E. Liberty Street (now known as Liberty Hill) and Highland Avenue, May 1939

The once busy train yard sandwiched between Gilbert Ave. and Reading Rd. on downtown Cincinnati's east side, April 1939

Two children walk around the reflecting pool in Eden Park, June 10th, 1939

Sisters on the stairway down from Jackson Hill Park to Mulberry Street, just west of Dorsey St., June 11th, 1939

View from Elsinore near the intersection of Wareham, March 1939

View inside the Mt. Adams incline upper station, March 1939

View of downtown at night from Jackson Hill Park stairway, June 1939

View of downtown from the George Hunt Pendleton House at 559 Liberty Hill in the Prospect Hill District, May 1939

View of Hill St., Columbia Pkwy., Pearl St. and train yards on the river's bank, December 30th, 1939

View of Sixth Street, March 1939


Wheelbarrows used in depression-era government work programs sit idle, February 1939





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