The Spires Still Point to Heaven

Cincinnati’s Religious Landscape, 1788–1873

Matthew Smith
Book Cover

PB: $39.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-2295-8
Publication: Nov 22

HC: $110.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-2294-1
Publication: Nov 22

Ebook: $39.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-2296-5
Publication: Nov 22

260 pages
6 x 9
1 table, 6 figures

How nineteenth-century Cincinnati tested the boundaries of nativism, toleration, and freedom


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.

About the Author(s)

Matthew Smith is a Visiting Professor of History at Miami University.


In the Series

  • Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy edited by David Stradling, Larry Bennett, and Davarian Baldwin

    The Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy Series, edited by David Stradling, Larry Bennett, and Davarian Baldwin, was founded by the late Zane L. Miller to publish books that examine past and contemporary cities. While preserving the series’ foundational focus on the policy, planning, and environmental issues so central to metropolitan life, we also join scholarly efforts to push the boundaries of urban studies. We are committed to publishing work at the shifting intersections of cultural production, community formation, and political economy that shape cities at all scales, from the neighborhood to the transnational.