Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Louisville

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LOUISVILLE, the sixteenth city of the United States in population, and the most important place in the State of Kentucky, is situated on the south bank of the Ohio river, in 38° 3' N. lat. and 85° 30' W. long. The river is here interrupted by a series of rapids which, except at high water, oblige the steamboat traffic to make use of the Louisville and Portland Canal (2½ miles long, constructed in 1833). The city, which has an area of 13 square miles, and a water front of 8 miles, occupies an almost level site about 70 feet above low-water mark. Its plan is regular and spacious, and, in the residential portions the houses, for the most part, have lawns and gardens in front. Among the public buildings of importance may be mentioned the city-hall, the court-house, the public library, the female high school, the industrial exhibition building, the Roman Catholic cathedral, and the State school for the blind.

From the time of the introduction of steam navigation upon the Ohio by Fulton in 1812, Louisville rapidly gained in importance as a centre of river trade. Owing to its position at the “falls of the Ohio,” which obstruction long made necessary the transfer of goods at this point, the city became an important depôt of supplies for the cotton-growing States lying immediately to the south. The owners of plantations in those States devoted themselves wholly to the culture of cotton, and relied upon Kentucky for supplies of wheat, Indian corn, oats, and the like cereals, for the hempen bagging and rope used in baling the cotton, and for mules and horses, large droves of which were annually driven south from Louisville. The city was also for many years one of the principal points in the United States for pork-packing.

Plan of Louisville.

After the close of the civil war, the development of Kentucky, as of the South generally, entered new channels. Largely increased facilities of railway transportation, while bringing Louisville into more direct competition with Cincinnati, St Louis, and Chicago, resulted in a marked increase of both its commercial and manufacturing interests, notwithstanding the decline of the river trade. The extensive tobacco crop of Kentucky, with much of that grown in neighbouring States, now finds a market at Louisville, instead of at New Orleans as formerly; and it has become probably the largest market in the world for leaf tobacco, 68,300 hogsheads of which, of an aggregate value exceeding $5,000,000, were sold here during 1881. The manufacture of whisky is also important, this, with that of tobacco, paying to the Federal Government nearly $3,000,000 annually in revenue taxes, in the Louisville district. Pork-packing employs a capital of $2,520,000, and the tanning of leather $1,704,000, this industry being twenty times larger than before the war, and the product, especially of sole-leather, being in high demand. The manufacture of agricultural and mechanical implements employs $1,915,000 capital, the plough factories, which produce 125,000 ploughs annually, being among the largest in the United States. Steam-power is chiefly employed, the available water-power of the rapids having been neglected. The greater part of the coal consumed by the factories is brought down the Ohio from Pittsburg. The mountainous eastern portion of the State, rich in vast deposits of both coal and iron, is now penetrated by several railroads, and others are being constructed, whose influence in developing this mineral wealth will add largely to the prosperity of the city.

The reports of the United States census of 1880 give the following summary of the industries of the city:—

1860. 1870. 1880.

 Number of establishments  436  801  1,191 
 Number of hands employed  7,396  11,589  21,937 
 Capital invested  $5,023,491   $11,129,291   $20,864,449 
 Wages paid 2,120,179  4,464,040  5,765,387 
 Value of material 7,896,891  10,369,556  22,362,704 
 Value of product 14,135,517  20,364,650  35,908,338 

The Louisville and Nashville Railway, opened in 1859, controls, under one management, nearly 4000 miles of connected lines, reaching New Orleans, Pensacola, and Savannah. Various other lines contribute to make Louisville an important railway centre.

A bridge across the river, 521823 feet long between abutments, with twenty-seven spans, and admitting the free passage of steamboats at high water, affords continuous railway transit, and connects the city with the thriving towns of New Albany (population 16,423) and Jeffersonville (population 9357), situated on the opposite bank of the Ohio, in the State of Indiana, A second railway bridge, having waggon-ways and foot-ways in addition, is now (1882) building.

Louisville is provided with adequate water-works, gas works, tc. The famous Dupont artesian well, 2066 feet deep, has a flow of 330,000 gallons per day, with a force of ten horse-power, its water resembling slightly that of the Kissengen and Blue Lick (Ky.) springs. Although once regarded as unhealthy, the city has now an effective system of sewerage, and is in good sanitary condition.

The public school system is sustained at an annual expense of over $300,000, abundant separate provision being made fur coloured children. There are four medical colleges, having a large attendance and reputation, and numerous private seminaries and schools. Among the newspapers published at Louisville the Courier Journal deserves mention both for its early connexion with George D. Prentice, and as a leading representative of the best order of American journalism. There are four other dailies (two English and two German), besides thirteen weekly sheets.

Louisville is a port of entry for foreign imports, which aggregate annually about $125,000. The city is governed by a mayor, elected every third year, with a board of aldermen and a common council, the former containing one, and the latter two representatives of each of the twelve wards. The population in 1830 was 10,341; in 1840, 21,210; in 1850, 43,196; in 1860, 68,033; in 1870, 100,753; and in 1880 it was 123,758. This last total includes 20,905 persons of colour and 23,156 foreigners, the larger proportion of the latter being Germans.

It was in 1778 that Colonel George Rogers Clarke, on his way down the Ohio, left a company of settlers who took possession of Corn Island (no longer existing), near the Kentucky shore above the falls; and in the following year the first rude cluster of cabins appeared on the site of the present city. An Act of the Virginian legislature in 1780 gave the little settlement the rank of a town, and called it Louisville in honour of Louis XVI. of France, then assisting the American colonies in their struggle for independence. The rank of city was conferred by the Kentucky legislature in 1828.