the north face outlet Facts and folklore about Ithaca and Tompkins County
Tompkins County was the location for more than 100 silent films during the early 1900s. The Wharton Studios were located in an old trolley amusement park (Renwick, now Stewart Park). One of the studio’s most famous stunts (at least locally) was running a trolley off the bridge over Fall Creek into the gorge below.(Photo: File photo)Here are some interesting facts, unusual stories, little known (or perhaps forgotten) history, and what we call “mythaca” consisting of either garbled history or persistent legend drawn from local history.
How Tompkins Countygot its name
Tompkins County was named for Daniel Tompkins in 1817. Tompkins (1774 1825) was a governor of New York state (1807 1817) and sixth vice president of the United States for two terms under President James Monroe. He was neither born here, lived here or died here. He probably never even bothered to visit., the county seat, was probably named by , a major landholder and part time resident. It was named for the island kingdom of Odysseus in Homer. It was originally located in the Town of Ulysses (the Latin name for Odysseus). was the Surveyor General of New York and mapped much of Central New York in that capacity. DeWitt (after whom the Historical Society is named) was known as the “Godfather of the Christened West” and was blamed with the bestowing of a riot of classical names throughout Central and Western New York. In fact, the names were given by a panel of commissioners in Albany, all of whom had the standard classical education of the day.
and his son William Linn DeWitt spent summers in and laid out our downtown streets while in residence. William Linn DeWitt ended his life as a hermit after suing the city unsuccessfully for the return of tracts of parkland. died in in 1834 and was originally buried here. His body was relocated to Albany, where it now resides.
Before Ezra Cornell made his fortune on the telegraph and investments, he was a carpenter. He came to in 1828 looking for work. He found a job working for Jeremiah Beebe in his mill. One of Cornell’s first projects in was the construction of a pottery for his father Elijah (still standing), another was the blasting of a220 foot long tunnel above Falls to provide water power for the mills below. This tunnel was dug from both ends and met in the middle. Cornell had no experience in constructing tunnels or the use of blasting powder (dynamite had yet to be invented) but he managed to get the job done.
He left to be a traveling salesman. During this time he happened on a plow which would make it possible to bury telegraph cable. This proved to be the making of him. By the 1860s he was a wealthy man and wanted to give something to . He decided to build a library for the public (1863) and later a university (chartered 1868). is a strange hybrid part Ivy League private university, part public (State University of New York: SUNY). It is said that you can’t take the corn out of Cornell because the College of Agriculture is such a large and important part of it. Cornell has a number of firsts: the first collegiate course of veterinary medicine (1868), established as a college in 1894, the first school of industrial and labor relations (1945), the first hotel administration course (1922), the first electrical engineering course (1883), and the first collegiate forestry school (1898). Its law school had the first woman editor in chief of Law Review (Mary H. Donlon, 1919). And Cornell awarded the first doctorate of science (academic or honorary) to a woman (C. W. Baldwin in 1895). It powered the first outdoor electric lights in America 2 arc lights on campus.
1891: The first ice cream sundae
1892: The Kitty
1952: The first female African American flight attendant Carl Ruth Taylor on Mohawk Airlines.
Hollywood on Cayuga
Tompkins County was the location for more than 100 silent films during the 1910s.
The Wharton Studios were located in an old trolley amusement park (Renwick, now Stewart Park). They did not film “Tarzan” here, or the “Little Rascals,” or the “Three Stooges,” or the “Munsters.” They did film three days worth of italic “Perils of Pauline,” “Patria,” (starring Irene Castle and Warner Oland) which had the distinction of having President Woodrow Wilson request and get changes, “The Great White Trail” and “The Black Stork” an early docudrama about withholding treatment for a defective baby.
Pearl White, Lionel Barrymore, Francis X. Bushman and other early silent stars were familiar sights on the streets. The Whartons were known for their serials featuring breathtaking stunts. One of the most famous (at least locally) was running a trolley off the bridge over Fall Creek into the gorge below. has always been adventuresome in adopting new technology.
In 1820 the Enterprise was launched on Cayuga Lake. It was a steamboat with an engine made in the shop of Robert Fulton and brought from Jersey City to against all odds, the journey being difficult.