THE HISTORY CENTER BLOG
Have you ever heard of “flour sack dresses”? By the 1920’s flour/sugar/feed sacks were printed in gingham checked or striped patterns. These flour sacks were used to make household items, clothing, quilts and toys. I am looking for family stories in the use of these sacks. I would also be interesting in viewing an actual sack, or clothing/quilt. I am working on a history display but do not have local stories of the use of theses sacks. (firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-272-6412).
While entering 1940 Federal Census data in the History Forge project of Tompkins County for Enfield (https://thehistorycenter.net/HistoryForge) I was noticing the different occupations recorded for residents of the Town. Below are just a few of the people and occupations. If you have additional information on any of the residents I would love to hear from you. If you want to do some of your own research, Family Search and Ancestry are two website you can find the 1940 Census. On April 1, the 1950 Federal Census will be released and viewable on both these websites.
One of the first occupations I noticed was Pocketbook Manufacturing. France Newhart, Sophia Wilkins, Arthur and Pauline Wright, Andrew Palmer, and Viola McCray were all listed as working at Pocketbook Manufacturing. The jobs were listed as leather cutter and sewing operator. R. Appel opened the “pocketbook factory” in 1934 in Ithaca. The company produced handbags for customers throughout the United States and Canada for 25 years until its closure in 1959. At its peak production, R. Appel, Inc. manufactured nearly 1,800 handbags a day. Helen Stanton worked as a seamstress at the City Hospital. The City Hospital at that time was located on South Quarry Street in Ithaca and called the Ithaca Memorial Hospital.
There were teachers listed, Pearl Niverson (Krums Corners School); Florence Bullivant (Trumansburg School for 44 years); Mary Freese (VanDorn’s School); Warena Ramsey (Bostwick, VanDorn, Woodard, Millers Corner, Enfield Center and Enfield Elementary Schools, taught for 40 years); Martha Bock (Woodward School taught for 33 years). Paul Nelson worked at a Chicken Hatchery (we will place him at Babcock’s (1935 Krums Corners). Abram Moore, Junk Dealer. Clair Entriken and Albert Stone, Bakery. Blacksmith - Clarence Fitchpatrick, Enfield Center and Otto Newman, Cornell University. Hall Bailey, Caretaker State Park – Robert H. Treman State Park?
Lawrence and Arelen Fitchpatrick, Clifford and Doris Voorheis working at “adding machine” manufacture. Allen-Wales produced and sold adding machines, Ithaca. The Company became National Cash Register (NCR) in 1943. Ernest Buteux, built Hillendale Golf Course (Applegate Road) in 1930’s. Lyman Cockerill, Minister Baptist Church. Merchant Retail Stores – Carl Newhart, Enfield Center Newhart’s Store; Charles Phillips, Miller’s Corner (Mecklenburg, Enfield Main) Gas Station; William Jones, Enfield Center Red and White Store. Holland Cretsen, Foreman Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp, 1933 Robert H. Treman State Park, Enfield. Kryle Burlew, Barber Enfield Center. Nora Dodd, Practical Nurse, Dodd Nursing Home opened in 1951 and closed in 1971, Ithaca.
I ran across this article in the Ithaca Journal, September 2, 1924. I found it interesting the variety of names attending the Rumsey Reunion, a good research project to see how all these people were connected: The third annual reunion of the descendants of the Jonathan Rumsey family was held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Fittchpatrick at Enfield Center last Saturday with about 50 present from Odessa, Dryden, and Ithaca. A bountiful dinner was served at noon and the day was spent with games and visiting. Mrs. Fred Bock read a history of the family and officers elected for another year were: President, L.D. Rumsey; vice-president, Mrs. Sherman Ervay; secretary, Mrs. Ida Carpenter; treasurer, Sherman Ervay; historian, Mrs. Fred Bock; committee on entertainment, Mrs. Charles Jones, Mrs. John Myers and Mrs. Fred Bock. The next reunion will be held at the home of Mrs. E.P. Perez at Shadow Lawn on Cayuga Lake.
This article was originally published in the April-June 2022 print copy issue of the Enfield Currents. Reposted here with the authors permission.
Sue Thompson, Enfield Historian, email@example.com
ITHACA, NY – A wedding of Newfield residents was marked as a special occasion not just for the couple’s lives, but because the ceremony was performed entirely in sign language. Matilda Arnold Brown, after completing an education at the Central New York Institution for Deaf-Mutes in Rome, New York, married Calvin Brown who was also deaf. The uniquely communicated event was spread throughout newspapers, but there was another twist that made it even more unique — this happened all the way back in 1896.
The wedding of Matilda and Calvin Brown was just one of many stories uncovered and compiled as part of a new compilation project by the History Center in Tompkins County. Former intern and volunteer Leanza Kopa, as part of their Masters studies program at Maryville University, explored various archives of local history in order to highlight deaf and hard of hearing history in Ithaca and Tompkins County. Working with the History Center’s marketing and experience coordinator Zoë Van Nostrand, she began to fill in the records on deaf and hard of hearing history.
“When Zoë first presented it to me, we had absolutely nothing on it, there was nothing in the archives, it was a complete blank page,” Kopa said. “All we had were a few names from the 1910 census, in which they were labeled as ‘deaf and dumb’. And so I kind of thought, ‘you know, I’ll find the golden story, I’m one of these people and discovering someone’s lost history, right?’.”
And while that idea did not come perfectly to fruition, Kopa says Ithaca Journal archives and other sources explored resulted in finding local stories on lip reading, sign language, hearing devices, and other topics relevant to the deaf and hard of hearing.
Highlighting National Deaf History Month, which takes place from March 13 – April 15 every year, the resulting compilation of deaf and hard of hearing history was highlighted on the History Center’s website and culminated in a new type of event for the History Center where an audience gathered to hear the culmination of the research.
The inaugural CHAT, or Community History Across Tompkins, event took place the evening of April 7 at the Community Arts Partnership ArtSpace and Gallery at the History Center. The gathering of about a dozen history-curious community members began with a lecture by Kopa followed by a rearrangement into a discussion circle.
In the lecture, Kopa explored the origins of deaf stigma and community, from Artistotle to the term “deaf and dumb” and highlighted instances of deaf and hard of hearing community camaraderie and solidarity in the past. One of these was the Ithaca League for the Hard of Hearing, a group that gathered frequently and was featured in newspapers throughout the 1930s educating on the latest hearing devices, practiced lip reading, ran social functions, and worked to improve quality of life for hearing-impaired community members before its leaving the historical record around 1939. Kopa said her favorite discovery was that Tompkins County was the first county in the United States to perform a hearing test for children throughout the county in 1934 so it could be found when students needed additional treatment or assistance, which remains important to this day.
“As a hard of hearing individual myself, that was a really important thing; they didn’t discover it until I was older,” Kopa, who was about four years old at the time, said. “So having testing for children is very important for their communication, development, and their social skills, and if you catch it early on, we can adjust [for]those children and put them in classes that better suit their needs, or get them hearing aids, hearing devices, or however the parents and child see fit.”
Following the lecture, attendees shared their thoughts on what they learned from the presentation, what they found most interesting, and how it connects to their experience or what they know about deafness in Tompkins County now. An ASL interpreter was present for those hard of hearing that wished to still take part.
“I didn’t know, really any of the history that Leanza shared, so this was good to learn,” said Tompkins County Legislator Veronica Pillar, who attended the event. “I’m looking forward to like, more, you know, more stories being added to the project and more sort of connection to what the deaf and hard of hearing community here right now or what could it be, especially hearing that, you know, other places have more of a community and more supports for people”.
The new CHAT events intend to allow citizen historians and local researchers of all ages present on regional history topics in an informal setting. Van Nostrand says that this and an upcoming event are hopefully the start to a great new series of programs.=
“The hope is that these are open to the public, and that anyone who really wants a space to talk through new content that they’re working on, or local history projects, has the opportunity to reach out,” said Van Nostrand. “With switching to the roundtable discussion and having people the opportunity to really engage in a more relaxed format, it’s my hope is that there’s less barriers for people who might not be who might be in school to become academics…but they’re not quite at that level yet, but still giving them an opportunity to share really valuable research and valuable work with the community.”
The research will be made into a formal archival collection in the history center’s archives and connects these past events to the present community
The online compilation also highlighted former reporting by Ithaca Week highlighting the American Sign Language Chat Ithaca (ASLCI) group, which continues to meet weekly on Tuesdays in Ithaca to practice their sign language skills since it was founded in 2015.
“For me, it was an absolute honor,” Kopa said about the experience. “For someone who is hard of hearing, I’ve noticed going into this, I really don’t know too much about, I guess you’d say my history[…]. It’s really a history that hasn’t been taught or told, and so by doing this, having an opportunity to give that history a voice again and bring it back to the forefront, that’s definitely something I’ve taken extremely seriously and have felt, you know, extreme honor and I hope that by doing this I can do the community right by it.”
Additionally, the History Center is undergoing an effort to make its content accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing by creating transcripts to oral history interviews and adding subtitles to their YouTube videos.
The History Center is looking to add to its materials on local deaf history, and those wishing to contribute materials, stories, or research to these collections are encouraged to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next CHAT is set to take place May 5, and will focus on early Asian residents in Tompkins County corresponding with Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Community members and groups interested in presenting for future CHATs on local research can contact email@example.com.
This article was originally published in IthacaWeek on April 19th 2022. Re-published here with the authors permission.
Access original article here: https://www.ithacaweek-ic.com/the-history-centers-inaugural-chat-puts-deaf-history-into-focus/
A new exhibit at The History Center in Tompkins County recounts the history of the area through the lens of the census, including a look into migration in the county. reCOUNT: Facing Our Census gives visitors a view into the past 23 decades of Tompkins County.
The exhibit opened April 1 when the U.S. Census Bureau released the 1950s census records. Displays in the exhibit include a focus on education, employment, census procedures, immigration, and definitions of race and the ways these changed over the years.
Two displays centered around immigration to the Tompkins County area, one with a map detailing the origins of immigrants to the county since 1870 and another focusing on Asiatic immigration. While Tompkins County has a rich history of immigration, it is not only seen in the history books, or in this case the census records. The population of Tompkins County is 12.7% foreign born, and this increases to 17.5% in the city of Ithaca, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As of July, 2021, the bureau estimates Asian people comprise 10.4% of Tompkins County’s population.
Zoë Van Nostrand, marketing and visitor experience coordinator at The History Center, said showing the county’s history of Asiatic immigration is important in subverting the myth that the higher education institutions in the county are the sole reason for the Asian population in the area.
“One of the myths that I heard often growing up here is that the diversity of the community is from the colleges,” Van Nostrand said, “and what I found really powerful about this exhibit — and I know that our curator and our historian, Cindy [Kjellander-Cantu] and Eve [Snyder] did as well — is really pushing back on that and finding out who was here and when, and the businesses they held and the awards they won.”
The display includes historical items on loan from the Tang family who immigrated to Ithaca in the 1930s. Wing and Susie Tang came to Ithaca from Canton, China, and founded the first Chinese restaurant in Ithaca — Asiatic Garden. At the history center, visitors can see original menus and dinnerware from the restaurant which has since become Capital Corner located at 140 W State St.
The history of immigration to Tompkins County has greatly shaped the unique culture of the county that exists today and is seen through the food, shops, art and people of the area.
“That exhibit in particular is this really great way to understand and have a more complete and full look back at who was here, when they were here and how the emergence of an Asian grocery in the 1910s might have really shifted local food understandings,” Van Nostrand said, “how you could have a place like Asiatic garden — which was kind of nicknamed Hong Kong Susie's after Susie Tang — and look at the way that that really shifted the cultural expectations in a time that a lot of very small rural communities in central New York did not have that same access to different ethnic cultures and foods.”
The History Center will exhibit reCOUNT: Facing Our Census until March, 2023. It is available for private visits for people who want a more pandemic-friendly experience or who generally want limited interaction with the public. The center is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and people can schedule a private visit at thehistorycenter.net.
Watch IthacaWeek video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-Dc7Iu1a5I
This article was written by Alyshia Korba for their IthacaWeek Journalism Course. Originally published April 18th 2022, at https://alyshiakorba.wixsite.com/website/post/storytelling-through-the-census
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 4/6/2022
CONTACT: Zoë Van Nostrand – Marketing & Visitor Experience Coordinator
607-273-8284 ext. 229 (W-Sat 10-5pm)
The History Center in Tompkins County Awarded Pandemic Recovery Grant from the American Historical Association to Support Oral History Collection
ITHACA NY –The History Center in Tompkins County has been awarded funding from the American Historical Association’s Grants to Sustain and Advance the Work of Historical Organizations Program, which provides relief to institutions adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This opportunity was made possible with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021
“COVID-19 continues to have significant financial impacts on The History Center, and museums across the country. We’re thrilled that the American Historical Association has stepped up to support institutions like ours in this critical time of need and are grateful for their emphasis in prioritizing archival work on projects like ours.”
The History Center in Tompkins County will use the awarded funds to support the archival processing, digital preservation, and public sharing of our Oral Histories of Tompkins County collection (thehistorycenter.net/Oral-History). Our oral history collection represents an important part of the historical record we steward on behalf of our community. The content of these oral histories spans decades, and provide an important method to understand the past in people’s own words. Their value to us today, and to future generations in Tompkins County, cannot be overstated. This project allows us to fully accession a significant number of our existing oral history interviews, and then share them with the public on our institutional platforms of ArchiveGrid, SoundCloud, and New York Heritage. This project will allow us to more fully process the interviews included in the sub-collections: Asian Diaspora, Black Experience, Gender & Sexuality, Indigenous Experience, Religion & Belief, Stories of Immigration, and Women’s Voices as well as our general collections.
The History Center is one of fifty grant recipients, which include site-based organizations, membership associations, and history departments at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Awardees will implement short-term projects that explore new ideas or build on experiments initiated during the pandemic—from online programming or publications to using new technologies or expanding audiences and accessibility.
“The past two years have been challenging for small history organizations,” said James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association. “Our awardees have made compelling cases for their status as essential resources, making vital contributions to public culture. The American Historical Association (AHA) is pleased to provide funding for our colleagues to promote historical work, historical thinking, and the presence of history in public life.”
“NEH is grateful to the American Historical Association for administering American Rescue Plan funding to help history organizations around the country recover from the pandemic,” said NEH Chair Shelly C. Lowe (Navajo). “Small museums, historical societies, college history departments, historic sites, and community archives are essential to keeping and telling America’s story. These ARP awards will allow these institutions to develop new programs and resources that will expand access to this important history.”
To learn more about the The History Center’s grant project please visit: thehistorycenter.net/grants or www.historians.org/awards-and-grants/past-recipients/aha-neh-sharp-grant-recipients.
About The History Center: The History Center in Tompkins County is a generation-to-generation education and research center focused on engaging the public with the history of Tompkins County (located in the ancestral and contemporary lands of the Gayogo̱hó:nǫ' Nation) and the Finger Lakes region. The History Center helps people use the tools of history to understand the past, gain perspective on the present, and play an informed role in shaping the future. The History Center is located within the Tompkins Center for History & Culture, a collaborative visitor center and event space on the Ithaca Commons. Learn more at thehistorycenter.netand follow @TompkinsHistory on any platform.
About the American Historical Association: Founded in 1884 and incorporated by Congress in 1889 for the promotion of historical studies, the American Historical Associationprovides leadership for the discipline and promotes the critical role of historical thinking in public life. The Association defends academic freedom, develops professional standards, supports innovative scholarship and teaching, and helps to sustain and enhance the work of historians. As the largest membership association of professional historians in the world (nearly 12,000 members), the AHA serves historians in a wide variety of professions and represents every historical era and geographical area.
About the National Endowment for the Humanities:Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at www.neh.gov.
Douglass Day is an annual celebration of Frederick Douglass' life and legacy on his chosen birthday of February 14th. Each year the organizers coordinate with archival repositories across the country to transcribe and digitize historic Black collections to make them more accessible to educators and researchers, and support their historic preservation.
This was The History Center's second year participating in Douglass Day, and six Exhibit Hall volunteers and student workers spent their shifts from 2/14-2/21 transcribing documents and finding names for the 'Colored Conventions Project.'
The Colored Conventions were state and national meetings held by free and formerly enslaved African Americans to debate their collective struggles. It's estimated that more than 10,000 delegates attended more than 600 Colored Conventions over seven decades across the United States. At these meetings, delegates talked about voting rights, education, labor, business, and a whole lot more. The conventions were highly democratic spaces at a time when Black people were denied access to the voting booth or the jury box.
Only 64% of the documents had been transcribed by the end of February 14th, and our contributions and that of other volunteer transcribers across the country helped complete 100% of the identified documents by the third week of February. No word yet on if we've been able to identify any Tompkins County residents as attendants of the Colored Conventions, but now that these documents are digitized, finding a local connection to this historic movement is made possible!
Thank you to: Rhonda, Phung, Lin, Rebecca, Kethry, Jacob, and Nnenna for pausing work on other projects to join this national preservation effort!
Originally posted in the March 2022 History Happenings newsletter mailed on 2/28/2022
WHAT. We want your 20-60 second one-take videos, captured on any device at hand. Consider showing us that which might not be seen by visitors to the Finger Lakes region. Show us your Gorges. What you see might witness the abuse of or the protection of natural resources (living space, water, wilderness)! Or, show us the every-day overlooked things you see and places you inhabit. How are you in this space? Where do you work, dive, shop, drive, climb or escape to? We seek to include your contributions for a screening planned at Cornell Cinema on March 7th.
WHO. Anyone who has an image to capture and share. No previous film experience required.
HOW/WHEN: Please email your video files here: firstname.lastname@example.org[deadline Tuesday3/4/22 at 12noon] along with your name and a one sentence description of your image. These clips will be edited together and screened as part of the March 7th (X)-trACTION screening https://cinema.cornell.edu/x-traction. If you contribute a video, you can join us FOR FREE that night.
WHY: (X)-trACTION began in Bisbee, Arizona in January as the result of a collaborative group of media artists' inquiry into the problem of "extraction" both ecologically and aesthetically.
Mid-century postcards, front and back, offer invaluable if obscured views in Nicole Antebi's archival re-animation of la frontera. Geography plays across multiple enactments in Cathy Lee Crane's video, which asserts the primacy of water and migration in the dust of militarized landscapes. Laurie McKenna conjures desert punk power in an aggregate of memory and charcoal, and grounds national rupture in a sonic diary. Erin Wilkerson and Jason Livingston, in their contributions, draw poetic power lines through industry, reminding us that extraction, for all its local magnetism and metal lures, is a view into international dynamics.
Local Bisbee residents were invited to contribute observations of life in Bisbee which were included in that night's program as interstitial seams that made their way through the sequence of five artists' films to form a meta mash-up deposit concerned for our climate, our workers, our history and future- the beauty and the failures. Whereas the logic of extraction is violently deliberate, the operative logic of this generative media work [aka the screening program] is generous, chance-based, and playful. These might combine to tell a bigger story of regional extraction.
Your contributions will run throughout the Cornell Cinema program on 3/7 as fragments from Under the Surface of Ithaca. Be a part of the conversation.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 2/1/2022
CONTACT: Zoë Van Nostrand – Marketing & Visitor Experience
The History Center in Tompkins County Announces New Exhibit:
reCOUNT: Facing Our Census
ITHACA NY – The History Center in Tompkins County announces their next major exhibit, reCOUNT: Facing Our Census, to open on April 1st, 2022. The U.S. Census impacts everything from political representation to school funding. Tompkins County, and every other community across the nation, has been fundamentally shaped by the regular count of Americans. The census is also a valuable historical resource. Since 1790, the census has provided a broad snapshot of the nation and its communities. A critical examination of these records reveals biases and shortcomings baked into this American system. reCOUNT uses the census as a lens to explore the history of Tompkins County and its people, recognizing the value of the census, as well as its limitations.
reCOUNT draws on the extensive work done by The History Center’s HistoryForge (historyforge.net) project and its many volunteers. Over the last six years, The History Center has developed an open-source digital web environment, HistoryForge, that integrates historic maps, building records, and local census data. The platform has been implemented in Ithaca and Tompkins County, with partner sites in Auburn (NY), Elmira (NY), and Oberlin (OH). HistoryForge allows users to connect more deeply to their neighborhoods, and understand the historical legacies present in our everyday lives.
Using themes such as education, family origins, employment, race, and census taking, reCOUNT expands Tompkins County history through six interactive exhibits. Beginning with the first U.S. Census in 1790, the exhibits will trace the development of the county and the census across 23 decades. reCOUNT will inform our understanding of Tompkins County, and position audiences to think critically about local history’s impact on our lives. Additional information about the exhibit will be available at thehistorycenter.net/reCOUNT in February 2022.
reCOUNT is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. The development of HistoryForge was supported through funding provided by the National Historical Publications & Records Commission.
About The History Center in Tompkins County:
The History Center in Tompkins County is a generation-to-generation education and research center focused on engaging the public with the history of Tompkins County (located in the ancestral and contemporary lands of the Gayogo̱hó:nǫ' Nation) and the Finger Lakes region. The History Center helps people use the tools of history to understand the past, gain perspective on the present, and play an informed role in shaping the future. The History Center is located within the Tompkins Center for History & Culture, a collaborative visitor center and event space on the Ithaca Commons. Learn more at thehistorycenter.net and follow @TompkinsHistory on any platform.
Despite pandemic constraints, 2021 was a rich and productive year in the Archives and Research Library. We served almost 600 people in our library and by email and phone from ten different states across the US, including Florida, Iowa, Washington, Tennessee, Georgia, Minnesota, New Jersey, and more. We created a brief video honoring the Council for Equality, Ithaca's own Civil Rights organization from the 1960s. A generous grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation helped us to revise and update our archival collections finding aids, those essential tools for researchers.
We worked with numerous local partners to research and showcase Tompkins County's diverse history: The Village of Freeville, United Way, Discover Cayuga Lake, Ithaca Asian American Association, Finger Lakes Land Trust, The Ithaca Voice, WSKG, WRFI, The Cherry Arts, Civic Ensemble, Caroline History Club, St. John's Episcopal Church, Friends of Stewart Park, and the Human Services Coalition. We also facilitated research for Cornell University Historic Preservation and Planning students studying the local built environment.
Donations to the collection this year included materials from Club Essence, an African American women's group from the 1970s to the early 2000s; records of Ithaca's iconic Corner Bookstore; genealogy materials from numerous local and regional families; stereoviews of local scenes; records of the New York National Farmers' Union; materials from the Lehman Alternative Community School from one of its own students; an extensive collection of World War II items belonging to Robert Nobles of Ithaca, and more.
More than a dozen volunteers and interns generously donated their time, effort, and expertise to facilitate all of this essential work. They include Nancy Leeming, Mary Tomlan, George Dillmann, Gene Endres, Elisabeth Shea, Janet Wagner, Alison Maceli, Ashley Miller, Alex Black, Shailja Gaur, Margaret McKinnis, Katherine Esterl, Raia Gutman, Maya Matunis, and Jessica Golden. We are more grateful to them than we can say.
Director of Archives & Research Services
Political Tompkins by Joe Mareane is the 4th in a series of historical writings published by the Tompkins County Historical Commission.
Purchase Political Tompkins through our online bookstore. All proceeds benefit The History Center in Tompkins County.
Preface - pgs. 4-5
When I arrived in Tompkins County in 2008 to take the job of County Administrator, the liberalism of the area was a defining element of its identity. In fact, my going away gag gift from my previous job in nearby Onondaga County were a pair of Birkenstock sandals and a tie-dyed T-shirt. I soon learned, however, that politics in Tompkins weren’t always so Democratic or progressive. There was a time when the City of Ithaca and the County were among the most “rock-ribbed” Republican places in America. Moreover, the change from “red” to “blue” was relatively recent—well within my lifetime.
The essay that follows began as a statistical tabulation intended to occupy a few days of the new cloistered era of the COVID-19 pandemic and satisfy my curiosity about the transformation of political preferences in Tompkins County. The plan was to track the results of presidential elections from 1828—the first time New York State engaged voters in the presidential election decision—through the 2020 election, plot the trend lines to see when major shifts of partisanship occurred, and then move on to other stay-at-home pursuits.
Despite the enormity of data available on the internet, I quickly found that the county-by-county results of presidential elections prior to the 1990’s were not easily available via a keystroke. With navigational help from Tompkins County Historian Carol Kammen and the indispensable assistance of Jim Folts at the New York State Archive who ultimately found tabulations of every presidential election through 2012, the statistical foundation was laid.
I’ve always believed that if the right numbers are looked at in the right way, a story emerges. With election results compiled and tracked, the story of the evolution of political preferences in the County became clearer and often far different than I would have expected. The fact that Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton won landslide victories over Donald Trump was not surprising, but Franklin Roosevelt’s successive 30-point losses to four different Republican candidates was. Even Richard Nixon did much better against John Kennedy in Tompkins than in the six neighboring, and presumably more conservative, rural counties.
The statistics begged answers to why voters changed their preferences at certain times and not others; when voting patterns in Tompkins diverged from the mainstream; what developments at the local level might presage changes that would later affect the outcome of presidential elections; and how major electoral events, such as women’s suffrage and the lowering of the voting age, might have affected election results.
This essay attempts to shed light on those questions. While context for the elections is provided, it is only to give the reader a glimpse of the personalities and factors in the environment that may have contributed to the local response to specific candidates. A scholarly assessment of the myriad factors influencing the politics of a specific time and space is beyond the scope of this work and the talents of this writer. Speculations about factors that have contributed to the partisan leanings of the County are also shared. These should be taken only as the observations of one who has gained some familiarity with the political environment through a long career in local government, and not the disciplined work of a political scientist.
Much of the research is based on articles and editorials in the various iterations of the Ithaca Journal that date back to 1828 and, thanks to the Tompkins County Historical Commission and Cornell University, are accessible online. Unfortunately, access to other papers and documents was severely limited by restrictions resulting from the Covid pandemic.
My hope is only to preserve data that might otherwise be difficult to access and provide a bit of insight into the unique political history and character of Tompkins County, including how it evolved from one of the “reddest” areas of the nation to one of the “bluest” of the blue.
George Washington Belt also Great Chain or Canandaigua Treaty Belt
The George Washington Belt, also called the Great Chain or Canandaigua Treaty Belt is the friendship belt created from the Canandaigua Treaty or Pickering Treaty meeting in 1794. The thirteen human figures symbolize the original thirteen colonies of the young and newly formed democracy of the United States of America. The two smaller figures in the center represent the Indigenous "Keepers of the Eastern and Western Doors" of Haudenosaunee territory, and the house represents both the Haudenosaunee Longhouse and the U.S. Capitol Building, with the open door symbolizing hospitality and peace between the two nations. Each of the figures are linked by clasped hands to form a chain of friendship which represents the ongoing alliance between the United States and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
The Canandaigua Treaty was intended to establish peace and friendship between the United States and the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and is considered the foundation of “modern” U.S.-Haudenosaunee relations. In 1794, more than 1,600 Haudenosaunee representatives met with Colonel Timothy Pickering, the U.S. representative selected by President George Washington, for a treaty council in Canandaigua, New York. The negotiations were mediated by trusted Quaker representatives selected by the Seneca. The treaty gave land claimed by the U.S. in the problematic Fort Stanwix Treaty of 1784 back to the Haudenosaunee and set new land boundaries agreed to by both nations. The treaty also recognized the sovereignty of the Six Nations to govern and set their own laws and firmly established a goal of "perpetual" peace between both nations. It was signed on November 11th, 1794 by sachems representing the Grand Council of the Six Nations. Notable attendants included Cornplanter (Seneca), Handsome Lake (Seneca), and Red Jacket (Seneca) who had distinguished themselves as sachems and leaders during the political negotiations and battles of previous years.
Although the Canandaigua Treaty has been violated many times by the U.S. government and its citizens, it is still recognized as an active political agreement by both the Haudenosaunee and the United States. In observance of the original treaty promises the U.S. distributes $10,000 worth of goods to the Six Nations each year in recognition of Article Six, an obligation to "promote the future welfare of the Six Nations" in perpetuity. The annual Canandaigua Treaty Day Celebration on November 11th commemorates the treaty in Canandaigua, New York and serves to “polish the chain of peace and friendship” between the Haudenosaunee and the United States.
Learn more at thehistorycenter.net/wampum, and visit the Art of Wampum on display at The History Center for the month of November.
Located inside the Tompkins Center for History & Culture
110 North Tioga Street
(On the Ithaca Commons)
Ithaca NY, 14850 USA
Exhibit Hall - Wednesday-Saturday 10am-5pm - CLOSED Sun-Tues
Cornell Local History Research Library & Archives - By appointment only. Please contact email@example.com
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