Cornell, Ezra

Cornell, Ezra,

1807–74, American financier and founder of Cornell Univ.Cornell University,
mainly at Ithaca, N.Y.; with land-grant, state, and private support; coeducational; chartered 1865, opened 1868. It was named for Ezra Cornell, who donated $500,000 and a tract of land. With the help of state senator Andrew D.
..... Click the link for more information.
, b. Westchester Landing, N.Y. Cornell, who began life as a laborer, was of an ingenious mechanical bent and had a shrewd business mind. He aided in constructing (1844) the telegraph line between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., over which Samuel F. B. MorseMorse, Samuel Finley Breese,
1791–1872, American inventor and artist, b. Charlestown, Mass., grad. Yale, 1810. He studied painting in England under Washington Allston and achieved some success.
..... Click the link for more information.
 sent the first test message. Having devised the method of stringing wires on poles, he entered into line construction in the East and the Midwest. He was founder, director, and for a time the largest stockholder of the Western Union Telegraph CompanyWestern Union Telegraph Company,
enterprise created (1851) to provide telegraphic communications services in the United States. Originally known as the New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company, Western Union (as it was renamed in 1856 after a series of
..... Click the link for more information.
, which was formed in 1855 to end cutthroat competition in the field. His interest in agricultural education led to his association in the New York senate with Andrew Dickson WhiteWhite, Andrew Dickson,
1832–1918, American educator and diplomat, b. Homer, N.Y., briefly attended Geneva (now Hobart) College, grad. Yale, 1853. He studied in France and Germany, served (1854–55) as attaché in St. Petersburg, and toured Europe.
..... Click the link for more information.
, and together they mapped and secured legislation for founding (1865) Cornell, with a charter embracing many of Cornell's ideas. He made many gifts to the university, including an initial $500,000, and was responsible for the successful financial returns on the university's federal land grant.


See biographies by his son, Alonzo Cornell (1884), and P. Dorf (1952, abr. ed. 1965).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Cornell, Ezra

(1807–74) capitalist, philanthropist; born at Westchester Landing, N.Y. Originally a carpenter and millwright, he developed a way to insulate telegraph wires attached to wooden poles, then directed the installation of the first telegraph line, from Washington to Baltimore (1844). He joined with other businessmen to form the Western Union Telegraph Company (1855). He built the public library in Ithaca, N.Y., established a model farm, and gave $500,000 for the creation of Cornell University (opened in 1868).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
Full browser ?