Oct 072018

Cornell university’s Inauguration Day took place on this date in 1868. The previous day, each of the candidates who showed up in Ithaca was given an entrance examination. There were 412 successful applicants. With this initial enrollment, Cornell’s first class was, at the time, the largest entering class at a US university. On the occasion, Ezra Cornell delivered a brief speech. He said, “I hope we have laid the foundation of an institution which shall combine practical with liberal education. … I believe we have made the beginning of an institution which will prove highly beneficial to the poor young men and the poor young women of our country.” His speech included another statement which later became the school’s motto, “I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.”

Ezra Cornell

Two other Ezra Cornell-founded, Ithaca institutions played a role in the rapid opening of the university. The Cornell Library, a public library in downtown Ithaca which opened in 1866 served as a classroom and library for the first students. Also Cascadilla Hall, which was constructed in 1866 as a water cure sanitarium, served at the university’s first dormitory.

Cornell was among the first universities in the United States to admit women alongside men. The first woman was admitted to Cornell in 1870, although the university did not yet have a women’s dormitory. On February 13, 1872, Cornell’s Board of Trustees accepted an offer of $250,000 from Henry W. Sage to build such a dormitory. During the construction of Sage College (now home to the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management as Sage Hall) and after its opening in 1875, the admittance of women to Cornell continued to increase.

Significant departures from the standard curriculum were made at Cornell under the leadership of Andrew D. White. In 1868, Cornell introduced the elective system, under which students were free to choose their own course of study. Harvard University would make a similar change in 1872, soon after the inauguration of Charles W. Eliot in 1869. It was the success of the egalitarian ideals of the newly established Cornell, a uniquely American institution, that would help drive some of the changes seen at other universities throughout the next few decades.

In 1892, the university library was opened. Known today as Uris Library, it was the result of a gift from Henry W. Sage in memory of Jennie McGraw. In her will, she left $300,000 to her husband Willard Fiske, $550,000 to her brother Joseph and his children, $200,000 to Cornell for a library, $50,000 for construction of McGraw Hall, $40,000 for a student hospital, and the remainder to the University for whatever use it saw fit. However, the University’s charter limited its property holdings to $3,000,000, and Cornell could not accept the full amount of McGraw’s gift. When Fiske realized that the university had failed to inform him of this restriction, he launched a legal appeal to re-acquire the money, known as The Great Will Case. The United States Supreme Court eventually affirmed the judgment of the New York Court of Appeals that Cornell could not receive the estate on May 19th, 1890, with Justice Samuel Blatchford giving the majority opinion. However, Sage then donated $500,000 to build the library instead.

My association with Cornell is a bit circuitous, but longstanding. Cornell University Press published my Ph.D. dissertation in 1988, and re-issued it as an e-book in 2017. During the initial phases of editing the book for publication I visited Ithaca several times, and toured the campus and surrounds. I also had several students go on to

do graduate work at Cornell, and attended their commencements. Several of my students also had a parent on the faculty at Cornell. All rather fine threads, but weaving a strong fabric all the same.

The school colors of Cornell, carnelian and white, also have a strange history with me and lead to today’s recipe. I am always fascinated by the roots of English words and /CARN/ (flesh) is one of my favorites because it spawns a plethora of words that seem to be unrelated, yet all tie to “flesh” somehow – carnival (remove flesh for Lent), carnation (flesh-colored flower), carnivore (flesh eater), incarnation (taking flesh), and, of course, carnelian (a flesh-colored stone). But it does not stop there. Campbell’s canning company was started in 1869 by Joseph A. Campbell, a fruit merchant who lived in Bridgeton, New Jersey. It started out by producing canned vegetables, jellies, soups, condiments and minced meats. But in 1897, John T. Dorrance, a chemist with degrees from MIT and Göttingen University, joined the company and developed a way to condense their soups. By halving the quantity of its water, he reduced the can size, and condensed soup took off.

Its blue and orange label was a mainstay for nearly 30 years, until a company executive, Herberton Williams, saw the Cornell University football team in action. Impressed by the carnelian red and bright white of their uniforms, he convinced the company to switch branding colors.

I’m not a huge fan of canned soups, condensed or otherwise, but a couple of Campbell’s offerings work for me, namely, Pepper Pot and Scotch Broth. You can go to the Campbell’s website for recipe ideas using their soups, but I don’t recommend them. There’s something a tad 1950s-ish to me about using canned soup to tart up a recipe. I prefer natural – i.e. unprocessed – ingredients when I am cooking. I make my own pepper pot and Scotch broth from scratch also, but the Campbell’s varieties used to be my standbys when I wanted something quick. Maybe you have a fav? You can comment if you do.

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