October 3, 2013

EZRA’S ORACLE: Oct. 4, 2013

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Ezra’s Oracle welcomes inquiries from members of the Cornell community about anything and everything related to the University. We seek out answers to campus mysteries, research rumors, and investigate issues of relevance to Cornellians. Questions can be submitted via email to [email protected].

How are the songs that play on the clocktower chosen? What are the most played songs?

— Tower Lyfe ’15

Cornell’s elite team of chimesmasters are the ones who usually choose what songs gets played on the clocktower, but anyone who ventures up the 161 steps during a concert might have the opportunity to put in a request. Chimesmasters are selected by a 10-week audition process, and anyone from the Cornell community is welcome to compete. The library of chimes songs includes thousands of arrangements by generations of chimesmasters, and each concert’s playlist is uploaded to the Chimes website. Although there are policies to prevent songs from being repeated too often, the exceptions are the three traditional pieces played daily: The Jennie McGraw Rag (in the morning), the Alma Mater (at midday), and the Evening Song (in the evening).

What was Collegetown’s first bar? Which was Ezra’s favorite? Did Ezra drink?

— Drinking in Moderation ’16

In Cornell’s early years, most students lived and caroused downtown, so the Collegetown area was considerably less developed. The most popular student bar was probably the Hotel Brunswick and Lager Bar downtown on N. Aurora St., owned and operated by Theodore Zinck from the late 1870s until his death in 1903. The bar was immortalized in song by “Give My Regards to Davy,” and most students simply called it Zinck’s.

The oldest still operating Collegetown bar is probably the Chapter House, which opened in the mid-1920s as Jim’s Place and became the Chapter House in the mid-1960s. The Nines, Rulloff’s, and Dunbar’s all date to the 1970s.

As a Quaker, Ezra Cornell likely avoided alcohol or consumed it only in moderation. However, he certainly knew how to party. A few months after Cornell University opened, Ezra held a grand celebration in Cascadilla Hall for his 62nd birthday. A group of local clergymen filed a formal complaint with the university faculty, alleging that young people were dancing at the party, which only exacerbated Cornell’s reputation as the “godless institution.” The faculty ignored the protest, and Ezra hired an orchestra to play dance music the next year. Ezra died in 1874, less than a decade after Cornell’s founding, so he never experienced much of the Collegetown bar scene.

Why did they stop publishing the Pig Books?

— Facebook Stalker ’15

The “Pig Book” was Cornell’s original “Facebook,” first published in fall of 1953 for the Class of 1957. Officially called the Freshmen Register (later renamed the New Student Register), it included photos of entering students to help classmates identify each other. The book was published by Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity for decades, but dwindled in popularity as the Internet made it obsolete. Cornell began offering class websites for entering students, which included the ability to make a profile and upload a picture. In spring 2004, Facebook opened up to Cornell students, and the “Pig Book” vanished in the next few years.

What’s the real history behind women’s enrollment at Cornell? I’ve heard that although Cornell was among the first universities to admit women, they weren’t actually allowed in some programs.

— Feminine Investigator ’14

There’s no doubt that Cornell was a leader in terms of coeducation, accepting women long before its Ivy League peers and serving as a model for other schools. Both of the co-founders felt strongly about accessibility of a college education, regardless of gender, race, or religion. The first woman registered at Cornell in 1870, and the trustees formally voted to accept women in 1872. But they were not welcomed by everyone — Professor Goldwin Smith, for example, worried that the academic workload and exams might make women unmarriageable. Although women weren’t officially barred from certain fields of study, some male-dominated fields like engineering were slower to welcome gender diversity. Kate Gleason enrolled in 1884 as the first woman in engineering, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s granddaughter, Nora Stanton Blatch, became America’s first female civil engineering graduate in 1905. It wasn’t until 1972 that women represented at least 10% of undergraduate engineers at Cornell. On the other hand, the College of Human Ecology (formerly Home Economics) was at least 90% women until 1973. When Cornell’s medical school opened in New York City in 1898, women were required to take their first two years in Ithaca, while men could choose between Ithaca or New York. It would be decades before women-only rules like curfews were abolished. According to enrollment data, women undergraduates finally outnumbered men at Cornell in 2012.

Where did the idea come from that if a couple walks around Beebe Lake together then they’re likely to get married?

— Desperate Senior Girl ’14

The legend’s origin is difficult to pin down, but Cornellians have been repeating the myth for decades. It seems to be a little more recent than other legends though, with most references to it appearing in the last 20 years. At least a few If any alumni reading this remember the legend from their days on campus, send us an email! The legend isn’t included in a 1940 comic book about Cornell history and traditions titled “We Cornellians,” which instead has this marriage-related legend: “To go as far as making love to a girl on the stone bench behind the library is to renounce all hope of ever marrying anyone else.

Curious about Cornelliana? Looking for Cornell lore behind a legend? Submit your questions to [email protected]. Ezra’s Oracle appears alternate Fridays this semester.