Press Release - 12/7/2005

The Eastern Wine and Grape Archive

Vine Culture cover.
Vines and Vine Culture cover from the 1892 edition by Archibald. Barron, published in London by Journal of Horticulture Office, 3rd edition. Frank A. Lee Library, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Geneva, N.Y.

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December 7, 2005
Contact Katherine Reagan,, 607-255-3530

Cornell University Library receives second grant to support its Eastern Wine and Grape Archive

(ITHACA, NY) The Cornell University Library has received a $24,972 grant to continue work documenting the grape growing and winemaking industries in New York State. The grant from the New York State Archive's Documentary Heritage Program builds upon the successful work done last year in the Finger Lakes region by archivists in the library's Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections. This year's project will focus on identifying and surveying materials of individuals, wineries, juice producers, and vineyards in the Lake Erie and Hudson River viticulture regions.

"We are interested in knowing about recent and historical materials‹vineyard records, winemaking notebooks, harvest records, correspondence, account books, farm books, diaries, and marketing materials‹that tell the story of wine making and grape growing in the East," said Elaine Engst, University Archivist. "The survival of these materials will be essential to understanding the history of New York State, the Eastern wine industry, as well as the history of wine makers and consumers in the United States as a whole."

Grapes lithograph.
This hand-colored lithograph of grapes is from a series of fruit images created by Joseph Prestele. Homestead, Iowa Amana Society, [ca. 1880]. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

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Cornell University established the Eastern Wine and Grape Archive in 1998 as a cooperative project between the Cornell University Library's Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections and the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY (NYSAES). The archive contains the records and other papers of several individual growers, viticulturists, and juice- and winemakers that were essential to the economic and agricultural development of the region. Their records could have relevance to scholars interested in viticulture, enology, food, agricultural economics, sociology, cultural history, or labor relations.

"Talking with grape growers and wine makers about their contributions to the New York wine and grape industry has been very rewarding. As a result of our survey project, many participants now have a greater appreciation of the long-term historical value of their records‹even if the materials are not very old now," noted Kari Smith, project archivist.

The Archive now includes records of the Pleasant Valley Wine Company from 1860 to 1953; Urbana Wine Company from 1867 to 1882 and 1900 to 1918; Widmer Wine Cellars from 1906 to 1963; Philip Wagner from circa 1875 to 1976; and the influential viticulturists George Remaily, who collaborated with NYSAES from 1970-2000, and Nelson Shaulis who worked at Cornell from 1941 to 1986.

The collection makes up one part of the more than 300,000 rare books and 70 million manuscripts and photographs housed in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections of the Carl A. Kroch Library, a state-of-the-art special collections facility.

Champagne advertisement.
Great Western Champagne advertising detail from a menu from the Antlers Country Club, Amsterdam, N.Y. from the Pleasant Valley Wine Company Records #6599, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

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With more than 5,000 volumes on the subject of wine and grapes distributed among Kroch Library, Olin Library, the Frank A. Lee Library of the NYSAES, the Albert R. Mann Library, and the Nestlé Library of Hotel Administration, Cornell now has one of the best concentrations on this subject in the country. Nevertheless, the history of New York grape growers and winemakers is under-documented. Despite the slow and steady growth of the wine industry in New York over the past century, and explosive growth during the last decades of the 20th century, no other institution has an ongoing program to document the production and consumption of wine.

Support and early seed money for the founding of the Archive came from the American Society for Enology and Viticulture, Eastern Section. Hudson Cattell, the Eastern Section's representative to the Archive, emphasized the value of the Archive: "It is very important to ensure that the history of grapes and wine in the East be documented. Cornell is playing a vital role in preserving this material and making it available for future generations."

The Eastern Section continues to provide financial support for the Archive and additional gifts have come from the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, the Vinifera Wine Growers Association, the estate of Philip Wagner, and other sources.

The Cornell University Library has used the grant to fund an archivist, and appointed Kari Smith to the project. The grant project will expand on the work conducted in 2004-05 and will provide a model for continued expansion of the Eastern Wine and Grape Archive at Cornell.

More information about the Eastern Wine and Grape Archive is available online.