Cornell University Library site
Libraries and Hours Ask a Librarian

Rare and Manuscript Collections

Open until 4pm - Full Hours /

Regional History

Cornell’s collection of Upstate New York history was established in 1942, when interest in American tradition and culture on a regional scale heightened. While not a geographically distinct or culturally homogeneous region, Upstate New York has a history which approaches the typical rather than the unique. Hence, national movements such as temperance and anti-slavery, can be studied in microcosm. The collection, built primarily through donation, reflects virtually every aspect of life in Upper New York State in particular, while revealing much about American history in general. Whether researchers are interested in a particular individual or organization or wish to conduct a broad subject search, the regional history collection is likely to contain – in the form of letters, diaries, ledgers, account books, official records, among others — ample primary evidence to support detailed research in virtually every academic discipline. A goldmine for the amateur as well as for the seasoned historian, the collection is particularly strong when documenting the following broadly-defined subject areas: Agriculture, the Civil War, American social history, American politics, Health planning, and Medicine.

Health-planning: The history of New York State’s health planning is best documented by our collection of Regional Health Planning Councils. The papers of significant individuals, whose role in shaping the development of health planning in Upstate New York, also included…

Medicine: In order to document the history of medical care and treatment in Upper New York State, curators sought the records of official organizations and societies directly responsible for medical care. Cornell’s collection includes the records of the New York State Medical Society, several women’s medical societies, and various county historical societies.

U.S. politics and social history: Politically, since prohibition, Upstate New York has been dominated by the Republican party. The papers of various Republican congressmen document local figures on the national political stage while the papers of senators and other politicians document regional contributions to State politics. Political activity in upstate New York is represented by the papers of Ezra Cornell, A.D. White among others including Irving M. Ives, Daniel A. Reed, John Taber, and Harold Ostertag. The records of the Republican National Committee and the Ripon Society, as well as those of local groups, document Republican party activities.

An extensive collection of political Americana, culled primarily from regional sources and consisting of buttons, posters, banners, clothing, sheet music, and other memorabilia, provides an exciting and visual affirmation of the centrality of national politics in the life of the region. A graphic account of United States presidential campaigns, with valuable source materials for the students of political history, is found in the Susan H. Douglas Collection of Political Americana.