Finger Lakes Region Facts

Each Friday a new fact about a region of New York State is posted to the Exploring Upstate Facebook Page. In case you haven’t been following along there, here’s what you missed!




– Auburn, NY born Theodore Case is credited with the invention of the Movietone, a sound-on-film system. The patents for his sound-on-film process were sold to William Fox of Fox Film Corporation in 1926 (known today as 20th Century Fox).

– The creator of Google’s Gmail, Paul Buchheit, is from Webster (a suburb of Rochester). He also coined Google’s motto: “Don’t be evil.”

– On May 8, 1977 the Grateful Dead played a concert in Barton Hall at Cornell University in Ithaca. Of all their 2000+ concerts in 30 years of touring, this show is regarded by Deadheads to be one of their greatest ever performed.

– Comparison of ceiling in Rochester Lyric Opera House and Eastman Theatre in Rochester, NYWhen the First Church of Christ, Scientist was built on East Ave and Prince in Rochester, a famous photograph tycoon walked up the street from his house to check it out. He saw the ceiling and decided on the spot to replicate the same idea in his later built Eastman Theatre on Main and Gibbs.

– Obadiah Newcomb Bush was a businessman born in Penfield, NY (a suburb near Rochester) in 1797. He is both an ancestor and the founder of the Bush Political Family.

– 60% of the people who entered the Shaker society in Sodus, NY in its first 12 years decided that the life was not for them and left the community. Currently, there are two Shakers left in the entire world.

– The year where the death rate was the highest in New York’s history was 1918. It is estimated that upwards of 40,000 people died that year due to the influenza epidemic. In Rochester alone, 213 people died in just one week.[source]

– Horseheads is the first and only village in the United States dedicated to the service of the American military horse. [source]

– There are about 1,200 cobblestone structures in the U.S. and 90% of them lie within an 75 mile radius of Rochester. [source]

– The longest game in professional baseball history was played April 18 and 19th in 1981. The Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings played 32 innings and still were tied. On June 23, 1981 the final 33rd inning was played and Pawtucket ultimately won 3-2. [source]

– John Jones was born a slave in 1817 in Virginia, but later fled and settled in Elmira where he became involved in the Underground Railroad. It’s believed that he helped well over 800 slaves escape to Canada, none of which would ever be caught. His primary job was to bury Confederate soldiers in Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, where Mr. Jones also now rests. [source]

– In June 1972, the ‘Ithaca Statement on Bisexualty’ was made in strong support for those who identify as bisexual and in opposition to biphobia. It was published by a Quaker group and was the very first statement by any religious body specifically to address bisexuality. [source]

– The ‘Ithaca Is Gorges’ catchphrase was coined by Howard Cogan, who graduated from Cornell in the same class as his son Michael. To date, it is the only simultaneous parent-child graduation from the college. [source]

– The first known photograph of someone “flipping the bird” with their middle finger is of a Rochesterian named Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn. The photo was taken with his Major League Baseball teammates, the Boston Beaneaters, in 1886. It’s believed that he managed to also become the second person photographed making the obscene gesture one year later. [source]

– The red and white color scheme on the Campbell’s soup can was the idea of then Campbell’s Comptroller Herberton Williams. He attended a football game at Cornell College on Thanksgiving Day in 1897 and loved their red and white color scheme so much that he convinced Campbell’s to adopt it. [source]

– The use of striped uniforms for prisoners was a tradition started by Auburn Correctional Facility in Cayuga County around 1820. The stripes, which were purposefully intended to be a reminder of cell bars, stripped inmates of their unique personalities within prison walls, while making them immediately identifiable outside of prison walls. [source]

– The first statue to be erected in the United States commemorating an African American is located in Rochester. The Frederick Douglass statue in Highland Park was placed there in 1941, but it was first erected on June 8, 1899 near the downtown train station so it would immediately be seen by the thousands who entered the city via the railroad. [source]

The Steuben County Fair started in 1819 and hasn’t stopped since, making it the oldest continuously running county fair in the United States! [source]

– Ross Barnes was born in Mt. Morris, New York. He was the very first professional baseballer to hit a homerun in the National League, which he knocked out of the park on May 2, 1876. [source]

Though the tradition hails back prior to even the Civil War, the practice of decorating a soldier’s grave is often believed to have begun with Decoration Day in 1868 somewhere around Decatur, Illinois. Afterward, at least five other town/cities claimed the practice of memorializing a soldier who died while serving started with them. Despite these claims and a controversial discussion among historians, on May 26, 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the presidential proclamation naming Waterloo, New York, as the official Birthplace of Memorial Day. [source]

Though there were about 100 signatures on the Declaration of Sentiments following the first Woman’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, the media covering the event printed harsh criticism of those who signed. One editorial read, “the most shocking and unnatural incident ever recorded in the history of womanity.” Unfortunately, the shaming tactics from the press worked so well that a number of women withdrew their name from the document. [source]