The City of Corning, and the company known today as Corning Incorporated, played an integral role in the distribution of light bulbs all around the world. Sometime between 1879 and 1880, Thomas Edison sent a representative to Corning; he needed to enlist the glass company’s help in creating special bulbs for his incandescent lamp.
In those days, the glass factory had gaffers who worked with teams of assistants. The assistants were often very young, and they were trained to perform very specific or repetitive tasks. When Edison’s representative visited around 1880, he couldn’t quite explain to the lead gaffer what “bulb” shape he was looking for. As legend has it, during the visit, one of the young assistants was swinging a blow pipe with a bubble of hot glass on the end. Edison’s representative noticed him playing with the glass and loved the shape he created. The rest, as they say, is history.
No one knows for sure who that young assistant was; it remains a mystery. The Legend of the Gathers is the story of that historic encounter between Edison’s representative and the mysterious boy who forever changed the fate of one small town. And each year in Corning, we celebrate the Days of Incandescence – a collection of events held in late October that are focused on the history and mystery of The Legend of the Gathers.
It’s easy to find a full calendar of these events (happening this year from October 19 to October 31, 2019) by visiting DaysOfIncandescence.com. But here are a few hand-selected highlights that Urban Corning readers may particularly enjoy:
All Hallows Haunted Happenings
Saturday, October 19 – 6:30pm to 8:30pm – Heritage Village
This is a family-friendly event with “spooky history, special exhibits, tasty treats on the hearth fireplace, cider and candy for the kids, and more!” Heritage Village, site of the Benjamin Patterson Inn, transforms its campus into a Halloween-themed village for the night and admission is only $3. More information here.
Guided Walking Tours
Saturday, October 19 / Thursday, October 24 / Saturday, October 26 – 7pm & 8pm – Centerway Square
Tour guides from all the way back in 1880 take you on a walk through Corning’s historic Gaffer District to look at things in a different “light.” You’ll learn about Corning’s fascinating history, with elements from the Legend of the Gathers, and hear about the events that helped shape the city we know today. Tours are free, but you must reserve your spot online here.
Urban Arts Crawl
Friday, October 25 – 5pm to 8pm – Corning’s Gaffer District
The Urban Arts Crawl takes place on the final Friday of each month, but this one is a little extra special. Anyone who shows up will get an orange glow stick to help light up the night, and themed activities will take place at some of the participating locations. The Rockwell Museum’s KIDS ROCKWELL Art Lab, for example, will have a storyteller sharing Corning’s history; Card Carrying Books and Gifts will present true, local ghost stories as told by Shelby Mickinkle of the Family Folklore Paranormal Podcast. All the details and locations can be found here.
Archibald’s Libations Crawl
Saturday, October 26 – 4:30pm and later – Multiple Locations
Pick up a wrist band from Four Fights Distilling between 4:30 and 6:30pm, and then you’re on the way. The wristband is good for several offers throughout the evening: free order of fries from Burgers and Beer, a sticker and discounted beer from Liquid Shoes, multiple drink specials, and a free cover charge for live music at VOLO. Participants are also encouraged to dress like they live in 1880. More information here.
That’s just a sample of some of the great events happening over the next couple weeks in Corning. Be sure to keep an eye out for orange lights and other mysterious signs that the Days of Incandescence are happening. For a full list of events, discounts, and merchandise, check out www.DaysOfIncandescence.com.
Lastly, don’t forget this all culminates with 2 hours of trick-or-treating in Corning’s Gaffer District: 4pm to 6pm on Halloween evening. That night, there will also be stage performances with characters from the Legend of the Gathers, and special guest judges will give out awards for costumes in several categories – including those who dress like they’re from the late 1800’s.
Courtesy of the Corning Incorporated Department of Archives & Records Management, Corning, NY.
Special thanks to the Steuben County Conference and Visitors Bureau, Corning’s Gaffer District, and the Corning Area Business Alliance for all their hard work. This project is made possible, in part, with public funds from NYSCA’s Decentralization Program, administered regionally by the ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes.