Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Crystal City—a pseudonym for Corning, New York

The upstate New York city of Corning is located on the Chemung River in Steuben County. Along the river, the buildings of Corning Glass Works—originally named Corning Flint Glass Works—can be found, where glass and ceramic products for industrial and scientific applications are manufactured.  The Corning Museum of Glass at 1 Museum Way (Corning, NY 14830) calls itself a wonderland of glass, in which master glass-workers demonstrate the making of spectacular glass objects. World-changing innovations in glass can be discovered there [1]. Corning's cornucopia of glass-making arts and technology led to the nickname Crystal City [2], as this picturesque and industrial city often was and still is dubbed in the media.

Physicists and chemists may think of this pseudonym as a misnomer, since glass is an amorphous, non-crystalline material. But its optical transparency and large content of silica (SiO2) may justify the crystal association. Students and hobbyist of glass-working can try their skills by enrolling  in classes at the Corning Museum of Glass, experimenting with phases and facets of non-crystalline matter in the Crystal City [3].

Two articles in a recent Chemical Heritage edition review the collections of the Corning Museum of Glass and feature the history of glass-making in Corning, beginning with Nonex for signaling lamps, Pyrex for lab- and kitchenware and continuing on with fiber optics and touch-screen technology [4,5]. According to the Hot Stuff article by Kelly Tuttle [5], the museum  showcases a Dale Chihuly sculpture in its glass-walled entrance and “houses the largest collection of glass in the world, with over 45,000 objects spanning 3,500 years. In 1868 the Brooklyn Flint Glass Company moved to Corning and bacame the Corning Glass Works. By 1905 upward of 2,500 glass craftspeople had moved into the then industrialized area, which acquired the pseudonym Crystal City.” 

References and more to explore
[1] Corning Museum of Glass [www.cmog.org].
[2] Corning, New York: The Crystal City [lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/legacies/NY/200003367.html].
[3] William S. Ellis: Glass. Avon Books, Inc., New York, 1998; page 204 (also see www.cmog.org/programs/classes#.UKwALGeAYYs).
[4] Regina Lee Blaszczyk: Cooking with Glass. Chemical Heritage Fall 2012/Winter 2013, 30 (3), pp. 8-9 [www.chemheritage.org/discover/online-resources/thanks-to-chemistry/ttc-food-pyrex.aspx].
[5] Kelly Tuttle: Hot Stuff. Chemical Heritage Fall 2012/Winter 2013, 30 (3), page 46.

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