Now part of Clopay Corporation’s family of brands, Cornell and Cookson are among the largest rolling steel door companies in the United States. Cornell’s roots date all the way back to 1828, and its history is woven into the fabric of American architecture, innovation, and progress.
Here are some fascinating facts about Cornell that will surprise you!
1. Cornell’s patents and design improvements led to fireproof walls and the modern security grille.
John Black Cornell’s improvement on the iron vault design invented by Ira L. Cady positioned the Cornell firm as leaders in the industry. The success of Cornell’s vaults and safes led to rolling shutters for bank windows, which then led to J.B. Cornell’s 1854 patent that improved the method of combining sheet metal slats of revolving shutters for storefronts, today known as security grilles
. Finally, this led to the improvement of a fireproof wall, which positioned iron as a building material among architects and builders.
2. Cornell designed and manufactured mortar beds and warships during the Civil War.
President Abraham Lincoln sent a direct telegram to iron manufacturer Abraham S. Hewitt for mortar beds for General Grant. Hewitt called on architects from Cornell Iron and two other manufacturers to draw up plans, make the parts, and get the finished products shipped to General Grant in record time. Cornell also manufactured gun turrets and pilot houses for two monitor-class warships, the Miantonomah and the Tonawanda.
3. Cornell unknowingly designed the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball prototype.
In 1872, Cornell teamed up with famous architect George Post to build the Western Union Building in New York. On top of that building was an iron ball mounted on a flagstaff. At noon every day, the ball would slide down the staff, signaling people to set their clocks and watches. This iron ball was likely cast by J.B. and J.M. Cornell and was the precursor to the popular Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball.
4. Cornell modernized rolling doors by making them corrosion-resistant.
On January 6, 1923, Milton L. Cornell submitted a patent that improved ‘Metal Rolling Shutters and Doors’. His new invention enhanced weather and corrosion resistance and prevented electrolytic corrosion, an accelerated corrosion process that occurs when a metallic surface is continuously broken down by another metal.
5. Cornell Iron, Cornell University, and Cornell College all have something in common.
Cornell College located in Mount Vernon, IA, and Cornell University in Ithaca, NY share the same namesake. Cornell College was named for its co-founder, Ezra Cornell, and Cornell University was named for iron tycoon and generous donor, William W. Cornell. William and Ezra were distant cousins.
6. Cornell worked on some of the most iconic buildings and structures in New York City.
J.B. & W.W. Cornell Iron Works and J.B. & J.M. Cornell Iron Works collaborated with architects on projects that brought some of New York City’s most popular structures to life. Some of these include:
- 101 5th Avenue (now Zara)
- Brooklyn Bridge
- The Hotel Chelsea
- St. Luke's Hospital
- Statue of Liberty National Monument
- Stern's Department Store
- The New York Times Building (now Pace University)
- Tiffany & Co.
Cornell was born out of iron and steel and remained steadfast because of an incredible dedication to the family of workers, associates, and customers that were part of its success. If the past predicts the future, with the partnership of Clopay and Cookson, Cornell is certain to endure, pioneering cutting-edge rolling door products as it takes on a new role in the American story.