Alonzo B. Cornell

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Alonzo B. Cornell
Alonzo B. Cornell.jpg
27th Governor of New York
In office
January 1, 1880 – December 31, 1882
Lieutenant George G. Hoskins
Preceded by Lucius Robinson
Succeeded by Grover Cleveland
Personal details
Born Alonzo Barton Cornell
January 22, 1832
Ithaca, New York, U.S.
Died October 15, 1904(1904-10-15) (aged 72)
Ithaca, New York, U.S.
Political party Republican
Profession Politician, Businessman
Religion Quaker

Alonzo Barton Cornell (January 22, 1832 – October 15, 1904) was a New York politician and businessman who served as 27th Governor of New York from 1880 to 1882.

Early years[edit]

Born in Ithaca, New York, he was the eldest son of Ezra Cornell, the founder of Cornell University and Mary Ann (Wood) Cornell. He was educated at the Ithaca Academy.


He was married to Esther Elizabeth Covert, a native of Auburn, New York on 9 November 1852. They had four boys together between 1855 and 1874.[citation needed]


At the age of fifteen, he began a career in the field of telegraphy, later serving as a manager in telegraph office in Cleveland, Ohio. Afterwards, he owned steamboats on Cayuga Lake from 1862 to 1863. From 1864 to 1869 he was a cashier and vice president with the First National Bank of Ithaca. He was a director of the Western Union Telegraph Company, which had been co-founded by his father, from 1868 to 1876 and was its vice president from 1870 to 1876.

He was town supervisor of Ithaca in 1864-5. From 1858 until 1866, he served as chairman of the Tompkins County Republican committee, and in 1866-7 was a member of the Republican state committee. He was one of the first commissioners for the erection of the new state capitol at Albany from 1868 until 1871. He was the Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor of New York in 1868, but was defeated by Democrat Allen C. Beach. He was appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant as Surveyor of the Port of New York.

Cartoon depicting the battle between Cornell and the Tammany Hall machine

From 1870 to 1878 he was chairman of the state Republican Party. He resigned his position as Surveyor of the Port of New York to become a member of the New York State Assembly (New York Co., 11th D.) in 1873, and was elected Speaker, one of the very few times a first-term member was chosen. He was influential at the 1876 Republican National Convention which nominated Rutherford B. Hayes. In January 1877, he was appointed naval officer of the Port of New York by Grant.

Hayes, upon becoming president, directed the Treasury Department to notify Cornell that he must resign from the state and national Republican committees as a condition of remaining naval officer. Regarding this as an invasion of his civil and political rights, Cornell declined to obey the mandate, whereupon a successor was nominated, but was rejected by the Senate. After the adjournment of the Senate in July 1878, Hayes suspended both the collector (Chester A. Arthur) and the naval officer, and their successors were finally confirmed. At the subsequent elections, Cornell was chosen Governor of New York and Arthur became Vice President of the United States.

Cornell was governor from 1880 to 1882, elected in 1879. His administration was noted for economy in public expenditures, and his vetoes of appropriation bills were beyond all precedent. Upon his recommendation, a state board of health and the state railroad commission were created, women were made eligible for school officers, a reformatory for women established, and the usury laws were modified.

The resignation of the New York senators from the U. S. Senate in 1881 provoked a bitter contest for the succession, by which the Republican Party was divided into hostile factions, the Stalwarts and the Half Breeds. Cornell's opponents prevented his re-nomination for governor.

Death and legacy[edit]

Although he lived in New York City during his latter years, Cornell died in Ithaca, New York, aged 72, and was interred with his father and mother in Sage Chapel on the Cornell University campus. He wrote a biography of his father in 1884. His papers are held in Cornell University Library's Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections.



External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Henry Smith
Speaker of the New York State Assembly
Succeeded by
James W. Husted
Preceded by
Lucius Robinson
Governor of New York
Succeeded by
Grover Cleveland
Party political offices
Preceded by
Hamilton Harris
Chairman of the New York Republican State Committee
Succeeded by
Edwin D. Morgan
Preceded by
Edwin D. Morgan
Chairman of the New York Republican State Committee
Succeeded by
John F. Smyth
Preceded by
John F. Smyth
Chairman of the New York Republican State Committee
Succeeded by
Chester A. Arthur