William Wesley Cornell

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William Wesley Cornell (1823–1870) was an industrialist and philanthropist from New York and the namesake of Cornell College in Iowa.

Cornell was born in western New York and moved to New York City at the age of twelve to become a blacksmith's apprentice. The blacksmith to whom he apprenticed brought Cornell to Jane-Street Methodist Episcopal Sunday School, and Cornell became a lifelong Methodist and later served as the Church's Sunday-school Superintendent. Cornell eventually started his own iron foundry with his brother, John Black Cornell (1821–1887). The firm was known as J. B. and W. W. Cornell. Their business became one of the largest iron works in the region in the mid-nineteenth century. Cornell was a major benefactor of many Christian organizations, a Methodist Sunday-school and Missionary Society, and he supported various young working men from modest means. After Cornell made a small donation to the Iowa Conference Seminary (Seminary Mount Vernon College) in 1855, the school was renamed after him without his knowledge or permission. Today, Cornell College still has an affiliation with the United Methodist Church. Cornell died at his home in Fort Washington.[1][2][3][4]

Cornell's distant cousin, Ezra Cornell, later founded Cornell University in New York.[5]


  1. ^ http://www.cornellcollege.edu/about-cornell/history-and-traditions/index.shtml
  2. ^ http://www.cornellcollege.edu/catalogue/additional-college-information/history.shtml
  3. ^ International Dictionary of University Histories: Edited by Carol Summerfield and Mary Elizabeth Devine (Taylor & Francis, 1998), pg 117
  4. ^ William W. Cornell obituary, New York Times, March 18, 1870 http://www.waltergrutchfield.net/cornell.htm
  5. ^ http://www.cornellcollege.edu/catalogue/additional-college-information/history.shtml