1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Elmira

ELMIRA, a city and the county-seat of Chemung county, New York, U.S.A., 100 m. S.E. of Rochester, on the Chemung river, about 850 ft. above sea-level. Pop. (1890) 30,893; (1900) 35,672, of whom 5511 were foreign-born (1988 Irish and 1208 German); (1910 census) 37,176. It is served by the Erie, the Pennsylvania, the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, the Lehigh Valley, and the Tioga Division railways, the last of which connects it with the Pennsylvania coalfields 48 m. away. The city is attractively situated on both sides of the river, and has a fine water-supply and park system, among the parks being Eldridge, Rorick’s Glen, Riverside, Brand, Diven, Grove, Maple Avenue and Wisner; in the last-named is a statue of Thomas K. Beecher by J. S. Hartley. The city contains a Federal building, a state armoury, the Chemung county court house and other county buildings, the Elmira orphans’ home, the Steele memorial library, home for the aged, the Arnot-Ogden memorial hospital, the Elmira free academy, and the Railway Commercial training school. Here, also, is Elmira College (Presbyterian) for women, founded in 1855. This institution, chartered in 1852 as Auburn Female University and then situated in Auburn, was rechartered in 1855 as the Elmira Female College; it was established largely through the influence and persistent efforts of the Rev. Samuel Robbins Brown (1810–1880) and his associates, notably Simeon Benjamin of Elmira, who gave generously to the newly founded college, and was the first distinctively collegiate institution for women in the United States, and the first, apparently, to grant degrees to women. The most widely known institution in the city is the Elmira reformatory, a state prison for first offenders between the ages of sixteen and thirty, on a system of general indeterminate sentences. Authorized by the state legislature in 1866 and opened in 1876 under the direction of Zebulon Reed Brockway (b. 1827), it was the first institution of the sort and has served as a model for many similar institutions both in the United States and in other countries (see Juvenile Offenders). Elmira is an important railway centre, with large repair shops, and has also extensive manufactories (value of production in 1900, $8,558,786, of which $6,596,603 was produced under the “factory system”; in 1905, under the “factory system,” $6,984,095), including boot and shoe factories, a large factory for fire-extinguishing apparatus, iron and steel bridge works, steel rolling mills, large valve works, steel plate mills, knitting mills, furniture, glass and boiler factories, breweries and silk mills. Near the site of Elmira occurred on the 29th of August 1779 the battle of Newtown, in which General John Sullivan decisively defeated a force of Indians and Tories under Sir John Johnson and Joseph Brant. There were some settlers here at the close of the War of Independence, but no permanent settlement was made until 1788. The village was incorporated as Newtown in 1815, and was reincorporated as Elmira in 1828. A city charter was secured in 1864. In 1861 a state military camp was established here, and in 1864–1865 there was a prison camp here for Confederate soldiers.