The WETM  Twin Tier Landmarks show gives us a window into the history of Elmira, Corning, and the Finger Lakes.  We explore the Twin Tiers region looking for forgotten pieces of history that link us to our past and show why this area is such a fun and interesting place to live.

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The segments are hosted by local realtor J.D. Iles who moved to the Twin Tiers region in 2013.  He started Hidden Landmarks as a way to learn about the area’s history and connect with his clients.

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Hidden Landmarks: Little Joe Tower

Twin Tier Landmarks

CORNING, N.Y. (WETM) – It’s a landmark that stands tall, representing the rich history of The City of Corning, and the company that bears its name. A company that has made a global impact in the world of glass and technology – Corning Incorporated.

The vertical thermometer glass draw tower known as Little Joe is hard to miss. It dominates the skyline of the city. Still, many don’t know the rich history surrounding this tower, which stands approximately 187-feet.

Late in the 19th century, Arthur Houghton visited England where he first witnessed drawing thermometer tubing vertically. When returned to Corning in 1896, Houghton thought he could improve on what he had seen. Along with Charley Githier, Corning Glass Works Production Superintendent, the two created a pully system that drew molten cylinders of glass until they reached the needed thickness. This was very much a “by hand” and “by eye” process, Down to 3/26th of an inch. Interior bore (mercury) 16-one-hundred-thousands of an inch cut at 72-inch increments as it descended.

Little Joe was constructed in 1912 for the sole purpose of manufacturing this thermometer tubing. It allowed Corning Incorporated to draw glass vertically, producing a superior quality product that ultimately helped the company increase its market share in the thermometer tubing industry.

Some years later, Little Joe received its iconic silhouette image of a glassblower painted near the top. This was used as Corning’s logo when it was known to the company was known to the world as Corning Glass Works. The company changed its name in 1989 to Corning Incorporated.

The tower was used for most of Corning’s tubing production. During its bustling years – Little Joe turned out the vast majority of thermometer tubing in the United States. It wasn’t until the 1940s when automatic drawing technology was developed. Then by June of 1973, Corning was producing all of its tubings by automatic processes – Little Joe was decommissioned.

The history of the Little Joe tower runs parallel with the fundamental principle that has led to Corning Incorporated’s success. This tower symbolizes many things. Among those are its innovation, skill, and teamwork. It was state of the art during its tenure and paved the way for the companies future.

Little Joe Tower was renovated in 2015. It was sandblasted, refurbished where necessary, and then repainted. It stands this day as a symbol of American innovation.

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