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  • Sat, March 11, 2023 6:13 PM | Anonymous


    The Rabakozi region is located in the western part of Hungary, between the Raba and the Danube Rivers. This Rabakozi folk embroidery style shows strong Renaissance and Ottoman influences. The earliest known examples are from the early 19th century. The designs usually show a bouquet of carnations standing in a so-called “Italian Jug” and flanked by peacocks. The carnations are presumed to be an Ottoman decorative motif, because they were not known in Europe before the Ottoman conquest and the subsequent cultural interaction. The flowers standing in a vase were traditionally part of church paintings depicting the Annunciation. Originally, this style was embroidered in muted colors with vegetable-dyed wool thread and, in some cases, monochrome red. When embroidering became common again in the late 1950s, the use of the red color was encouraged. The original embroideries decorated sheet edges. The rectangular pillowcase is a reinterpretation of the design for a decorative item suitable for a city home.


    In 2010 The History Center hosted the exhibit 'Hungarian Embroideries and Folk Art' from the collection of Hungarian-Ithaca Eniko Farkas. This exhibit included #matyo, #kalocsa, #sarkoz, #rabakozi, and #castle style embroideries. The texts developed for this 2010 exhibit are re-shared here as part of our ongoing #TextileTuesday learning series for the Knot Sew Fast: Patchwork of Tompkins County exhibit, on display February-August 2023.

    Original text was written by Eniko Farkas in collaboration with History Center staff. 

  • Sat, March 11, 2023 6:09 PM | Anonymous


    The Sarkoz area is located in the southwestern part of Hungary, and its folk art is known as the oldest and most distinct of all Hungarian styles. “Sarkoz” means “muddy thorough fare,” and serves as the name for several distinct villages. Until the end of the 19th century, this area was inundated by floods, which resulted in extensive swamps that isolated villages.  Today, all the swamps are drained, and the area is reconnected.

    There have been several styles of embroidery practiced in this region. The most popular and the most famous is the bonnet embroidery style. These bonnets are embroidered on a lightweight black background with white thread. Their main motif is the “Tree of Life” with flanking birds, which is an important Sarkoz wedding symbol. These bonnets are placed on the head of a young bride at midnight, on the eve of her wedding. A miniature “Tree of Life” is also placed in front of a young couple sitting at their wedding table. For the modern urban home, these designs have been enlarged and copied into a sofa pillow material. The base material of the pillowcase is homespun, and the color combination of the threads is limited; for instance, to blue and white, or purple and white, or apple green and black. Despite the limited number of colors, great varieties of stitches are used. Filling out the motifs with the right kind of stitches necessitates an easy reference - the sampler. Most professional Sarkoz embroiderers have their own sampler to remember the complicated rules.


    In 2010 The History Center hosted the exhibit 'Hungarian Embroideries and Folk Art' from the collection of Hungarian-Ithaca Eniko Farkas. This exhibit included #matyo, #kalocsa, #sarkoz, #rabakozi, and #castle style embroideries. The texts developed for this 2010 exhibit are re-shared here as part of our ongoing #TextileTuesday learning series for the Knot Sew Fast: Patchwork of Tompkins County exhibit, on display February-August 2023.

    Original text was written by Eniko Farkas in collaboration with History Center staff. 

  • Thu, March 09, 2023 12:27 PM | Anonymous

    What stores used to occupy the block where Restaurant Row is now? Back in the 1880s, the building that now houses Asia Cuisine among others was known as the “Bates Block” at 118-124 N Aurora St, and Mrs. Kittie Taylor, a “sewing machine agent,” sold sewing machines on the third floor of this building.

    In August 1879, the Ithaca Daily Journal reported that sewing machines were now seen as a “necessity in every well-regulated household.” The writer also noted that “sewing machine agents” were enjoying “brisk new sales” of sewing machines. 

    In downtown Ithaca, sewing machines could be bought at stores such as that owned by James T. Newman, also in the Bates Block, which sold pianos, organs, and sheet music. Mattress stores sold sewing machines as well and they could even be repaired at Ithaca Gun Works!  

    Searching the 1880 census on The History Center’s HistoryForge project, we find that the “sewing machine agents” of Ithaca included men like John Northrup (on the Journal block), as well as 34-year-old Kittie Taylor. 

    This last record is surprising because salesmen had somewhat sordid reputations. She may have had more freedom to do so because she was widowed. In 1880, the Ithaca Daily Journal published ads for the “new” Davis vertical feed, shuttle sewing machine, listing Mrs. K Taylor as “sole agent for Ithaca.” In her ad, Kittie Taylor asked potential customers to “call at” Room 16, Third Floor, Bates Block, which enjoyed large display windows to publicize their wares. 


    Research and writing by Kelly King-O'Brien in 2023 in collaboration with the Tompkins County HistoryForge Project

  • Wed, March 08, 2023 3:26 PM | Anonymous

    It is easy to think of history as static, and archival collections as immutable snapshots of time. However, recent years have been filled with life-changing, and generation altering events, reminding of us history's continuous ebb and flow. As the keepers of Tompkins County's past we have found ourselves called to actively request reflections and feedback from our community to help us preserve our history for future generations.

    In 2022 we began working with local environmental activists to document their long and arduous struggle to ban hydrofracking in New York State. We have so far received multiple donations of materials including banners, scientific reports, legislative records, photographs, signs, and much more. This is part of our ongoing effort to expand our holdings on local environmental issues.

    Many of our archival collections reflect the essential nature of history as a living, continuous process. For more information, or to request an opportunity to donate to our archival collections please email Our archivist and Collections Committee reserve the right to accept or refuse donations according to the terms of our Collections Policy. 

    Learn more about our archives at

  • Wed, March 01, 2023 12:40 PM | Anonymous

    History Center Volunteers & Student Workers Contribute to Douglass Day Digitization

    Each year History Center volunteers and student workers contribute to the Douglass Day digitization efforts in February. This year 14 of our Exhibit Hall workers transcribed the papers of Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823-1893). She was one of the earliest Black women to edit a newspaper, serve as a Civil War recruiter, attend law school, and so much more.

    Each year participants across the country support efforts to digitize and improve accessibility of historically underrepresented figures whose work supported the justice efforts espoused by Frederick Douglass during his life. In 2022 we helped with the 'Colored Conventions' records, and in 2021 we contributed to the Mary Church Terrell papers. 

    The Shadd Cary project is just under half-way complete, and our volunteers will continue to work on it, along with over 860 people across the US who have already contributed to the project.  
  • Wed, March 01, 2023 12:40 PM | Anonymous

    Another 'Historic Brochure Tour' Made Available on PocketSights!

    We are excited to share the next installment in our 'Historic Brochures' tour series! Our first project in this series was the digitization of the 1986 A Literary Walking Tour of Ithaca

    'The Southside's African-American Heritage Walking Tour' was originally researched by Leslyn McBean & Ingrid Bauer and made public in 2003 as a printed brochure. Through the work of our volunteers at The History Center this valuable resource is now also available on the FREE Pocketsights app!

    The Southside neighborhood has an African-American heritage that dates back nearly 200 years. From the founding of the St. James A.M.E. Zion Church in 1833, to the Underground Railroad, to the construction of the Southside Community Center in 1938, the Southside was "The place to be."

    Discover more Black history from Ithaca and Tompkins County at

    TOUR HERE:'s...

    Our thanks to Claire Deng and Kethry Larsen who did the majority of the digitization and re-structuring work for this project during 2022. 
  • Sat, February 18, 2023 4:26 PM | Anonymous

    Do you ever wonder what kind of person it would take to be a stationmaster on  the Underground Railroad?  This person would have to be intelligent and clever, have a tremendous amount of courage, and have an incredible amount of faith in themselves and what they’re doing.  One such person was William Carman.

              Carman was a Quaker and abolitionist, as most Quakers were.  Carman’s house in Mecklenburg was a known stop on the Underground Railroad.  As a stationmaster, he transported slaves across Cayuga Lake on his ferry.  He then harbored them in his house at his own personal risk, for if he were caught he would face harsh punishment.  Peter Wixom, Carman’s son-in-law, followed in his footsteps.  Wixom’s house in Mecklenburg was also one of several homes of Quaker families in the area that were stations on the Underground Railroad.  The escaped slaves were hidden in a small room under the kitchen in the back of the house.

              Mecklenburg was a village in the town of Hector, which was part of Tompkins County, until 1854.  Hector was a small sanctuary to free blacks.  In 1820, 40 free blacks lived in Hector where the sizeable Quaker population offered them land and aide. 

              Quakers are an extremely religious group who believe in the individual connection with God.  Carman was one of the most prominent members of the Quaker community in Hector in the early 1820s; in fact he was one of the first members and was on the committee that built the first Quaker meetinghouse in Hector.  William Carman would always attend Wednesday night prayer meetings, usually wearing this hat.  The felted beaver fur hat was most likely made around 1837 in Ithaca by a local hat maker.


    Text written by Student Historian:    Jaclyn Sutton in 2004

    11th Grade

    Dryden High School

    Chuck Hanley’s US History class

  • Sat, February 11, 2023 1:48 PM | Anonymous

    Archival Textile Collection Spotlight

    Tompkins County Quilters Guild Collection V-64-1-2
    The Tompkins County Quilters Guild was established in 1974, at a time when there were no local, state, or national organizations to support quilting. That year Jeanne Greene, a board member of Ithaca’s City Federation of Women’s Organizations, suggested holding a weekend quilt show to measure local interest, and 500 people came to see quilts on display at the Women’s Community Building. Shortly afterwards the Quilters Guild formed and began planning a major show for August 21-27 in 1976. Their Bicentennial Finger Lakes Quilt Exhibit displayed 600 quilts from 14 area counties, staged many lectures, workshops and demonstrations, attracted 8,200 visitors from 31 states and 10 foreign countries, and was hailed as the largest such show to date in the nation.  

    Since that ambitious effort the Guild has focused on smaller scale programming, including educating the public about this traditional and ever-changing art form. Some of their efforts have been on behalf of The History Center in exquisite displays over the years.

    Members of the Quilters Guild began donating their records to The History Center's archives in 2011 and we are delighted to keep adding to this rich collection. It contains business records, grant and workshop information, newsletters, correspondence, programs and publicity for quilt shows, and much more.

    For more information or to make an appointment to do research in our collections email


    Explore our quilt collection with the Knot Sew Fast: Patchwork of Tompkins County quilt exhibit on display February-August 2023. 

  • Fri, February 03, 2023 1:40 PM | Anonymous


    Black Americans have lived in Tompkins County since the late 1700s. The first recorded Black resident of the county was Richard Loomis, who was brought to the region enslaved by Robert McDowell in 1788. In 1820 the Black population of Ithaca numbered only nine people, although more enslaved Black people lived and worked in the rural regions of the county.

    Slavery was abolished in New York State in 1827. The free Black population in the City of Ithaca began to grow in the early 1800s as more families and individuals self-liberated from slavery in the Southern states and traveled North on the Underground Railroad, which had multiple stations and checkpoints in Tompkins County. With the addition of passengers from the Underground Railroad, Ithaca's Black population grew to over 200 by 1860, and the Black neighborhoods of Southside and along Wheat Street (now Cleveland Avenue (Zoom in on HistoryForge to see all the Black households along Wheat Street in 1900)) became established in the community.

    Tompkins County has been home to many trailblazing Black Americans, including: Civil Rights leader Dr. Dorothy Cotton, Pulitzer Prize winner Alex Haley, Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, Ruth Carol Taylor, the first Black flight attendant in the United States, and many more phenomenal leaders of the Black community locally, nationally, and globally. We encourage everyone to engage with and learn about the rich history of Black residents in Tompkins County.

    Discover more stories, learning resources, videos, and oral histories at

    Research visits to explore our Black History in Tompkins County archival collections can be scheduled by contacting
    #TompkinsHistory #BlackHistory #BlackHistoryMonth #AfricanAmericanHistoryMonth #bhm #BlackHistory365

  • Fri, February 03, 2023 1:37 PM | Anonymous

    EXHIBIT OPENING - February 3rd 2023 

    10am-8pm as part of First Friday Gallery Night @ Tompkins Center for History & Culture

    Knot Sew Fast pulls from the extensive textile and fabric arts collections held by The History Center to lay out the stories these functional artworks tell about Tompkins County history.

    Piecing together the story of quilts encourages us to consider shifts in technology, industry, transportation, and materials over generations of local life. As we unravel (figuratively) each quilt we consider the hands that did the work, and the stories they captured in every knot and stitch. In addition to historic quilts displayed from four of the nine townships of Tompkins, there will be interactive patternmaking stations in the Exhibit Hall; an invitation for our modern audience to try their hand at replicating patterns from ancestral woven Haudenosaunee belts to modern-day art quilts.

    Quilts are a unique measure to explore history as the practice of quilting was a skill developed and practiced equally by historic Ithacan city-dwellers, as well as our rural township communities of Trumansburg, Groton, Dryden, Lansing, Caroline, Newfield, and Danby. The merging of this functional skill, and the hundreds of hours and handwork displayed in each quilt shares narratives about community, history, home, and skilled labor.

    Knot Sew Fast will encourage a slower recognition of the diversity of textiles and patterns, as well as the hands and minds that created them. The exhibit will be on display from February 3rd 2023 through August 2023. Follow @TompkinsHistory and http:// for updates.

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Physical Address

Located inside the Tompkins Center for History & Culture

110 North Tioga Street

(On the Ithaca Commons) 

Ithaca NY, 14850 USA

Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫˀ Territory


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