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Sometimes the things most worth celebrating in life are the ones no one else has ever heard of. Seemingly small moments that impact a few lives away from the attention of the rest of the world. Some of the best of those moments happen in small towns, like Corning, also known as America’s Crystal City

Of course, sometimes those seemingly small moments impact the rest of the world and become a really big deal that everyone has heard of to some degree.

They just haven’t heard the entire story. And that’s where things get interesting. 

2019 Days of Incandescence Cast
2019 The Days of Incandescence Cast

Time to Celebrate

The Days of Incandescence is a multi-day celebration that takes place in Corning each October inspired by a bit of unique local history most folks aren’t aware of with a dash of supernatural magic throw in. After all, Halloween is also a big part of October. 

Featuring a collection of events and experiences throughout Corning’s Gaffer District and beyond, the annual celebration is centered around the very real history and rather curious mystery behind Corning Flint Glass Works’ role in making the special glass containers for Thomas Edison’s incandescent lamps and, as a result, it’s role in helping spread light across the world.

West Market Street 1885
West Market Street in 1885 courtesy Corning Painted Post Historical Society

The Historic Inspiration

The world used to be a much darker place. Before electric lights found their way onto every street. Into every home.

But that was about to change. Light was about to find its way out into the world . . .

Just about everyone knows the story of young inventor Thomas Edison and his famous incandescent lamps. But what they don't often know is the role a small glass company played in helping Edison share light with the world. 

There are mixed historical accounts about when Corning Flint Glass started making the special glass bulbs for Edison's endeavor (some sources cite 1879, others 1880).

According to one account, Edison sent a representative to Corning in the search of a suitable glass bulb to hold the filament for his incandescent light. While in one of the Glass Works’ “most skillful shops,” the representative watched as gaffer, James Lear, and his crew (which included a servitor, a bit boy, and several shop boys), worked on creating a glass bulb. 

It appears these efforts were not meeting the representative’s needs, when he happened to glance over and see “a shop boy” draw a gather of molten glass from the furnace. According to the story, the boy playfully swung the blowpipe back and forth, then blew a glass bubble which the representative identified to be what he needed.

"By 1880, Edison had designated Corning as his sole supplier of the glass bulbs he needed to bring light to the wider world” (from Corning Incorporated's  "Our History of Innovation"). 

LOTG Edison Bulb
Courtesy of the Corning Incorporated Department of Archives & Records Management, Corning, NY

The Culture of Glass

While at the time, the moment probably seemed like just another day at the factory, it turned out to be rather significant for the glass company, as it was evidence that glass could be used for functional, everyday items and not merely for art. The applications for using glass as a material to make things seemed to shift to innumerable possibilities. 

The event was also significant for the small town which had previously been known for lumber, tobacco, and agriculture. A town that has come to embrace the culture of glass for over 150 years.

While annual events like GlassFest have grown over the past decade, The Days of Incandescence is a relatively new celebration that goes beyond Corning’s wonderful history of glass. It’s also a celebration of light. And of the supernatural. 

No, Corning’s history doesn’t consist of mad scientists or creatures from outer space (not that we're aware of anyway). But it does have an element of mystery . . . which makes the days leading up to Halloween the perfect time to celebrate!

The Legend of the Gathers Picture Book
Illustration from The Legend of the Gathers Picture Book art by Erin Nowak

A Touch Of The Supernatural

Did you know, that years after the shop boy blew that special glass bubble, three different men claimed to have been the boy? That’s right.

And the uncertainty of the mysterious boy's true identity is the spark behind the fictionalization of those historic events as presented in the supernatural tale The Legend of the Gathers: Protectors of the Light which has been made into a wonderful hand-stitched middle grade chapbook and a beautifully illustrated picture book.

It's from this legend that we first learn about "The Days of Incandescence" - that special time each October when phantom folk called The Gathers appear throughout Corning to help share the light. 

Learn more about the real boy who inspired the legend here.

And learn about the middle grade chapbook and fully illustrated picture book versions of the story here.

Halloween The Days of Incandescence
The Days of Incandescence Halloween Trick or Treat courtesy Cagwin Photography

Spooktacular Happenings

One of the reasons, The Days of Incandescence lasts nearly two weeks is because of the all the fun ways folks enjoy the Halloween season.

In the past there has been spooky storytelling, historic tours, a costumed pub crawl, live performances of The Legend of the Gathers, as well as special themed creations at local breweries, restaurants, and shops throughout Corning.

Please note: while there will be no in-person events taking place during The Days of Incandescence in 2020, keep an eye out for some exciting new offerings coming in the future, including the release of the hauntingly beautiful picture book. 

Available at the following location

Corning Information Center
1 W. Market St., Corning


THE DAYS OF INCANDESCENCE

A Cooperative Event Partnership between the Steuben County CVB, Corning's Gaffer District, and the Gaffer District Business Association.