Ladle with Molten Glass, Corning (1934)
Image Courtesy of Collection of Archives, Corning Incorporated

I have been working as an intern at the Rakow Research Library at the Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG) since August 2013. One of the highlights of the internship has been a project to conduct an oral history. I was assigned to interview a 93-year-old gentleman, Donald Bonnell, who has lived in Corning all his life. I did not have much information to go on other than that Mr. Bonnell was the youngest witness to the first pouring of the 200” disk in 1934. To prepare for the interview, I undertook extensive research on the casting of the first disk as well as the later second successful attempt to pour the disk and its eventual transportation by railroad to Mt. Palomar in San Diego County, CA. Luckily, there is some outstanding original film footage of the first pouring that is available on the CMOG web site.

At the time of the first casting, Mr. Bonnell was a cub reporter for the Elmira Gazette. Later in life, he was asked to head the public relations department of Corning Glass Works and he reported on the opening day of the Museum in 1951. As part of his duties while working there, Mr. Bonnell also escorted esteemed visitors around the museum such as President Eisenhower and Gov. Dewey.

Mr. Bonnell stated that of all the amazing events he reported on during his career, watching the first disk casting was the most memorable. And, of all the important people that he met, he is most proud of his friendship with “Buffalo Bob Smith,” the creator of the Howdy Doody children’s show.

Deborah Cooper, Public Services Intern, Rakow Research Library, Corning Museum of Glass

This post was originally published on The Corning Museum of Glass blog:

For more information about the 200” disk and the Palomar Observatory see the past Rakow Library exhibit Mirror to Discovery: The 200-Inch Disk and the Hale Reflecting Telescope at Palomar and the Meet the Astronomer lecture with Scott Kardel.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s