Cornellians may not know every word of the alma mater's six verses, but they certainly know the tune, thanks to the 21 bells in McGraw Tower. Student chimesmasters climb the 161 stairs to the top of the tower where they play three concerts daily. Each includes a Cornell standard. The "Jennie McGraw Rag" rings out each morning, the alma mater at mid-day, and the "Evening Song" at day's end.
The nine original bells, a gift from Ithacan Jennie McGraw, rang out "Hail Columbia" and "Old Hundred" from a temporary stand in celebration of the university's 1868 opening. The tower wasn't built for another two decades. Today the repertoire includes classical adaptations as well as Beatles hits, Broadway show tunes, and TV theme songs.
In 1997, the tower garnered national media attention when late-night pranksters adorned the tower's spire with what turned out to be a hollowed-out pumpkin. The following spring, an anonymous source told the Cornell Daily Sun the feat had been accomplished by a pair of local rock climbers.