Auburn is located at the head of Owasco Lake in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. Auburn is the county seat of Cayuga County.
The first settler was Col. John Hardenbergh, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, who arrived in 1793. The city prospered with the arrival of the Erie Canal, but suffered a downturn after the Panic of 1837. It was helped by the coming of the railroad in 1839 and had recovered sufficiently to receive a city charter on March 21, 1848.
The Auburn Prison, later the Auburn State Correctional Facility, was established in Auburn in 1816. It was intended as a model for prisoner
rehabilitation. New York State Lunatic Asylum for Insane Convicts was established adjoining the prison in 1859. The world's first execution in
an electric chair took place at Auburn Prison on August 6, 1890. The prisoner, William Kemler, was not killed by the first application of
electricity and required a second shock.
William Seward, in whose "honor" the purchase of Alaska was termed "Seward's Folly," lived in Auburn. Harriet Tubman, one of the organizers of the Underground Railroad, was born a slave in Maryland and fled at the age of six. After the war, Seward encouraged her to come to live in Auburn. She did and started a home for aged blacks. The Harriet Tubman Home is now a registered national historic landmark.