- Peter Cooper
name = Peter Cooper
image_size = 210px
caption = Peter Cooper
birth_date = birth date|1791|2|12|mf=y
New York, New York, U.S.
death_date = death date and age|1883|4|4|1791|2|12|mf=y
Industrialist, Inventor, Philanthropist
spouse = Sarah Cooper
Peter Cooper (
February 12, 1791– April 4, 1883) was an American industrialist, inventor, philanthropist, and candidate for President of the United States.
Peter Cooper was born in
New York City, the son of Dutch descendants. He had little formal schooling and worked in the family trade of hatmaking. He then worked as a coachmaker's apprentice, cabinet maker, grocerand was involved in the manufacturingand selling of cloth-shearing machines. He designed and built the first locomotive in the United States, the Tom Thumb.
In 2006, he was inducted into the
National Inventors Hall of Fame.
In about 1828, he started a successful glue and
isinglassfactory in New York, before building the Canton Iron Worksnear Baltimore in 1830. There he manufactured the first steam powered railroad locomotivemade in America, which was called "Tom Thumb". The engine ran successfully on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroadon August 28, 1830.
He then erected a rolling mill and an iron mill in
New York City, where he was the first to successfully use anthracite coalto puddle iron. In 1845, he moved his machinery to Trenton, New Jersey, where he built the largest rolling-mill in the United Statesfor producing railroad iron. In 1854, Trenton Iron Company, which was run by Cooper's son, Edward Cooper, and his son-in-law, Abram S. Hewitt, produced the first structural wrought ironbeams.
In 1840, he became an
aldermanin New York City. As a prosperous businessman, he conceived of the idea of having a free institute in New York, similar to the École Polytechnique(Polytechnical School) in Paris. He erected a building and endowed art schools, spending between $600,000 and $700,000, for preparing young men and women of the working classes for business. In 1858, he presented the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Artto the City of New York.
In 1854, Cooper was one of five men who met at the house of
Cyrus West Fieldand formed the New York, Newfoundland and London Telegraph Company. He was among those supervising the laying of the first Transatlantic telegraph cablein 1858. He also patented the first gelatin dessert, which later became better known by the brand name Jell-O.
Prior to the Civil War, Cooper was active in the anti-slavery movement and promoted the application of Christian concepts to solve social injustice. He was a strong supporter of the Union cause during the American Civil War and an advocate of the government issue of paper money.
Influenced by the writings of
Lydia Maria Child, Cooper became involved in the Indian reform movement, organizing the privately funded United States Indian Commission. This organization, whose members included William E. Dodgeand Henry Ward Beecher, was dedicated to the protection and elevation of Native Americans in the United States and the elimination of warfare in the western territories. Cooper's efforts led to the formation of the Board of Indian Commissioners, which oversaw Ulysses S. Grant's Peace Policy. Between 1870 and 1875, Cooper sponsored Indian delegations to Washington D.C., New York City, and other Eastern cities. These delegations met with Indian rights advocates and addressed the public on United States Indian policy. Speakers included: Red Cloud, Little Ravenand Alfred B. Meachamand a delegation of Modocand KlamathIndians.
Cooper was an ardent critic of the gold standard and the debt-based monetary system of bank currency. Throughout the depression from 1873-78, he said that usury was the foremost political problem of the day. He strongly advocated a credit-based, Government-issued currency of
United States Notes. He outlined his ideas in his 1883 book [http://yamaguchy.netfirms.com/7897401/cooper/cooper_index.html "Ideas for a Science of Good Government"]
Peter Cooper died on
April 4, 1883. He died at the age of 92. He is buried in Green-Wood Cemeteryin Brooklyn, New York.
* In 1845, Cooper was awarded a patent for a gelatin dessert. In 1897, Pearl B. Wait began marketing Jell-O.
* In 1943, a United States
Liberty shipnamed the SS "Peter Cooper" was launched. It was renamed the SS "Samarkand" after being loaned to the British. In 1971, the ship was scrapped.
* His son, Edward Cooper, was
Mayor of New York Cityfrom 1879 to 1880.
* New York's
Peter Cooper Villagewas named in his honor.
* Cooper learned finance under
Albert Gallatin, who was Secretary of the Treasuryfrom 1801-14. He was also Vice-President of the New York Board of Currency for a while. As a result, Cooper wrote much about financial topics. One of his more interesting assertions was in his 1883 book "Ideas for a Science of Good Government", in which he claimed that the prime cause of the American Revolutionwas Parliament's outlawing of the Colonial Scripcurrency in 1764, which caused an economic depression by outlawing the medium of exchange and created widespread dissatisfaction. Cooper writes:
"After Franklin had explained…to the British Government as the real cause of prosperity, they immediately passed laws, forbidding the payment of taxes in that money. This produced such great inconvenience and misery to the people, that it was the principal cause of the Revolution. A far greater reason for a general uprising, than the Tea and Stamp Act, was the taking away of the paper money." [http://www.heritech.com/yamaguchy/cooper/cooper_208.html]
*cite web|url=http://www.asme.org/Communities/History/Resources/Cooper_Peter.cfm|title=Cooper, Peter|work=Mechanical Engineering Biographies Throughout Time|publisher=ASME|accessdate=2008-05-01
* [http://www.uua.org/uuhs/duub/articles/petercooper.html Comprehensive Biography by Nathan C. Walker]
* [http://www.cooper.edu/engineering/chemechem/general/cooper.html Facts About Peter Cooper and The Cooper Union]
* [http://www.ringwoodmanor.com/peo/ch/pc/pc.htm Brief biography]
* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=229 Find-A-Grave profile for Peter Cooper]
* [http://www.yamaguchy.netfirms.com/7897401/cooper/cooper_index.html Ideas for a Science of Good Government] Addresses, Letters and Articles by Peter Cooper
* [http://www.petercooper.info Extensive Information about Peter Cooper]
* [http://www.petercooper.info/html/HWautobiography.pdf Images of Peter Cooper's Autobiography]
* [http://www.petercooper.info/html/autobiography.pdf Peter Cooper's Dictated Autobiography]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/deathofslavery00cooprich "The death of slavery" by Peter Cooper at archive.org] succession box
title=Greenback Party presidential candidate
James Baird Weaver
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.