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Peter Cooper

free, york, art, afterwards, iron and canal

COOPER, PETER, b. New York, 1791. When young he was in humble circum stances, and was obliged to pick up an education as best he could. .At the age of 17 he was an apprentice at coach-making, where his conduct was so satisfactory that his master offered to start him in business, but he declined to incur the risk. Ilis first start towards a fortune was by the invention of an improvement in machines for shearing cloth. Such machines were in demand while the importation of foreign cloth was pro hibited, during the war of 1812-15. Afterwards they were of little account, and ho went into the manufacture of cabinetware, and soon afterwards into the grocery busi ness, and finally he began the manufacture of glue and isinglass, in which business he was engaged for more than half a century, accumulating a handsome fortune. But lie was at various periods concerned in other affairs. In 1830, he built works for the manufac ture of iron, and afterwards a rolling and wire mill in New York, where ho first suc cessfully used hard coal in puddling iron. In 1845, he had a rolling-mill for making railroad bars at Trenton, N. J., where he was the first to roll iron beams for building purposes. At Baltimore. in 1830, he designed and built the first locomotive engine con structed in America, and it was soon afterwards operated successfully on the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, lie was also among the earliest promoters of telegraphic communi cation in the country, and was for 18 years president of the New York, Newfoundland, and London telegraph company. He was among the earliest to become interested in the New York state canal. Before the Erie canal was ready for use, it was a serious ques tion what was the best propelling power for the boats. Cooper then made an experi ment of propulsion by means of an endless chain. The chain was driven by the power of elevated water; and on an experimental trip with the governor, De Witt Clinton, and a distinguished party, _a, speed of 2 In, in 11 minutes was gained. Other power can also be applied to the endless chain. This invention, though not then

adopted, has been used in passing boats through canal locks. Always interested in his native city, Cooper was chosen to the board of assistants and of aldermen ; and he was also prominent in the establishment of the old public school society. The great object and the great honor of his life, however, was yet to come. Feeling keenly the uisadvan tages under which he labored when a youth in obtaining education, he long contem plated and finally established an institution (the Cooper union) in which the poor as well as prosperous should have the amplest opportunity for education without cost. In 1854, he laid the corner-stone of a large building at the junction of the Third and Fourth avenues in New York, "to be devoted forever to the union of art and science in their applica tion to the useful purposes of life." This institution, which has had his constant care and help, now counts over 2,000 pupils in the course of the year. It has a school of art Tor women, with free instruction in all branches of drawing, in painting, wood-engrav ing, and photography. It has also a free school of telegraphy for young women. These schools for the daytime accommodate 200 to 300 students. In the evenings the free schools of science and art for young men and women give free instruction in mathe matics, practical engineering, and practical chemistry; and free lectures are given in natural philosophy and the elements of chemistry. In art, every branch of drawing and painting is taught. A large free reading-room and library with about 300 period. icals and papers, foreign and domestic, and about 10,000 volumes, are at the disposal of all corners. Every Saturday evening during the winter, free lectures are given in the large hall of the Cooper union, sometimes seating 2,000. The annual expense has amounted to about $60,000. In 1879, the founder added an upper story to this most useful institution. lie has just passed his 89th birthday, and is still hale and hearty. His son Edward is at present mayor of New York city.