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Peter Cooper (1791-1883)


Inventor and millionaire industrialist Peter Cooper was one of the outstanding American businessmen of the nineteenth century. He was also a generous and innovative philanthropist who viewed wealth as a trust to be used “to do something in a public way for the education and uplifting of the common people.” To this end, in 1857 Cooper founded the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art—a unique adult educational institution offering free courses in applied arts and sciences to those with the desire but not the means to secure such education. The Cooper Union also maintained a free library and sponsored public lectures by speakers such as Abraham Lincoln, whose eloquent Cooper Union address in February 1860 was credited by many with helping him win both his party’s nomination and the presidency.


Mathew Brady Studio (active 18441883)
Albumen silver print
Frederick Hill Meserve Collection
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

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