Education should be as free as water and air.” – Peter Cooper

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art was established in 1859. It’s claim to fame is that it is the only private full scholarship college in America dedicated to preparing students in the professions of architecture, art and engineering.

A little about Peter Cooper

Born to modest beginnings in 1791, Peter Cooper went on to become one the richest men in America and a noted inventor and philanthropist. He also managed to make a run for the presidency at the tender age of 84 under the Greenback Party Credited with the invention of a wide variety of such notable items such as the first steam locomotive (which he called “Tom Thumb”) and instant gelatin (which when his wife added fruit become Jello). Following his forays in the railroad industry, Cooper then lent his talents to the fields of insurance, real estate and telegraphy. It was in his role as the president of The New York, Newfoundland, and London Telegraph Company that the first Atlantic cable was laid. Cooper always regretted his lack of formal education (he couldn’t spell). His belief was that immigrants and working class people should have the same access to education as that of the privileged.

A little bit more about Cooper Union

When it first opened, Cooper Union offered free night classes to men and women in architectural design. It became a pioneer in the teaching of the so-called new sciences of the day such as photography, telegraphy, type writing and shorthand. It was also one of the first colleges to open its doors to women and working class people and served as an inspiration for such notables as Andrew Carnegie, Ezra Cornell and Mathew Vassar. The Cooper Union also provides a public reading room and library.

Items worth mentioning…

Before they became President, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant Grover Cleveland, William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt all made speeches in the Great Hall. Two incumbents, Woodrow Wilson and Bill Clinton also used the podium to state their views. For a while, Thomas Edison was a student there. Cooper Union also played a pivotal role in the formation of the Red Cross and the NAACP and it’s where Susan B. Anthony established her offices during the suffragette movement.

Source for Cooper Union stuff
Source for bio on Peter Cooper, Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911 edition

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