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PETER COOPER, ESQ., AGED 71.
THE COOPER UNION FOR THE
ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE AND ART.
NOT many men propose to
themselves as the definite purpose of their lives the improvement of their
fellow-men ; fewer still adhere to such a purpose through good and evil report;
while. those who achieve the fruition of their labors are rare indeed. When
amidst struggles and discouragements innumerable the work is successfully
accomplished, mankind sooner or later recognize the true heroic element of
character, and enroll the self-sacrificing laborer among its benefactors.
On the 29th of April, 1859, PETER
COOPER, at first an humble mechanic, and then a successful merchant of the city
of New York, without parade and in the quiet of his own home, in the full vigor
of his years, and with his children at his side approving the splendid offering,
executed and delivered to six trustees a deed in fee simple for the ground and
building commonly known as the Cooper Institute, covering an entire block at the
junction of the Third and Fourth avenues, which had cost him $630,000 in money
to complete, upon the condition " that the above mentioned and described
premises, together with the appurtenances, and the rents, issues, income, and
profits thereof, shall be forever devoted to the instruction and improvement of
the inhabitants of the United States in practical science and art." An
additional sum of ten thousand dollars was given to the trustees for procuring
the requisite furniture and apparatus.
Thus was accomplished during his
lifetime a purpose formed forty years before, by a mechanic working at his bench
for his daily bread ; a purpose never lost sight of amidst the fluctuations of
business, the temptations of political and social position, or the demands of
public or private charities, to which his hand had ever been open. One knows
scarcely which to admire most, the stern tenacity of his purpose or the
magnificent scale on which it has been executed.
The Cooper Union is a fire-proof
building of stone, brick, and iron, containing seven floors, covering each
24,000 superficial feet. The three lower floors, including the Great Hall so
well known for its public meetings, are rented out, to procure revenue for the
support of the literary and scientific departments of the Institution, to which
the four remaining floors are devoted. The first of these floors is appropriated
to a great Free Reading-Room and Picture Gallery. The admission is absolutely
free to all comers, male and female, who are not even required to register their
names. The number of daily visitors is now over fifteen hundred; and they are
supplied with the most valuable current literature of Europe and America, in the
shape of the leading newspapers and magazines, as well literary as scientific.
The number of periodicals regularly received is over two hundred and eighty. A
Reference Library, now containing over four thousand volumes, and rapidly
increasing, completes the attractions of this department, which is contained in
a noble hall 120 feet long and 80 feet wide. The Picture Gallery adjoining
contains the Bryan Gallery of Christian Art, and many other valuable paintings.
The next floor is devoted to the
School of Design for Women, which is capable of accommodating three hundred
pupils. This is a dayschool,
and is absolutely free to all who
may desire to pursue art as a profession, or to become teachers or engravers.
Amateurs are also received at a very moderate charge ; but the great object of
the school is to provide for respectable females of suitable capacity the means
of earning a livelihood in a congenial pursuit. The number of pupils is now one
hundred and eighty, of whom over one hundred and forty are free scholars. The
best teachers (five in all) are employed in the several departments, and so
successful is the school that last year the scholars earned over eleven hundred
dollars for themselves in engraving alone. A council of ladies—among them many
of those most eminent for taste and social position in the city—have the general
supervision of the school, which, as now organized, is undoubtedly a credit to
The two remaining floors are
devoted to free instruction at night " on the application of science to the
useful occupations of life, and on such other branches of knowledge as in the
opinion of the Board of Trustees will tend to improve and elevate the working
classes in the city of New York."
The trustees have practically put
in operation a free college at night for the working classes of this city.
Classes are formed in the following departments
In Mathematics Number of
Pupils. . 163
In Chemistry and Physics. " "
" . . 255
In Music " " " . .
In Architectural Drawing
. " " '' . . 82
In Mechanical Drawing... " "
" . . 86
In Free-hand Drawing.... " "
" . . 132
Total number of Pupils
The number of instructors is
Besides these classes a course of
free readings in English literature is given, which is attended by over six
hundred persons of both sexes.
The pupils represent every kind
of business carried on in this city, one hundred distinct branches being
specified in the Annual Report of the Trustees, from which our facts are mainly
derived. The great majority of the pupils are between the ages of 16 and 30, but
there are pupils who acknowledge to over 60 years.
The total outlay last year for
carrying on the operations of the Union which have been described was $30,800
71/100, all of which was derived from the rents of the three lower floors,
except $5000 which was given by the founder of the Institution,
The trustees expect in addition
to establish a Polytechnic School of the highest grade, and a great Free Lending
Library, such as are possessed by the cities of Boston and Liverpool. For these
purposes they will require help, which by their charter they are authorized to
avail themselves of, from whatever quarter it may be offered.
An examination of this noble
Institution, and of its great practical operations and results, will satisfy the
most skeptical that the main idea of the founder, the elevation and improvement
of the working classes of this city, by instruction offered without money and
without price in the several departments of knowledge applicable to their daily
business, will be abundantly realized. Long may Mr. Cooper live to see its
ON the 26th of February, at the
Gregory House, in the city of Poughkeepsie, was enacted a scene which is almost
without a parallel on the theatre of our country's history. Then and there
laid down on the altar of Christian benevolence the sum of Four Hundred Thousand
Dollars—given by him to build and endow A COLLEGE FOR THE EDUCATION OF YOUNG
Others, as Girard and Astor, have
left by will an equal amount, to become available after their death; some,
possibly—like Mr. Cooper, and the Lawrences of Boston—while living, have
contributed, at different times and for various objects, an aggregate as large
as the above; but no man in the United States, excepting Mr. Cooper, has ever in
his lifetime, and by a single act, consecrated such a princely donation to the
interests of humanity.
This event, destined to become of
historic interest in the annals of philanthropy and benevolence, occurred in
connection with the first meeting of the Trustees of
VASSAR FEMALE COLLEGE,
under a charter recently obtained from the Legislature.
The Board being organized by the
election of Hon. William Kelly, Chairman, and Cyrus Swan, Secretary, Mr. Vassar
addressed the Chair, stating his reasons for this appropriation of his funds,
and expressing his views and wishes as to the principles on which the College
should be founded ; the system of instruction and government; and the most
judicious investment and management of the funds. The moment when he pronounced
the words, "And now, gentlemen of the Board of Trustees, I transfer to your
possession and ownership the real and personal property which I have
THE COOPER UNION FOR THE
ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE AND ART.
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