Cooper Union

NYC - East Village: The Cooper Union Foundation Building
I’ve been researching Peter Cooper and Cooper Union for one my characters in book three. You may have heard of Cooper Union in New York, famous for so many reasons. Abraham Lincoln spoke there on his way to becoming president. Thomas Edison was a student.

Cooper Union, still educating students today, was innovative at the time almost beyond belief. Women and blacks were admitted before the Civil War. There was a free reading room library before the New York Public Library was built. Supported by investors the likes of Andrew Carnegie the school was free (it still is, but recently it was announced that may soon change.)

Peter Cooper was quite a character and I’m tempted to drift away from the research I need to be doing to learn all about him.

For instance, these glasses! Four lenses. I googled and found some examples. Andrew Jackson had a similar pair it seems, but I still think they were unusual.

We see them reappearing as steampunk, unusually colored like sunglasses and more like goggles. Peter’s glasses, though? Bi-focals, maybe? The man invented so many things, from the locomotive steam engine to Jello, so I wonder if he made these.

And then I found a new invention that I thought was wonderful. And then I thought I’d share what I found and then get back to what I really should be doing!


2 thoughts on “Cooper Union

  1. Fredric Dennis Williams

    I am curious about the claim that Thomas Edison graduated from Cooper Union. He is reported to have attended from 1875 to 1879, but this was the period of time when he set up Menlo Park. He has often been said to have had only a few months of schooling as a boy. He was rich and famous and successful before the time when he is said to have been a student.

    What's the real story?

  2. Cindy Thomson

    Thanks for your question, Fredric. From what I've been able to tell (and I'm not an Edison expert) the claim is probably a bit exaggerated. I think he took some classes there, at least one. One source that says so is Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 by Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace. The reference to Edison taking a class is on page 1060, and you can find that on Google Books online. I not sure what book is Edison's autobiography, but I've also read that he mentions it there. I hope that helps a little bit.


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