The Cooper Union


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, March 30, 1861

The March 30, 1861 edition of Harper's Weekly featured a number of important Civil War news events.  We have posted the newspaper below.  Scroll down to see the complete page, or the Newspaper Thumbnails below will take you to the specific page of interest.


April Fool's Day 1861

April Fool's Day History

New Orleans

New Orleans

Jefferson Davis Veto of Slave Trade Act

Peter Cooper and the Cooper Institute

The Cooper Union

Vassar Female College

Vassar College

Founding of Vassar (Cont.)

Sam Houston

General Sam Houston

Biggest Gun

Biggest Gun in the World

Lincoln Cartoon

Abraham Lincoln Cartoon






[MARCH 30,1861




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 country.

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   "   " " . .                                  397

In Architectural Drawing .   "   " '' . .        82

In Mechanical Drawing...   "   " " . .          86

In Free-hand Drawing....   "   " " . .        132

Total number of Pupils                        1115

The number of instructors is fifteen.

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 fruits !


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 MATTHEW VASSAR 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 WOMEN.

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

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Peter Cooper
The Cooper Union

The original 140+ year old leaf which was used to create this page is available for a contribution of $200 to this site.  The leaf is original, and in excellent condition.  Your acquisition of this leaf will enable us to continue to expand the free resources on this site.  For more information contact



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