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The Cooper Family papers

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MG.001

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the life of Peter Cooper’s family primarily through personal letters and business correspondence from the mid 1700’s to the late 1800’s. This collection is divided into ten series:

Series 1 - Documentation related to a decades-long dispute over a piece of land willed to Obediah Cooper by his father-in-law Jan Gardenier Series 2 - Claims made by John Cooper and his father-in-law John Campbell to secure pensions received from serving in the Revolutionary War Series 3 - Letters received by John Cooper from various individuals, including Thomas Campbell, Thomas Kirk,and James Cooper Series 4 - Letters receieved by Sarah Cooper from various individuals, including Julia Ann Staples, Jamima Van Antwerp, and Amelia Kirk. Note: there are three Sarahs on the family tree alive at the same time, and it's not always clear which Sarah each letter is addressed to, so they've all been included here. Series 5 - Letters received by Martha Cooper from various individuals, including Sarah Cooper, Edward C. Cooper, and Jane Hartshorne. Note: there are two Marthas on the family tree alive at the same time, and it's not always clear which Martha each letter is addressed to, so they've all been included here. Series 6 - Letters received by Henrietta Cooper from a few individuals, primarily "Adelia" and "Mae" Series 7 - Assorted legal and financial documents Series 8 - Assorted correspondence Series 9 - Creative works, primarily poetry, short stories, and essays Series 10 - Ephemera, including wallets, event tickets, recipes, and newspaper clippings


  • 1767 - 1883


Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish materials must be obtained in writing from The Cooper Union Archives and Special Collections. For more information please email

Biographical / Historical

Peter Cooper (1791‑1883) was a manufacturer, inventor, philanthropist, and founder of The Cooper Union. His inventions include a musical cradle, methods for making salt, glue and gelatin, and the rotary steam engine, modeled as the "Tom Thumb" locomotive. He was also involved in local and national politics as an abolitionist, advocate for Native American policy reform, and promoter of credit-based currency. In 1876 he ran for president representing the Greenback Party.

The first of Peter Cooper's acestors to live in New York was Obadiah Cooper (1685-1742) who married Cornelia Gardenier in 1719. Their son, also named Obadiah, married twice. With his second wife, Hester Terbos (1726-1789), he fathered John Cooper, Peter's father.

John Cooper (1755-1838) served in the Revolutionary War and later worked as a milliner and a brewer. John married Margaret Campbell (1761-1836) in 1779, and together they raised their eight children in and around New York City. In 1813, their son Peter Cooper married Sarah Bedell (2793-1869), who was of Huguenot ancestry. Of their six children, only two - Edward and Sarah Amelia - lived past the age of four. In 1855, their daughter Sarah Amelia married Abram S. Hewitt, who would go on to work with Peter Cooper in the management of The Cooper Union.


2.085 Linear Feet (6 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Cooper Family papers is a collection of letters, land deeds, financial claims, and other documentation of the lives of Peter Cooper's family members. With dates spanning 1767 through 1883, this collection contains material authored by or relating to Peter Cooper's parents, siblings, children, nieces, and nephews.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The acquisition of these papers was made possible by a generous donation from Michael Borkowsky ME’61; Peter Buckley, HSS Faculty; Sean B. Cusack, BSE’98; Barry J. Drogin, EE’83, MEE’86; David H. Ellison, Arch’83; Sangamithra L. Iyer, CE’99; John F. Leeper, Arch’85; James S. Liubicich; ChE’83; Carol Wolf (née Robinson) with Bill Wolf, both A’84, and Robert Q. Topper, Chemistry Faculty.

Katie Blumenkrantz
November 2020
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • May 3, 2021: Updated by Mary Mann to reflect archival reorganization.

Repository Details

Part of the The Cooper Union Archives & Special Collections Repository

Cooper Union Library
7 East 7th Street
New York New York 10003 United States