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New York Electrical Society collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MG.004

Scope and Contents

The New York Electrical Society collection is comprised of a variety of materials that document the happenings and history of this particular society of science enthusiasts and educators. Active from 1881-1954, the New York Electrical Society explored and introduced the public to scientific discoveries, everything from electricity to bridge-building. This collection is comprised of material from the years 1881-1948, including meeting minutes, pamphlets and typewritten texts of lectures, press releases and fliers, and a few photographs. Lecture topics documented in this collection include “Electrical Railway Operation in A Great City" (1906), “Are X-Rays Useful” (1929), “New Talking Movies" (1931), “Rubber - A Versatile Servant" (1937), and “Science and Engineering in The War Effort" (1942).


  • Creation: 1881 - 1948


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

The New York Electrical Society was founded in 1881 with the purpose of serving the electrical field, but soon broadened its focus to exploring discoveries of science in all areas, in order to serve the advancement of industry. The society’s monthly lectures were followed by popular experimental demonstrations presented with the intent to educate the public, to increase public sympathy toward legislative and commercial reform beneficial to the professions, and to draw together the layman and the technician. By 1884 the Society was meeting regularly at Cooper Union, though in the 20th century many meetings were held at the Engineering Foundation’s auditorium on West 39th Street. Topics ranged widely, from strictly electrical-related subjects to lectures on color, shipbuilding, rockets, cancer, subways, termites, atomic and hydrogen bombs, motion pictures, and even the George Washington Bridge. Speakers of note included mathematician Charles Steinmetz, physicists Robert Millikan and Karl Compton, physical chemist Harold Urey, Admiral Robert Peary, orchestra conductor Andre Kostelanetz, and acoustics pioneer Harvey Fletcher.

At first the society was composed mostly of engineers, professors, telegraphers, and industrial executives, and the organization was supported only by member dues, but in the early 1920s a Company Sustaining Membership category was created, which gave the society the support of such companies as Bell Telephone Laboratories, Brooklyn Edison Company, the National Broadcasting Company, and the Springfield [Illinois] Boiler Company, as well as all the regional telephone, telegraph, and electric companies.

In 1954, as a result of declining attendance at its lectures, the New York Electrical Society was dissolved, and the remaining funds in the treasury were contributed to Cooper Union. The records of the Electrical Society were also transferred to Cooper Union, with the Cooper Archive as their permanent repository.


4.75 Linear Feet (4 cartons, 3 oversize flat boxes)

Language of Materials



The New York Electrical Society collection is comprised of notes, pamphlets, typed lectures, meetings minutes and scrapbooks documenting the history of this group of science enthusiasts and educators.


This collection has been loosely arranged by material type and size.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was compiled by the staff at the Cooper Union archives. We believe that these materials came to our repository primarily from New York Electrical Society events held at Cooper Union, but also via the papers of Gano S. Dunn (president of the Cooper Union from 1935-1950, and President of the Electrical Society from 1899-1901) and George F. Bateman (Dean of the Engineering Schools at Cooper Union from 1933-1948, and President of the Electrical Society from 1944-1946).

Mitsuko Brooks and Carol Salomon
November 2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • May 2021: Record migrated to ArchivesSpace by Mary Mann.

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