With the help of a matching grant from an assortment of alumni and professors, the Cross Ridge Foundation, run by Cooper-Hewitt heirs, acquired for the Cooper Archive a collection of business papers addressed to the firm of Cooper, Hewitt and Company, formed by Peter Cooper’s son and son-in-law to run the Trenton Iron Company and other Peter Cooper business interests.  The collection also includes letters from prospective Cooper students, faculty, and staff, including an interesting Memorandum written in 1854 to Abram Hewitt proposing a possible structure for the Cooper Institute prior to its opening in 1859.  Although the author isn’t identified, it has been suggested that Horace Mann, who became president of Antioch in 1853, may have written it.

Memorandum written to Abram Hewitt in 1854

Information on the collection can be found here. 

A transcription of the 1854 Memorandum can be found here. 

Working with the Cooper Archive and the Cooper Union Development Office, Barry Drogin EE’83 helped solicit the donations that made the acquisition possible.  He also transcribed the 1854 Memorandum and worked with Professor Emeritus Peter Buckley to ascertain that the Memorandum wasn’t written by son-in-law Abram Hewitt himself.  The writer of the Memorandum understands that the Cooper Institute was to be free and suggests several methods by which alumni might provide donations after graduation.  In his famous 1902 “Free As Air And Water” speech, Abram Hewitt mentions that, over 40 years after Cooper’s opening in 1859, he finally received the first two alumni donations, a trickle that quickly turned into a stream in the years that followed.

Read the 1902 Abram Hewitt speech (pages 480-488/16-24 in the No. 147 Old South Leaflet) here.

The collection was acquired in 2023, catalogued, and featured in an exhibition mounted at the Library in 2024.