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Cooper-Hewitt Papers, Bequest of Erskine Hewitt, 1938

Cooper-Hewitt Papers, Bequest of Erskine Hewitt, 1938


Historical Note:

Peter Cooper (1791‑1883) was a manufacturer, inventor, philanthropist, and founder of Cooper Union. Cooper's son‑in‑law and business partner Abram S. Hewitt (1822‑1903) was a manufacturer, philanthropist, Congressional Representative from New York, and mayor of New York City.  The families were prominent among 19th century Americans, and had myriad business, cultural, and philanthropic interests.

Description of Collection:

The collection documents the lives and work of Peter Cooper, Abram S. Hewitt, and their families. Included are correspondence, published and manuscript speeches and other writings, account books and other financial documents, photographs, and miscellaneous documents. Also included are books from Peter Cooper's personal library, and books, clippings, and other printed material about Cooper and Hewitt and their activities. Topics covered include Cooper and Hewitt family matters, property, Hewitt's mayoralty, Cooper Union, the Atlantic Cable for which Peter Cooper was a backer, women's suffrage, labor in New York City, Peter Cooper's inventions, and the railroad, iron and steel (including the Trenton Iron Company) and glue businesses in which Cooper or Hewitt or both were involved.


This collection formed the nucleus of the Cooper Archives.  Most of it has been cataloged in library fashion, with the books and many of the papers (such as those related to the Atlantic Telegraph and those related to railroad interests) cataloged separately and indexed in a standard card catalog.  There remain three series of unanalyzed papers:  

  1. The Cooper Manuscripts, 1783-1887:  a collection of correspondence to Peter Cooper and his family, including some pencil drafts of letters and other writings by Peter Cooper.  Arranged chronologically. Extent: 6 boxes; 2.5 linear feet.  Call Number: C 4A C778CH Cooper

  2. The Hewitt Manuscripts, 1808-1933:  a collection of correspondence to Abram S. Hewitt and his family, including legal papers, poems and other items.  Also included are papers relating to the American Sulphur Company.  Arranged chronologically. Extent: 7 boxes; 2.9 linear feet. Call Number:  C 4A C778CH Hewitt. 

  3. Abram Stevens Hewitt Papers 1803-1903.  Compiled by Albert H. Heusser:  42 volumes of typed transcripts of Hewitt’s correspondence, originally compiled for use by Hewitt’s intended biographer.  Interspersed are items such as Congressional bills and informational pamphlets.  Arranged by subject.  Subjects range from tariff and currency issues, to Reconstruction of the South, to New York City rapid transit, to the Brooklyn Bridge and parks and playgrounds.  For a complete list of the topics covered, click here. Call Number C 3A P2.

Provenance:   The papers came to Cooper Union following the death of Peter Cooper’s grandson (and Abram Hewitt’s son), Erskine Hewitt in 1938.

Extent of Collection:   ca. 216 linear ft.

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