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The Cooper Union Archives & Special Collections

Ledgers and Orders of The Cooper Union

by Mary Mann on 2023-10-02T12:41:00-04:00 in Archives | 0 Comments

You might already know that the Cooper Union—known for its support of working people in the form of a free school and library, as well as for having the largest event space south of 14th Street—was booked for such nation-altering events as Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 "Right makes Might” speech and the Garment Workers Union meeting that resulted in the “Uprising of 20,000” aka the New York Shirtwaist Strike of 1909.  

But did you know that The Cooper Union also hosted seances and sideshow performers, including the world-famous General Tom Thumb? Or that the Foundation Building was the site of regular meetings for the Parasol Makers Union and the Farmer's Club - back when parasols were in fashion, and farms still operated north of 42nd Street?

Skating enthusiasts, Chinese Americans advocating for civil rights, a pioneer of dental laughing gas, Italian anti-fascists, public transit planning committees - all these and more fill the pages of the Ledgers and Orders of the Cooper Union, an invaluable record of community (and country!) concerns from 1858-1957. With names both big and small, serious and silly, occupying equal space on their ruled pages, the ledgers are an ideal entry point into understanding how many different people and groups make up the fabric of history—not just the textbook-famous, like Abe Lincoln, but also the laborers and dentists and dry goods clerks, the suffragists and abolitionists and magicians, all of whom climbed the same sandstone steps that we do every day, on our way to work and school. 

We're thrilled to announce that now the Ledgers and Orders of The Cooper Union are available for anyone to peruse, thanks to a generous digitization grant from the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO). You can view them on our existing Voices From the Great Hall website, or visit the Library for an exhibition on the ledgers and their contents:


The Ledgers and Orders of The Cooper Union (1858-1957)

Exhibition on view: October 25 - December 15, Library Atrium, Foundation Building

Opening reception: October 25th 4-6pm (tea and cake will be served)


Interested in learning more? Search the Ledgers and Orders of the Cooper Union finding aid or view the Ledgers and Orders online at If you'd like to view particular materials in person, please reach out to us at 

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