1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cooper Union

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COOPER UNION, a unique educational and charitable institution “for the advancement of science and art” in New York city. It is housed in a brownstone building in Astor Place, between 3rd and 4th Avenues immediately N. of the Bowery, and was founded in 1857-1859 by Peter Cooper, and chartered in 1859. In a letter to the trustees accompanying the trust-deed to the property, Cooper said that he wished the endowment to be “for ever devoted to the advancement of science and art, in their application to the varied and useful purposes of life”; provided for a reading-room, a school of art for women, and an office in the Union, “where persons may apply . . . for the services of young men and women of known character and qualifications to fill the various situations ”; expressed the desire that students have monthly meetings held in due form. “as I believe it to be a very important part of the education of an American citizen to know how to preside with propriety over a deliberative assembly”; urged lectures and debates exclusive of theological and party questions; and required that no religious test should ever be made for admission to the Union. Cooper's most efficient assistant in the Union was Abram S. Hewitt. In 1900 Andrew Carnegie put the finances of the Union on a sure footing by gifts aggregating $600,000. For the year 1907 its revenue was $161,228 (including extraordinary receipts of $25,565, from bequests, &c.), its expenditures $161,390; at the same time its assets were $3,870,520, of which $1,070,877 was general endowment, building and equipment, and $2,797,728 was special endowments ($205,000 being various endowments by Peter Cooper; $340,000, the William Cooper Foundation: $600,000, the Cooper-Hewitt Foundation; $391,656, the John Halstead Bequest; $217,820, the Hewitt Memorial Endowment). The work has been very successful, the instruction is excellent, and the interest of the pupils is eager. All courses are free. The reading-room and library contain full files of current journals and magazines; the library has the rare complete old and new series of patent office reports, and in 1907 had 45,760 volumes: in the same year there were 578,582 readers. There is an excellent museum for the arts of decoration. Apart from valuable lecture courses, the principal departments of the Union, with their attendance in 1907, were: a night school of science — a five-year course in general science (667) and in chemistry (154). a three-year course in electricity (114), and a night school of art (1333); a day school of technical science — four years in civil, mechanical or electrical engineering — (237); a woman's art school (282); a school of stenography and typewriting for women (55); a school of telegraphy for women (31); a class in elocution (96); and classes in oratory and debate (146). During the year 2505 was the highest number in attendance at any time, and then 3000 were on the waiting list.

In the great hall of the Union free lectures for the people are given throughout the winter; one course, the Hewitt lectures, in co-operation with Columbia University, “of a very high grade, corresponding more nearly to those given by the Lowell Institute in Boston”; six (in 1907) courses in co-operation with the Board of Education of New York city, which, upon Mayor Hewitt's suggestion, made an appropriation for this work in 1887-1888, and extended such lecture courses to different parts of the city, all under the direction (after 1890) of Henry M. Leipziger (b. 1854), and several courses dealing especially with social and political subjects, and including, besides lectures and recitals, public meetings for the discussion of current problems.