In 2006, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
In about 1828, he started a successful glue and isinglass factory in New York, before building the Canton Iron Works near Baltimore in 1830. There he manufactured the first steam powered railroad locomotive made in America, which was called Tom Thumb. The engine ran successfully on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad on August 28, 1830.
He then erected a rolling mill and an iron mill in New York City, where he was the first to successfully use anthracite coal to puddle iron. In 1845, he moved his machinery to Trenton, New Jersey, where he built the largest rolling-mill in the United States for producing railroad iron. In 1854, Trenton Iron Company, which was run by Cooper's son, Edward Cooper, and his son-in-law, Abram S. Hewitt, produced the first structural wrought iron beams.
In 1840, he became an alderman in New York City. As a prosperous businessman, he conceived of the idea of having a free institute in New York, similar to the École Polytechnique (Polytechnical School) in Paris. He erected a building and endowed art schools, spending between $600,000 and $700,000, for preparing young men and women of the working classes for business. In 1858, he presented the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art to the City of New York.
In 1854, Cooper was one of five men who met at the house of Cyrus West Field and formed the New York, Newfoundland and London Telegraph Company. He was among those supervising the laying of the first Transatlantic telegraph cable in 1858. He also patented the first gelatin dessert, which later became better known by the brand name Jell-O.
Prior to the Civil War, Cooper was active in the anti-slavery movement and promoted the application of Christian concepts to solve social injustice. He was a strong supporter of the Union cause during the American Civil War and an advocate of the government issue of paper money.
Influenced by the writings of Lydia Maria Child, Cooper became involved in the Indian reform movement, organizing the privately funded United States Indian Commission. This organization, whose members included William E. Dodge and Henry Ward Beecher, was dedicated to the protection and elevation of Native Americans in the United States and the elimination of warfare in the western territories. Cooper's efforts led to the formation of the Board of Indian Commissioners, which oversaw Ulysses S. Grant's Peace Policy. Between 1870 and 1875, Cooper sponsored Indian delegations to Washington D.C., New York City, and other Eastern cities. These delegations met with Indian rights advocates and addressed the public on United States Indian policy. Speakers included: Red Cloud, Little Raven and Alfred B. Meacham and a delegation of Modoc and Klamath Indians.
Cooper was an ardent critic of the gold standard and the debt-based monetary system of bank currency. Throughout the depression from 1873-78, he said that usury was the foremost political problem of the day. He strongly advocated a credit-based, Government-issued currency of United States Notes. He outlined his ideas in his 1883 book Ideas for a Science of Good Government
After Franklin had explained…to the British Government as the real cause of prosperity, they immediately passed laws, forbidding the payment of taxes in that money. This produced such great inconvenience and misery to the people, that it was the principal cause of the Revolution. A far greater reason for a general uprising, than the Tea and Stamp Act, was the taking away of the paper money.
REP. MALONEY EXPRESSES CONCERN ABOUT FURTHER LOSS OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING AT STUYVESANT TOWN, PETER COOPER VILLAGE
Sep 01, 2006; Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y. (14th CD), issued the following press release: Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-Manhattan & Queens)...