FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 28, 2009
Contact: David Carson, Public Affairs Director
(561) 655-2833 ext. 13
Signed Peter Cooper Note Purchased for Flagler Museum
by Harris Private Bank
(Palm Beach, FL) – The Flagler Museum has acquired an important hand-written and
signed note by industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper. This addition to the Flagler
Museum’s collection was underwritten by Harris Private Bank. The full text of the note
“He in reality is the wisest and happyest [sic] man who finds and improves the greatest
opertunities [sic] for doing good.” - Peter Cooper
Peter Cooper (1791 – 1883) is one of the most successful businessmen of the Gilded Age,
and responsible for numerous advancements in science and technology. Cooper, like Henry
Flagler, believed that it was the duty of Americans provide opportunities for others, and to
set worthy examples to follow. Throughout his life, Cooper’s goal was to provide
educational opportunities for those, who could not obtain it otherwise.
Peter Cooper was born in New York City to Dutch immigrant parents, and raised in
Peekskill. He had less than one year of formal education. His mechanical inclinations
allowed him to become adept at numerous trades at an early age, but he eventually focused
upon machinery and manufacturing. Cooper keenly recognized the potential of the
machine for American manufacturing at a time when skilled workers were scarce, and he
soon became successful in several iron related businesses.
Cooper’s numerous contributions to American industrialization include designing and
building the first American steam locomotive, the Tom Thumb, in 1830. Cooper was
President of the New York, Newfoundland & London Telegraph Company and the North
American Telegraph Company, and was the main financial backer of Cyrus Field in what
is considered to be one of the nineteenth century’s monumental technical achievements the laying of the first Transatlantic Cable between Ireland and Newfoundland, completed
in 1858. Cooper even invented gelatin that led to the commercial product Jell-O. In 1876,
the Greenback party nominated Cooper for president.
Cooper founded and designed New York City’s Cooper Union School for the
Advancement of the Arts and Sciences in 1859, which he considered his greatest
achievement. The school was one of the first colleges to offer free education, and to this
day is the only full-scholarship college in the United States dedicated to preparing students
in the fields of engineering, architecture, and art.
Peter Cooper was widely admired and revered by Gilded Age titans and philanthropists
like Andrew Carnegie and Henry Flagler. The sentiment expressed by his note is an
important example of the philanthropic attitude of these great industrialists of the Gilded
Age. An editorial in The Nation upon Cooper’s death, at age 91, noted that he “was a man
that united the highest integrity with the highest success.”
When it was completed in 1902, Whitehall, Henry Flagler's Gilded Age estate in Palm
Beach, was hailed by the New York Herald as "more wonderful than any palace in Europe,
grander and more magnificent than any other private dwelling in the world." Today,
Whitehall is a National Historic Landmark and is open to the public as the Flagler
Museum, featuring guided tours, changing exhibits, and special programs. The Museum is
located at Cocoanut Row and Whitehall Way, Palm Beach. The Museum is open from
10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and noon until 5:00 p.m., Sunday.
Admission is $15 for adults, $8 for youth ages 13-18, $3 for children ages 6-12, and
children under six are free.
For more information, please call the Flagler Museum at 561-655-2833 or visit
High resolution images are available upon request.