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Guide to the Cooper, Hewitt & Co. Letterpress Copybooks
1848-1905
 MS 1130

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Larry Weimer and Alison Barr

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on March 12, 2018 using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Biographical/Historical Note

Edward Cooper (1824-1905) met Abram Stevens Hewitt (1822-1903) at Columbia College. They became friends, graduating in 1842 and traveling together. They went into business as partners, with the financial backing of Edward’s father, Peter Cooper (1791-1883). Peter Cooper had no formal education, but had learned various trades and had a knack for invention. Working his way through trades and operating a grocery store, Peter eventually bought a glue factory in New York City in 1821. His success with this business, as well as with his invention of related gelatin products, including what is known today as Jell-O, made him an increasingly wealthy man by the mid-19th century.

By the 1830s, Peter Cooper turned his attention to iron, purchasing a mining operation (the Ringwood Company) and property in northern New Jersey. He opened an ironworks in Trenton in 1845. It was this business that Peter’s son, Edward, and future son-in-law, Abram Hewitt, took over the management of. Edward Cooper and Hewitt eventually formalized their partnership as Cooper, Hewitt & Co. They expanded the iron business to encompass an iron ore mine at Andover, NJ, and blast furnaces at Philipsburg, NJ.

In 1855, Abram Hewitt married Edward’s sister, Sarah Amelia Cooper (1830-1912). In 1856, Hewitt visited the business’s Ringwood operation, coming away impressed with both the mining resources and the beauty of the area. He returned with Sarah to the location and they adopted the house, known then and now as Ringwood Manor, as their summer home. They continued to live at other times on Lexington Avenue in New York City in Peter Cooper’s household.

In addition to the thriving iron business, by the 1870s Hewitt became active in politics. A Democrat, he was first elected to Congress in 1874. He was re-elected in 1876, lost in 1878, and re-elected in 1880, 1882, and 1884. Then leaving Congress, he was elected mayor of New York in 1886. He was defeated in 1888, ending his political career.

The Coopers and Hewitt were known for their philanthropy, especially concerning education. Peter Cooper, appreciating the value of a formal education he never had, founded Cooper Union in 1859 and remained its president until 1882. At that time, Edward Cooper became Cooper Union’s second president, remaining in the position until 1804, just before his death.

Abram Hewitt died in 1903. His 50% ownership share of the Trenton Iron Company passed into the hands of his children. Edward Cooper then sold his 50% stake to his sister, Hewitt’s widow. In 1904, the Hewitt family sold the works to the United States Steel Corporation. (See Vol. 271, pg. 516, for Cooper's reference to this transaction.) Edward Cooper died in 1905. The Ringwood Company changed in the 1920s from a mining operation into a land company, developing the municipality of Ringwood in New Jersey.

Abram and Sarah Hewitt had six children, the youngest being Erskine Hewitt (1871-1938), from whose estate came the letterpress copybooks in this collection. Sending them to N-YHS from Hewitt’s estate was his nephew, Norvin Green (1893-1955), Abram Hewitt’s grandson by his eldest child, Amelia Hewitt Green (1856-1922).

(The above note was based largely on information from the website of Ringwood Manor: www.ringwoodmanor.org.)