Peter Cooper (American National Biography)

Edward L. Lach, Jr., "Cooper, Peter," American National Biography Online, February 2000,
Cooper had a long history of public service. He served on the Board of Aldermen of New York City (assistant alderman, 1828-1831, and alderman, 1840-1841), becoming a tireless advocate of municipal innovations such as professional police and fire departments, public education, and a clean water supply for the city. Becoming conversant with economic issues in his later years, he even ran for president in 1876 as the candidate of the Greenback party.

Cooper was a prolific inventor. In addition to his work on the steam engine and cloth-shearing machine, he also obtained patents on items as diverse as a musical cradle, an endless chain device for towing boats, and an egg desiccator. He was hampered by his lack of formal education, however, and his lack of a scientific background led him to waste much time on inventions that were unworkable or at least impractical. Realizing the deficiency of his education, he sought to help other working-class people better themselves.
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