Cooper-Hewitt Papers received from the Passaic County Historical Society
Includes papers from circa 1830-1940, chiefly 1850s-1905.
Abram Stevens Hewitt (1822-1903) was an iron manufacturer, U.S. Congressman, and Mayor of New York City, as well as a guiding influence on Cooper Union from its founding until his death. While studying at Columbia University, Hewitt became friends with Edward Cooper, son of Peter Cooper. In 1845, Hewitt and Edward Cooper established the Trenton Iron Works, with backing from Peter Cooper, and the connection between the two families was cemented when Abram Hewitt married Peter Cooper’s daughter, Sarah Amelia in 1855. Hewitt and Edward Cooper established Cooper, Hewitt & Company, with offices at 17 Burling Slip, New York City, as the business through which the rails, beams, and wire produced by the Trenton Iron Works and related companies were offered to the public.
Abram Hewitt’s career in public life began in 1867 when he was appointed as a commissioner to the Paris Exposition. In 1871 he joined with Samuel J. Tilden and Edward Cooper in a campaign against the notorious “Tweed ring.” Following the defeat of William Marcy Tweed and his associates, Hewitt participated in the reorganization of Tammany Hall. Hewitt served five terms as a representative to Congress, from 1875-1878 and 1881-1886. He also served as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1876-1878. During his term as Mayor of New York City (1886-1888), Hewitt was instrumental in the movement toward small parks in the city, and he developed the funding and construction plan for the city’s first subway system. Hewitt was a trustee and Secretary of The Cooper Union from its inception until his death, and also a trustee of Columbia University. Hewitt died in 1903 at the age of 81.
Included in the boxes of documents transferred to Cooper Union are papers from Abram S. Hewitt's terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and his term as Mayor of New York City, and documents from Cooper, Hewitt & Company, including transactions during the Civil War to procure gun iron for the United States government; business correspondence with John Roebling and his wire factory in Brooklyn, and correspondence pertaining to railroads. Also included is some Cooper-Hewitt family correspondence, and material relating to Hewitt's real estate interests, telegraph companies, and the iron industry. A file on Hewitt's philanthropic interests documents his involvement with the Burke Foundation. The files also include personal correspondence of Peter Cooper, Abram S. Hewitt and Edward Cooper; documents relating to the founding and development of Cooper Union; and papers documenting Abram S. Hewitt's involvement with his own alma mater, Columbia University.
These papers were lent in the 1920s by the daughters of Abram S. Hewitt to Albert Henry Heusser, who was contracted by the Hewitt family to write a biography of Abram S. Hewitt. Following the deaths of Heusser in 1929 and the last Hewitt granddaughter in 1930, the papers remained in Heusser’s home until they were transferred by Heusser’s mother to the Passaic County Historical Society. Decades later, Trustee Edward A. Smyk of the Historical Society began the research that would lead to a search for an appropriate repository for the papers. After four years of negotiations, which also involved the Library of Congress as a potential repository, the Trustees of the Passaic County Historical Society voted to transfer the papers to the Cooper Archives. This decision was largely due to the fact that the Cooper Archives already contained a closely-related collection of Cooper-Hewitt family papers, received by the Archives in 1938 following the death of Abram Hewitt’s grandson Erskine Hewitt. On October 1, 2008, 30 boxes of Cooper-Hewitt family papers were transferred from The Passaic County Historical Society to The Cooper Archives. The contents of the 30 boxes have since been analyzed and consolidated into the 23 boxes described in this finding aid.
Extent of Collection: 23 boxes; 29.7 linear feet.
Finding aid prepared by Mitsuko Brooks and Carol Salomon, June 2010.
The Cooper-Hewitt Papers are held in the Cooper Archives of the Cooper Union Library, 7 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10003.
Archives materials are available to interested researchers by appointment.
Please contact Carol Salomon, Archives Librarian: