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Who is Peter Cooper? — Engineering History

August 15th, 2013

One of the most important inventions in American History was the steam locomotive. It revolutionized travel in the United States, and it made the relatively young country’s aspirations towards Manifest Destiny possible. Did you know the engineer responsible for this innovation — Peter Cooper — also developed Jell-O?

Peter Cooper’s Early Life and Hands-On Education

Born in 1791 in New York City, Peter Cooper tinkered with nearly everything in a variety of early jobs. He worked as a hat-maker, brewer, and a grocer among other positions before buying a glue factory in 1821. The factory quickly became profitable, allowing Cooper the time and resources to create new glue and other formulas, one of which became the freeze-dried gelatin that his wife branded as Jell-O.

The profits from the glue factory allowed him to speculate on land expected to show an increase in value because of its proximity to the fledgling B&O Railroad. Soon after that he discovered ore on his land and realizing that railroads needed railroad ties, Cooper put two and two together.

Tom Thumb Revolutionizes the World

There was some doubt that the current British steam locomotive design could work on the curved incline track typical of the B&O. Undaunted, Cooper designed and built the Tom Thumb locomotive from a variety of spare parts and old engines. The locomotive was a rousing success, made the B&O into a transportation giant, and Cooper became a very rich man.

Despite his wealth, which continued to grow through smart investments, Cooper lived a simple life without the luxurious trappings of his peers in New York City. He became active in the anti-slavery movement, and used his vast resources for the founding of the Cooper Union for Science and Advancement, a private college in Manhattan still educating fledgling engineers and scientists today.

There is little doubt that Peter Cooper is an important figure in American History who doesn’t receive the fame he deserves. If Cooper’s exploits in engineering inspires you to take your career to the next level, talk to the experts at The Talley Group, one of the top engineering staffing companies in the Seattle area. They have the recruiters on hand to help find a position to challenge you as an engineer. If you are looking for engineer recruiters in Seattle, contact us today!

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