Too Long; Didn't Read
The successes of Peter Cooper's long and useful life are well known. Not so many are aware of his varied experience in the direction of failure, particularly in the field of invention. More than once he has found his best devices profitless because ahead of his time, or because of conditions, political or otherwise, which no one could foresee. He possessed the rare qualities, however, of pluck and perseverance, and when one thing failed he lost no time in trying something else. Before he was of age he had learned three trades—and he did not make his fortune at either.
In a familiar conversation with a Herald writer recently, Mr. Cooper related some of his early experiences, particularly with reference to enterprises which did not succeed. His father was a hatter, and as a boy young Cooper learned how to make a hat in all its parts. The father was not successful in business, and the hatter's trade seems to have offered little encouragement to the son. Accordingly he learned the art of making ale. Why he did not stick to that calling and become a millionaire brewer, Mr. Cooper does not say. Most probably the national taste for stronger tipple could not at that time be overcome, and ale could not compete with New England rum and apple-jack. The young mechanic next essayed the art of coachmaking, at which he served a full apprenticeship. At the end of his time his employer offered to set him up in business, but the offer was not accepted, through fear of losing another's money. He felt that if he took the money and lost it he would have to be a slave for life. So he quit coachmaking and went to work for a man at Hempstead, L. I., making machines for shearing cloth. In three years, on $1.50 a day, Cooper had saved enough money to buy his employer's patent. Immediately he introduced improvements in the manufacture and in the machine, which the war with England made a great demand for by excluding foreign cloths. At this time Cooper married. In due time the family numbered three, and the young father's inventive faculty was again called upon.