Form and Content
In her gracefully written, well-researched, and informative study for young readers, Miriam Gurko would have close attention paid to the plural nouns in the title The Lives and Times of Peter Cooper. The varied activities of Cooper, who was ninety-two when he died, ranged from shop apprenticeships to the successive partnerships or ownerships of a dozen types of business to the founding of major enterprises. These accomplishments were always combined with dedication to his family’s affairs, to philanthropies, to his passion for invention, and later in life to the understanding of—as well as participation in—both local and national political and economic conflicts. The “times” of Cooper’s life spanned the years from just after the American Revolution, when the nation’s population of four million was composed overwhelmingly of farmers and the merchants who served them, into an era when the United States was poised on the brink of world industrial and financial supremacy. Metaphorically, Cooper had grown up with his country, at each step of the way contributing to its stock of business acumen, to its technologies, and to its civic and political enrichment. Indeed, as he intended, he embodied in character the loftiest virtues of republicanism: simplicity, dedication to calling, tolerance, generosity, fidelity, respect for learning, and duty to one’s community.
In this chronological narrative, Gurko surveys Cooper’s life from his...
(The entire section is 407 words.)