Cooper Union offers public exhibitions, lectures, literary readings, film screenings and live performances related to its faculties of art, architecture, graphic design, engineering, languages, writing and cultural studies.
The college was established in 1859 as the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art by Peter Cooper, an unschooled industrialist whose consortium laid the first trans-Atlantic cable. As a child Cooper had wanted to study science, but he found no New York institution that would help him. He never forgot the futility of that search. Success allowed him to create Cooper Union, one of the first colleges in the U.S. to offer full-tuition scholarships to all admitted students, as it still does today.
The college has distinguished schools of Architecture, Engineering and Art. Its high-rise brownstone building, completed in 1859, is the oldest existing structure in the U.S. framed with steel beams. Italianate Revival in style, it was designed by Frederick Peterson. Its Great Hall has been the site of speeches by presidential candidates Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant and Grover Cleveland; incumbent presidents Woodrow Wilson and Bill Clinton have also spoken.