Peter Cooper (February 12, 1791 – April 4, 1883) was an American industrialist, inventor, philanthropist, and candidate for President of the United States.
Peter Cooper was born in New York City to a Dutch-American family. He had little formal schooling, and he worked in the family trade of hatmaking. He then worked as a coachmaker's apprentice, cabinet maker, and grocer. Then he was involved in the manufacturing and selling of cloth-shearing machines. He designed and built the first locomotive in the United States, the Tom Thumb. A home he lived in resides at the Old Bethpage Village Restoration in Nassau County, New York. In 2006, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
In 1840, he became an alderman in New York City. As a prosperous businessman, he conceived of the idea of having a free institute in New York, similar to the École Polytechnique (Polytechnical School) in Paris. He erected a building and endowed art schools for preparing young men and women of the working classes for business. In 1858, he presented the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art to the City of New York.