Maysles Cinema and New York Women in Film & Television


Mechanic To Millionaire: The Peter Cooper Story



Wine and Cheese Reception



Mechanic To Millionaire: The Peter Cooper Story

Janet Gardner, 2010, 57 min.

This is the rags-to-riches story of Peter Cooper, a remarkable inventor, industrialist and philanthropist during the 19th Century who used his wealth and influence to foster social justice. Peter Cooper's name may not carry the same cache and instant recognition as Andrew Carnegie or John D. Rockefeller, but his contributions to American society are arguably just as, if not more, important. Peter Cooper built the first American steam locomotive and was instrumental in laying the first trans-Atlantic cable. Every day millions of children enjoy one of Cooper's first innovations, an instant gelatin, now known as "Jell-O". This is his story.

A panel discussion will follow the screening on Peter Cooper's contributions to NYC and to the nation, his vision of social justice, and his dream of free working people, regardless of race, gender, religion or class. Also some of Cooper Union's famous speakers will be discussed, including Victoria Woodhull, who advocated free love in the Great Hall of the Cooper Union, and who was the first woman stock broker as well as the first woman to run for President of the U.S. (she's also featured prominently in the film).  

Panelists include filmmaker Janet Gardner, author John Steele Gordon ( The Scarlet Woman of Wall Street, An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power), and Marcia Rock, the director of the News & Documentary department at NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.