If you’re planning to travel this Columbus Day holiday (and it was, like, 1835), you might thank this guy for building the first steam locomotive in the US: Peter Cooper—inventor, industrialist, and one-time Presidential candidate.
But, most important for our purposes, Cooper was the owner of a truly remarkable beard. Impressive facial hair is an asset to any Presidential candidate, but we are sorry to report that Peter Cooper’s beard did not win him the 1876 election, when he ran for the Greenback Party. Still, at the age of 85, Cooper is the oldest person to be nominated for the Presidential office.
Cooper was an active player in the anti-slavery movement and a firm believer that practical education in mechanical arts in sciences should be free. In 1853, he founded the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, a private college in New York that offered night classes to both men and women. Today, Cooper Union is still seen as one of the leading American colleges in the fields of architecture, engineering, and art. It continues Cooper’s belief that college education should be free: all its students attend with a full scholarship.