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Cooper Family Papers, 1869-1991: Finding Aid

Published in November 2016

Summary Information

  • Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
  • Publisher Address:
    589 McNair Road
    Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
    Phone: 410-293-6917
  • Call number: MS 440
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: Cooper Family Papers
  • Dates: 1869-1991
  • Size: 0.21 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 1 half-manuscript box
  • Creator: Cooper Family
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: The Cooper Family Papers span three generations of the Cooper Family, from 1869 to 1991. The papers, compiled largely by Eleanor Burnham Cooper, focus on the lives and careers of Rear Admiral Philip Henry Cooper, his son and daughter-in-law Philip Benson and Eleanor Burnham Cooper, and his grandchildren Robert S. Cooper and Eleanor Burnham Cooper McKinney.

Biography of Philip Henry Cooper (1844-1912)

Philip Henry Cooper was a rear admiral in the United States Navy and a member of the United States Naval Academy Class of 1864. Philip Henry was born on August 5, 1844 to Hiram H. and Delia A. Cooper in Camden, New York. Appointed to the Naval Academy as a member of the Class of 1864 on September 28, 1860, Cooper was ordered into active duty aboard U.S.S. Richmond (Steam sloop-of-war) prior to graduation in October 1863. Following the end of the Civil War, Cooper was attached to the Naval Academy in 1867 for his first of three separate tours of duty at the Academy, culminating in a tour as Superintendent from 1894 to 1898, during which time a complete reconstruction of the Academy's facilities was commenced. During his lengthy career, Cooper also served on the Tehauntepec and Nicaragua Surveying Expedition and the Coast Survey, as well as holding commands aboard U.S.S. Swatara (Screw sloop-of-war), U.S.S. Chicago (Protected cruiser), and U.S.S. Iowa (Battleship: BB-4). Cooper's final commands came on the Asiatic Station, where he served as Senior Squadron Commander, Cruiser Squadron Commander, and Commander, Asiatic Station. Philip Henry Cooper retired on August 5, 1904 and died on December 29, 1912 in Morristown, New Jersey.

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Biography of Philip Benson Cooper (1877-1956) and Eleanor Burnham Cooper (1878-1969)

Philip Benson Cooper, son of Naval Academy Superintendent Rear Admiral Philip H. Cooper and Sarah Lawrence Stuart, was born on October 16, 1877 on Fort George Island, Florida. Having received an appointment as a midshipman to the Naval Academy, Philip Benson reported for examination on September 1, 1893, but failed the physical examination due to poor vision. Cooper subsequently entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1896 where he studied architecture, ultimately becoming President of the Class of 1900. While still at MIT, Philip Benson Cooper began studying under and working with architect Ernest Flagg, ultimately serving as Assistant Superintendent of Construction on the reconstruction of the U.S. Naval Academy.

On June 7, 1899, Philip Benson Cooper married Eleanor Burnham (born April 4, 1878 in York Township, Ohio), niece of Naval Academy professor William W. Hendrickson, at the Naval Academy Chapel. Philip Benson Cooper died May 18, 1956 and Eleanor Burnham Cooper died in 1969. Both were survived by their children, Eleanor Burnham Cooper McKinney (1900-1994) and Robert S. Cooper (1909-1992).

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Description of Contents

The Cooper Family Papers, comprising 0.21 linear feet of documentation, span three generations of the Cooper Family, from 1869 to 1991. The papers, compiled largely by Eleanor Burnham Cooper, focus on the lives and careers of Rear Admiral Philip Henry Cooper, his son and daughter-in-law Philip Benson and Eleanor Burnham Cooper, and his grandchildren Robert S. Cooper and Eleanor Burnham Cooper McKinney.

The collection consists primarily of photocopies of memoirs, scrapbooks, and correspondence.

The Cooper Family Papers are arranged alphabetically by document title into a single series with no subdivisions. The papers open with Eleanor Burnham Cooper's 1960-1961 memoirs, consisting of a photocopy of a typescript spanning from 1893 until 1961. The memoirs include entries on the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, Eleanor's life in and around the Naval Academy, the Spanish-American War, Cooper's Aunt Marion, Philip Benson Cooper's inability to attend the Naval Academy and subsequent studies at MIT, the death of architect Ernest Flagg, Philip Henry Cooper's appointment as Naval Academy Superintendent, the reconstruction of the Naval Academy by Ernest Flagg, Eleanor's marriage to Philip Benson Cooper, the birth of the Coopers' children, attempts to buy the Hammond-Harwood House, Philip Benson's work with the Sterling Salt Company, trips to Tim Pond, Italian medium Eusapia Palladino, life at 239 Prince George Street, Philip Benson's work as an architect in and around Annapolis, construction and life in the Annapolis community of Wardour, and Eleanor Burnham Cooper's later life. The memoirs include transcripts of numerous letters written by both Philip Benson Cooper and Philip Henry Cooper.

Eleanor Burnham Cooper Scrapbook #1 consists of clippings and telegrams regarding Eleanor Burnham's marriage to Philip Benson Cooper; letters from Philip Benson Cooper to his father, Philip Henry Cooper regarding topics such as Ernest Flagg's reconstruction of the Naval Academy and Philip Benson Cooper's attempt to buy the Hammond-Harwood House; clippings and notices pertaining to the deaths of Rear Admiral and Mrs. William W. Hendrickson; and a journal kept by Philip Henry Cooper in 1871 while aboard U.S.S. Congress.

Eleanor Burnham Cooper Scrapbook #2 consists predominantly of correspondence between Philip Benson Cooper and his father Rear Admiral Philip Henry Cooper. The letters pertain to Philip Benson Cooper's childhood, his studies at R. L. Werntz's Naval Academy Preparatory School and St. Paul's School in New Hampshire, the birth of Philip Benson's brother Leslie, Philip Henry's appointment as Superintendent of the Naval Academy, Ernest Flagg's reconstruction of the Naval Academy, Philip Benson's marriage to Eleanor Burnham, disappointment with the selection of Richard Wainwright as Naval Academy Superintendent, Italian medium Eusapia Palladino, and the health of Philip Benson's children.

The remainder of the collection consists of letters written by Robert S. Cooper to his sister, Eleanor Burnham Cooper McKinney, and to Naval Academy English Professor Michael Parker. The letters to Eleanor Burnham Cooper McKinney pertain to family matters, as well as current events at the Naval Academy and reminiscences of Naval Academy professors W. W. Hendrickson and William O. Stevens. The letters to Professor Michael Parker pertain to such topics as Philip Benson Cooper's work as an architect in Annapolis, attempts to purchase the Hammond-Harwood House, Baltimore political bosses John J. Kelly and Frank "Sonny" Mahon, and Naval Academy professors William Oliver Stevens, William W. Hendrickson, and Carroll Storrs Alden.

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The Cooper Family Papers are arranged alphabetically by document title.

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Access and Use


Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The Cooper Family Papers are the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information.

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Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition

Gift of Mrs. Cecil G. McKinney in December 1988 and Professor Michael Parker in November 2001. Accession Nos. 88-40 and 01-29.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Material

Additional material pertaining to Philip Henry Cooper and the Cooper Family is available in the Philip H. Cooper Papers, MS 326, Special Collections & Archives, Nimitz Library.

Materials Cataloged Separately

Two papers by Professor Michael Parker pertaining to Professor William Oliver Stevens have been removed from this collection and added to the Naval Academy Archives Reference Files.

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

Cooper Family Papers, MS 440

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Processing Information

This collection was processed by David D'Onofrio in November 2016. Finding aid written by David D'Onofrio in November 2016.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Cooper family
  • Cooper, Eleanor Burnham, 1878-1969
  • Cooper, Philip Benson, 1877-1956
  • Cooper, Philip Henry, 1844-1912
  • Cooper, Robert S., 1909-1992
  • Hendrickson, William Woodbury, 1844-1920
  • McKinney, Eleanor Burnham Cooper, 1900-1994
  • Stevens, William Oliver, 1878-1955
  • United States Naval Academy -- Buildings and grounds

Genre Terms

  • Correspondence
  • Manuscripts
  • Memoirs
  • Scrapbooks
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Eleanor Burnham Cooper Memoirs, 1960-1989

Box 1 Folder 2

Eleanor B. Cooper Scrapbook #1, 1869-1969

Box 1 Folder 3-4

Eleanor B. Cooper Scrapbook #2, 1878-1947

Box 1 Folder 5

Robert S. Cooper Letters to Eleanor Burnham Cooper McKinney, 1979-1989

Box 1 Folder 6

Robert S. Cooper Letters to Professor Michael Parker, 1989-1991

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