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Identifier: R-MC 045

Lane Cooper Papers


  • 1881-1958

Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of personal papers and memorabilia of Lane Cooper, scholar, teacher, writer and humanitarian, from childhood to his death in 1959. The collection is approximately 5.4 cubic feet in size, and is composed of one carton (1 cubic foot) and 11 manuscript boxes.

The Papers of Lane Cooper are divided into five series: Childhood souvenirs and mementos (1 cubic foot and 3 folders); files documenting scholastic and travel experiences (2 cubic feet, 19 folders); literary works files (1.6 cubic feet, 34 folders); personal effects and papers of Mary Linn Cooper (0.4 cubic foot, 3 folders); and Lane Cooper miscellany files, including speeches, courses and correspondence (0.4 cubic foot, 3 folders).

The files containing personal souvenirs and mementos include: original school awards; report cards; penmanship notebooks; family pictures; obituaries; personal items, such as Mary Linn Cooper's glasses; playbills; and, historical events information, such as articles on Susan B. Anthony, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and other events of interest to Lane Cooper. Files documenting courses and literary works are in draft form.


5.4 Cubic Feet (12 manuscript boxes)

Language of Materials

Undetermined .


This collection consists of the personal papers and memorabilia of Lane Cooper, scholar, writer, a graduate of Rutgers College (1896) and professor of English language and literature at Cornell University, 1902-1943.

Biographical Sketch of Lane Cooper

Lane Cooper, eminent scholar, teacher and writer, was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey on December 14, 1875, the youngest of five children born to Jacob and Mary Linn Cooper. Two of the children born of this marriage died in their youth, Elizabeth (Bessie) and Theodore Woolsey. Lane Cooper's older brothers, William J. (1868-1941), a mechanical engineer with the Pennsylvania Railroad, and Drury Walls (1872-1957), a patent lawyer and a director of International Business Machines Corporation, as well as director of Republic Steel Corporation, were both successful in their own right. Jacob Cooper, Lane's father, reared in poverty on a farm in Southern Ohio, managed through heroic efforts to attain a doctorate from the University of Berlin (1854) and Master's degree from Yale in 1855. As Professor of Greek and Philosophy at Rutgers College, he was considered to be one of the most impressive academic figures of his day. Lane inherited his father's hunger for learning, and both were governed throughout their lives by a passion for knowledge.

An exemplary grammar school student at Bayard Street School (1886-1887), Lane Cooper received the Reward of Merit (1886) in addition to attaining perfect attendance and excellence in deportment. When he graduated from Rutgers College Preparatory School in 1892, he gave the commencement program oration. While attending Rutgers College (1892-1896), he received the Hart Prize in British Literature (1894) for his essay on Alexander Pope; the John Parker Memorial Prize for Mental Philosophy; the Upson Prize in American Literature for his essay on Nathaniel Hawthorne; the Appleton Memorial Prize in Moral Philosophy (1895); and the Classical Prize in Logic for his essay entitled, Does the Content of Logic Correspond with the Content of Existence? (1896). He became a member of Phi Beta Kappa during his college years and maintained an active role in his fraternity, Delta Phi, throughout his life. An athlete at Rutgers College, Lane held track records and retained an interest in this sport; in fact, he delighted to extreme old age in acting as inspector at intercollegiate contests. At the commencement ceremonies for his own graduation in 1896, Lane was excused from speaking in order to deliver the Rhetorical Honor Oration.

After graduating from Rutgers in 1896, Lane Cooper studied medicine for a year at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University. Finding that medicine was not suited to his interests, he transferred to the Yale Graduate School to study English Literature under Albert Stanburrough Cook and received a Masters degree in 1898. Cook had been a former student of Jacob Cooper, Lane's father, at Rutgers College. Despite differences in their ages, Jacob, Lane and A.S. Cook developed both personal and professional attachments that lasted all their lives. Lane considered the teachings of his father and A.S. Cook to be the most influential in effecting his life.

Lane Cooper taught school for a year (1898-1899) at St. James School in Washington County, Maryland, but decided his preference was to teach at the collegiate level. He returned to Rutgers College and obtained a Masters degree in 1899. He then attended Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universitat in Berlin and Universitat von Leipzig (1899-1902), where he earned a Ph.D. degree in English philology. For his dissertation, he wrote The Prose Poetry of Thomas de Quincey in German and in English. His class notebooks, written in German, English and French, attest to his linguistic abilities. While in Berlin, he studied under Alois Brandl and, in Leipzig, under R.P. Wulker. Later in life, he expressed a sense of gratitude to the geographer, Fredrich Ratzel, another influential teacher during his studies at Leipzig. During the summers, he traveled extensively to Zurich, France, and Greece visiting museums and libraries. He kept notes on archaeological digs, his impressions and the people he met.

In the spring of 1902, Lane returned to the United States and accepted an instructorship at Cornell University under James Morgan Hart. Encouraged by Hart, he developed a course in Wordsworth that led to his studies of the poet and eventually to the writing of the Concordance to Wordsworth (1911) which resulted in universal acclaim of scholars. Lane Cooper gained successive distinctions throughout his years at Cornell. He became an Assistant Professor in 1906, a Professor in 1915, and, in 1927, Chair of his own department, which he called The Comparative Study of Literature. He retained the title of Professor of the English Language and Literature, and he continued to train graduate students for the teaching of English. He served as John Wendell Anderson Professor of English from 1941 to 1943, when he became Professor Emeritus.

Throughout his career, Lane Cooper never took a sabbatical and often taught summer sessions as visiting professor at the University of Illinois (1914), Stanford University (1918), and the University of California (1919). In 1921, Rutgers bestowed upon him an Honorary degree of Doctor of Letters, and Wesleyan bestowed the Doctor of Humane Letters upon him in 1943.

In a summary of his life, which appeared in Necrology of the Faculty of Cornell University, 1959-1960 written by several of his former students, Lane Cooper was described as "a man of imposing presence and sedate carriage, he made an immediate impression by his fine and glancing eyes, beneath a domed forehead and in later years, silvered auburn hair, and by a resonant voice that penetrated with an edge of tension." He invested everything he did with an aura of importance and radiated interest and was seen to enhance the value of life. It has been written that he possessed a "magnetism" in his personality.

He was above all a teacher, considered to be one of the "greatest of his generation in America." He was adept at bringing students of "rather indifferent equipment to a high sense of the value of literature, learning and of a disciplined mind." He was mainly committed to the search for superior students for whom he could encourage and "urge forward with missionary zeal" to develop themselves through higher studies. Lane Cooper believed that an effective teacher must also be a productive scholar, thus he kept up a stream of publications throughout his career. He authored twenty seven books and nearly 200 articles (many of which were culled from the courses he taught), and he wrote essays and addresses on educational, moral and literary subjects. Two Views of Education (1922) and Evolution and Repentance (1935) and Late Harvest (1952), culled from a long series of essays and addresses, were published in collective volumes and reflect his views. His concordances of Wordsworth, Boethius, and the Latin Poems of Milton have been considered indispensable tools of scholarship. Recognizing that many students were failing to gain an adequate knowledge of Latin and Greek, he developed a course and produced for it a translation of Aristotle's Poetics, and Aristotle's Rhetoric, in addition to a number of dialogues of Plato. Other courses he developed include: a course in Middle English; a course in Principles of Literary Critics; a course in Dante in English; a course I Methods based on Boeckh, in German; a seminary course in Chaucer; and, in his later years, the General Reading course.

Lane Cooper never married. He retired after 41 years of teaching, thereafter devoting his time to his farm in the Town of Lansing. Prior to his death on November 27, 1959, he created a will, which included a document that made the residuary estate The Lane Cooper Fund in The New York Community Trust. The memorial came into existence in 1960. His wish was that income from the fund would provide the scholarship for "young students of superior character, attainments and promise, preferably young men . . . who aspire to become teachers in higher institutions of learning, of those subjects which are called the 'humanities'." It was his expressed hope that his estate would foster the memory, aims, and attainments of his father, Jacob Cooper, and of his cherished friend, A.S. Cook. The first six commemorative scholarships that have been established include two each at Cornell, Rutgers and Yale, the three universities where these men are memorialized.

A profound testimony to the memory of Lane Cooper by his former students can be seen on the campus of Cornell University, where the Lane Cooper Window is located on the south side of Sage Chapel. Saint Boethius (c.475-525), is depicted in this stained glass memorial. The window bears the following quotation from the Psalms, which was selected as "reflecting" Lane Cooper's temperament": "Light is sown for the righteous and gladness for the upright in heart."

Arrangement Note

These records are organized into five series: I. Childhood Souvenirs and Mementos. II. Scholastic & Travel Experiences. III. Literary Works. IV. Mary Linn Cooper. V. Correspondence, Speeches, Lectures and Class Notes.

Guide to the Papers of Lane Cooper, 1881-1958 R-MC 045
Edited Full Draft
Julia Fox
May 1998
Language of description note
Finding aid written inEnglish.

Revision Statements

  • June 3, 2004: cooper converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).

Part of the Rutgers University Archives Repository

Rutgers University Libraries
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
169 College Avenue
New Brunswick NJ 08901-1163
732-932-7012 (Fax)