Peter Cooper as Chemical Engineer:

The Invention of The Gelatin Dessert

 Drawing by Carla Diana (ME '89).  All rights reserved.
This page is dedicated to remembering the chemical experimentation of Peter Cooper, the founder of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art . Peter Cooper was a self-taught engineer, beloved philanthropist, presidential candidate and founder of the Cooper Union in New York City (the nation's first free institution of higher learning).

Cooper had a number of patents and inventions to his credit. Builder and inventor of the famous "Tom Thumb" protoytpe locomotive, which was used to demonstrate the potential of steam-powered rail transport to leaders of the American transportation industry, he also obtained the very first American patent for the manufacture of gelatin (1845). He subsequently established a number of other patents for its manufacture and established manufacturing standards for its production. Some time later (1895), Pearl B. Wait, a cough syrup manufacturer, bought the patent from Peter Cooper and adapted Cooper's gelatin dessert into an entirely prepackaged form, which his wife, May David Wait, named "Jell-O." The rest is history...

Lest we forget the ultimate origins of everybody's favorite food (even more popular than SPAM, believe it or not), the following pages are dedicated to presenting some archived information on his gelatin patents, the marketing of his gelatin products, and the manufacturing processes he developed. Original copies of all materials presented here can be examined in the Cooper Archives, which are located in the Cooper Union Library .

Since this page was originally established, those fine folks at the Kraft Foods Corporation have set up a useful History of Jell-O Page. Check it out!

You may also enjoy Chef Andy's web site, especially if you are looking for recipes...

On to the first page

If you have comments or suggestions, email me.

More information about Peter Cooper can be found here.

Click here to go to the Chemistry Department Home Page.

These pages were first composed and posted on the Internet on April 7, 1997.

©1997-2009 Prof. Robert Q. Topper. All rights reserved to written materials on these pages.