Third Street above Linden Street & Friends Avenue Above Linden Street

The Cooper School
circa 1910

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The Cooper & Grant Schools

The Cooper & Grant Schools

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The COOPER SCHOOL opened with great fanfare in 1874. In the fall of 1871 the West Jersey Press bemoaned, "It is much to the regret that so little interest is shown by parents as a general thing for the education of their children ... , Scholars drop in one by one day after day, and it is often not until November that the schools are full and thoroughly organized." They alluded to following the lead of New Hampshire, which just passed a compulsory education law. Over the summer, Camden's Board of Education repaired and enlarged many of its schools. 

During the 1870s, school enrollment increased rapidly and the board was constantly looking to purchase more land. The 1871-1872 school year began with 4,588 pupils on the register, but the average daily attendance was only 2,762 pupils. The North Baptist Church offered to rent its building to the board for a primary school, provided the Church could use the facility for Sabbath school purposes. The board declined the offer since the rules prohibited using the schools for any other purpose, but secular education. Instead, they purchased three parcels of land. One on Third Street, between Pearl and Elm Streets; a second, on Mount Vernon Street, above Broadway; and a third, at the northeast corner of Third and Walnut Streets.

The new schoolhouse on Mount Vernon Street. near Broadway opened in January 1872, with 316 students. Mr. William Armstead became the first Principal of the Mount Vernon Street (colored) School

The economic expansion, which began after the Civil War, ended in 1873.The consequence was a nation-wide economic depression that lasted more than five years. Yet, it was during this period of economic depression that the board of education continued to buy land, and erect schoolhouses. With the opening of school in September 1873, the board requested the Legislature to approve $50,000 in bonds to build a new schoolhouse in the first ward, at Third Street, south of Pearl Street, which extended as far back as Friends Avenue. Board Member Austin moved to start construction immediately, but James Cassady wanted to delay construction since the board had a deficit of $28,000, and did not want to market bonds in this financial condition. Mr. Mahlon Harden demanded building the schoolhouse now, so that the unemployed could work. Bidding and construction began immediately, and when completed, the school stood three-stories high with 14-foot ceilings, was made of pressed brick with granite trimmings, and able to hold 850 scholars. 

This school, called the Cooper School, in honor of William Cooper and his descendents opened in 1874. The Coopers owned the land on which the board erected the school since colonial days. The Cooper Schoolhouse opened on Saturday afternoon, October 31, 1874. A children's chorus sang, dignitaries spoke, as did Camden resident, Walt Whitman, who recited an original poem written for the occasion entitled, "An Old Man's Thought of School". The Cooper Schoolhouse opened with two principals, William H. Samuel, Principal of the boys' department and Kate Rudderow, Principal of the girls' department. The school had 14 rooms and an opening enrollment of 786 students. The average class size was 50, near the permitted maximum at the time.

Even after the Cooper School opened, the school district needed more pnmary-level classrooms. Yet, despite the lack of classroom space, State Superintendent of Instruction Apgar reported that Camden was in every respect a first-ranked school system in the state. Journalist and school board member Henry Bonsall wanted two additional schools built, in short order three were built- the Fetters, Mulford, and Mickle Schools. By 1878 overcrowding gave cause for another school to be built, the North East School. The Cooper School's girls divisions were full and no graduations into grammar school could take place.

Between 1892 and 1900 Camden's schools were run not by the elected Board of Education, but by an appointed Commission of Public Instruction. This was highly unpopular and the Board of education was brought back at the first opportunity. Camden's school age population growing rapidly and by June 1897, the commission heard so much about the need for schools and classrooms that they agreed to add enough rooms to hold 1,000 more pupils. They awarded construction contracts for classroom additions to the Cooper School, which became a separate building on the Cooper School grounds, as well as to the Central and Linden Schools. The commission gave the new building on the Cooper School grounds the name U. S. Grant School, after the 18th President, on August 30, and officially accepted it in December. The school opened as a mixed grammar school under the direction of Principal S. E. Manness and his assistant, Helen A. Westcott, daughter of Mayor John L. Westcott. Because of their close proximity, people called the two schools the Cooper-Grant School. The State Commissioner of Education Baxter notified Bergen, in May 1898, that hereafter districts must submit plans for any school building to the State Board for suggestions and criticisms, before awarding construction contracts.

In April of 1899 Camden annexed neighboring Stockton Township. Stockton's Supervising Principal, Joseph J. Stewart, replaced S.E. Maness, who had been principal at Cooper and also was one of the school district's city supervisor assistants. 

With the opening of schools in 1901, the Cooper, Stevens, Fetters, and Mulford schools became grammar schools, and the principals of these schools had their time divided in half between teaching and supervision. Mary A. Burrough, Principal of the North East School, became the supervisor of the Linden and Read Schools, and she received an assistant to help with her administrative duties. The Broadway School consolidated its boys' and girls' divisions under the direction of one principal, Miss Lizzie Anderson, and Mickle School's Principal, Miss Elizabeth West, directed both the Mickle and Evered Schools. Because the Cooper and Grant Schools were in close proximity, the superintendent sent the lower grades to the Grant School and the upper grades to the Cooper School.  Later, the board consolidated the Harrison School and its annex under one principal.

In late June 1937, the board changed an application for alterations and additions from the Mount Vernon School to the C. A. Bergen School. They also applied for a $925,000 loan for a new school in the fourth ward, and for modernizing the Cooper and Grant Schools. The loan never materialized, and this led to the formation of new civic committees and coalitions. Mr. Ventorino Francesconi, representing the Camden Citizens Taxpayers League, and the Fourth Ward Democratic Club of Camden, demanded a new school to replace the aging schools near the center of the city. Francesconi was incensed that district administration told him that the board made application for a new school through the federal government, but when he wrote to Washington, he learned that no application was on file. He declared, "You know that that section is known, perhaps, as the slums of the City of Camden, but unless something IS done in the way of a new school, I believe that children in our section will perhaps go on a school strike." He insisted that not only was the school a firetrap, but

“I am going to show you some pictures we took down there, showing the facilities. The first picture is of the [Stevens] School itself. Eighteen years ago, I went to that school and they were patching it .... This second picture shows the facilities being used by the girls-the roof is coming down, water on the floor, no seats. The third picture shows the facilities being used by the boys. I would not want my child to use these facilities, and I am sure that none of the members of the Board would want your children to use them .... The last picture is ... of the inside. This shows the plaster coming off the walls. It has been patched up several times before. A WPA Project is working there now.

Shaw informed Francesconi that board did submit an application in 1938, and showed him a letter from the PWA. In April 1939, the WPA notified the board that they approved the board's application for improvements to Central, Central Annex, Mickle, Yorkship, Stevens, and H. B. Wilson Schools.

IN January of 1948 Superintendent of Schools Dr. Leon N. Neulen created a committee to study consolidating students and closing schools in order to reduce maintenance and operating costs. They brought back a proposal for closing the Mulford school, sending its students to Fetters and Kaighn Schools and closing the Central School Annex by transferring its students to the Stevens School. They suggested not building an addition to the Sumner School which was operating at capacity, by send 109 the students to the Mickle School, and transferring Cooper School's eighth grade to Burrough Junior High, Stevens School's seventh and eighth grades to Hatch Junior High, along with the eighth graders from Fetters School. The Mount Vernon School officially closed on July 27, 1948, and the superintendent reassigned its 496 students to Sumner School. He reassigned Principal Josiah C. Conwell as Principal of the Bergen School, and transferred the opportunity school (the new name for the correction school), located in the Mount Vernon School, to the Starr School.

The Cooper-Grant Schools continued to serve the children of Camden as late as the fall of 1977. The schools eventually fell to the wreckers ball as Rutgers University swallowed up building after building and block after block between Cooper and Pearl Streets west of North 5th Street. The schools are long gone, but the name Cooper-Grant lives on, as it has become the name most recognized when referring to that particular part of the City of Camden. 

Teacher Assignments & Transfers - June 22, 1933

An Old Man's Thought of School

by Walt Whitman

[For the Inauguration of the Cooper Public School, Camden, New Jersey, 1874]

An old man's thought of school,
An old man gathering youthful memories and blooms that youth itself cannot.
Now only do I know you,
O fair auroral skies--O morning dew upon the grass!
And these I see, these sparkling eyes,
These stores of mystic meaning, these young lives,
Building, equipping like a fleet of ships, immortal ships,
Soon to sail out over the measureless seas,
On the soul's voyage.
Only a lot of boys and girls?
Only the tiresome spelling, writing, ciphering classes?
Only a public school?
Ah more, infinitely more;
(As George Fox rais'd his warning cry, "Is it this pile of brick and mortar, these dead floors, windows, rails, you call the church?
Why this is not the church at all--the church is living, ever living souls.")
And you America,
Cast you the real reckoning for your present?
The lights and shadows of your future, good or evil?
To girlhood, boyhood look, the teacher and the school.

Camden Courier-Post - February 1 1, 1938

41st Anniversary Will Be Observed by Broadcast in Afternoon
4th Annual Child Welfare Institute Being Planned for April

The desire to carry on toward the goal envisioned by founders of the Parent-Teacher Association will be emphasized throughout the country in honor of the 41st anniversary of the National Congress of Parents and Teachers.

A Founders Day broadcast will be heard on the Parent-Teacher Radio Forum next Wednesday from 4.30-5 p. m. over the NBC blue network. 

Mrs. Percy Powell, Mrs. Fred M. Raymond and Miss Mary England are in charge of the program.

One of the vital topics to be considered that day is "What needs to be 
done for children today?"

The celebration of Founders Day started by Mrs. David O. Mears in 1910, thirteen years after the organization of the National Congress of Mothers, and the "birthday gifts" from local units are used for the extension of this service to childhood so that it may be carried to every girl and every boy in the country. 


Mrs. Herbert Schoellkopf, county Americanization chairman, urges every parent-teacher member to display the American flag on three important birthdays being celebrated this month, namely: Lincoln's  Birthday, February 12; Founder's Day, February 17, and Washington's Birthday, February 22.

Word has been received of the cancellation of the "Homemakers Forum" on station WOR. The series of talks on the adolescent which were to have been given on this program, are available in mimeographed form from the office of the home demonstration agent, Miss Mary M. Leaming, room 208, courthouse, Camden. In requesting this information, the name of the particular talk desired and the definite number of copies needed should be specked.

Parent-Teacher members are looking forward to the fourth annual Child Welfare Institute to be held in April. Plans for this institute are being formulated by Albert M. Bean, superintendent of Camden county schools, who is general chairman. The theme this year will be "Guidance" being divided in four classes pertaining to career, character, community and health.

Guest Speaker

MRS. MORRIS FOULK Director of the southern P. T. A. district and second
vice president of the New Jersey Parents and Teachers Congress, who was guest
speaker at the Garfield School, Camden, P. T. A. meeting: last night.


Broadway — Mrs. Ralph Jones, county magazine chairman, was the guest speaker at the meeting Tuesday night. A playlet in commemoration of Founder's Day was presented by a group from the Northeast-Sewell association. Mrs. Thomas Melchore presided. Mrs. George Lee, welfare chairman, has made arrangements for an industrial tour on February 21. Mrs. Walter Gross attended the meeting of the Home Demonstration Extension on Monday. Mrs. C. Fred Becker, parent discussion group  leader, is holding a meeting in the school on Tuesday at 1.30 p. m. A donation of $1.25 was approved to be given the recreation committee toward the New York trip of the winners in the sewing contest held recently.

CassadyMrs. M. Moullette, Summer round up chairman, has appointed a committee to assist her in her work. They are Mrs. E. Hudson, president; Mrs. R. Bowen, vice president; Mrs. H. Mount,  secretary; Mrs. A. Reinhold and G. McGrath Kershaw. The executive committee will hold a meeting next Wednesday at the home of Mrs. K. Hudson at 8 o'clock.

Cooper—Health night was held at the regular meeting Monday. Mrs. G. Kramer, county health chairman, spoke on the importance of correct food for children. A play .was presented by the Seventh grade English class, under the direction of Miss E. Hanna. A violin solo was rendered by Miss A. Claypool, accompanied at the piano by Miss V. Merwall. An educational trip has been planned for this afternoon at 1.30.

Cramer — The county president's message echoes from the release were read by Mrs. William Rowntree, president, at the meeting last week. A gift of $1.25 was sent to the committee on the Doll Dressing Contest. Mrs. Arthur Fichter, membership chairman; Mrs. Fred Creager, welfare  chairman, and Mrs. William Rowntree, president, attended the city group meeting last week. The executive committee will meet at the home of Barney Brown, vice president, 2566 Baird boulevard, on Tuesday night at 8 o'clock. The association is sponsoring a three-act comedy, "Here Comes Charlie," to be given by the Queen Esther Society of Asbury M. E. church, on Thursday night, February 17, at 8 o'clock in the school auditorium.

H. H. Davis—Members of the discussion group met in the school yesterday under the leadership of Mrs. William Allen, discussion group chairman, followed by rehearsal for the Founder's Day play arranged by Miss Kathleen Willetts, Founder's Day chairman. A candle lighting ceremony will also be given in observance of Founder's Day, at the meeting Thursday. Calvin Chambers will compile the publicity record book to be displayed at the annual luncheon. A trip to an industrial plant is planned for next Wednesday afternoon. A bus will leave the school at 1 p. m.

Dudley—Mrs. Elizabeth James and Mrs. Sarah Miller who were in charge of purchasing of basketball suits for the school team, reported that donations of $10.65 have been received from business people and friends. The executive committee has approved sending $1.25 to the Recreation Commission toward the New York trip for winners of the Doll Dressing Contest. Mrs. Clara Batten, chairman of the committee in charge of purchasing a new banner, has been authorized to purchase  same as soon as possible. Mrs. Florence Fiedler, newly appointed summer round-up chairman, is making plans for a thorough survey of the school neighborhood in order to enlist the aid of the parents of preschool children. Founders' Day exercises will be held tonight at the meeting.

McKinley—Harry Roye will speak at the meeting next Tuesday night. There will also be a Founders' Day ceremony. Those taking part will rehearse Friday at 3.30 a. m. at the school. Mrs. Rudolph Koerner will hold a study group meeting at her home next Wednesday at 2.00 p. m. Next Thursday a covered dish luncheon will be held by Mrs. R. Koerner and Mrs. Morris Sellers at the home of Mrs. R. Koerner, Fremont and Thirty-fifth street. On Thursday a meeting on character education will be  held at the school at 3.30 p. m. Miss Alice Butler, general secretary of the Y. W. C. A., fill speak.

Liberty & Starr—The meeting of the executive committee will be held ext Thursday night at the home of Mrs. Charles Baden, 954 Pine street. Mrs. Emily S. Hurd, publicity chairman, who served as chairman of the judging committee of the sewing contest sponsored by the Recreation commission, recently acted as judge f the sewing contest held by the T. A. at SS. Peter and Paul school on Tuesday 

Parkside—Mrs. Robert Simmington, council chairman, and Mrs. Rocco Palese, city chairman, gave brief talks at the meeting last Thursday night. Corsages were presented to them by Mrs. Sinclair Sondie, program chairman. Proceeds from the sale of a cake will be sent as a Founders' Day gift to he National Congress to be used or extension work.

North-East & Sewell — Mrs. Grace Dill, discussion group leader, attended the meeting in City Hall Monday under the direction of Miss Mary Leaming, home demonstration agent. A meeting of the discussion group was held in the Sewell school on Tuesday afternoon.

Sumner—The ways and means committee met at the home of Mrs. Grace Thomas, president, on Monday. Plans for various entertainments for the months of February, March and April were made. A membership campaign was launched. The topic of discussion at the meeting on Wednesday was "How the School Prepares for Home and Family Life."

H. C. Sharp—The regular meeting was held Friday. Gordon Carrigan presided. The Rev. Eric A. Osterle of Collingswood. discussed "Youth Problems." "Founders' Day" was observed, also the ninth birthday of this unit. A large birthday cake was lighted by the past presidents, and a large candle lighted by Miss Ethel Lee for Founders Day. Miss Lee was congratulated for her wonderful co-operation with all presidents and P.T.A. work; and was presented with a corsage of red roses. Each president in turn was presented with a red rose bud boutonniere by Miss Esther Bauer, who had charge of the program, assisted by Miss Maier and Mrs. Barton. Each president gave a "Reminiscent" of his service. They were as follows: Chester Knaub, Harry Krattenmaker, Herman Neissner, Gordon Carriean, Howard Stewart, Raymond Price.

Washington — Rev. E1wood A. Harrar spoke Tuesday at the Founders Day meeting Tuesday. Mrs. Howard Weeden, city juvenile probation chairman, was guest speaker. Miss Charlotte V. Dover, former principal of the school, was also a guest. A brief history of the association were called upon to speak. John White was the first president. He was followed by Jacob Grosmick, Mrs. Wilbur Cassedy, and the present president, Mrs. Richard Baker. Mrs. F. Kau ff man reports the cake sale a success. Mrs. William Mitchell reported plans to form a First Aid class that will be given a course by the Red Cross.

H. B. Wilson—Plans were made for the Founders Day program at the executive committee meeting Thursday afternoon in the school. Mrs. Lawrence Miller was named chairman. Miss Harriet Reiners will speak on character education at the next meeting. The basketball team was furnished with suits by the unit.

Yorkship—After a short business session with Mrs. James L. Ferris presiding, the monthly meeting was turned over to Mrs. J. P. McMillion, county chairman of alcohol and narcotics. Rev. H. S. Lepperd, of Fairview M. E. Church, spoke. Mrs David Pyper, chairman of ways and means, announced plans for a care party to be held on February 18. Proceeds will be used for expenses to carry on the monthly dances and Annual Field Day. The discussion group met today in teachers lunch  room. Mrs. Malcolm Steck, leader, will use as a topic "What Interests Adolescence." As a special feature for the monthly dances the organization has arranged to have a half hour of dancing instructions before the regular dancing begins. Attending the city group meeting at City Hall were Mrs. James L. Ferris, president; Mrs David Pyper, Mrs. M. Johnson, Mrs. Eleanor Wynn, Mrs. W. Clemmens Mrs. George Mehaffey and Mrs. Harold Turner attended.

Lincoln—Dr. Helen Schrak gave a talk on health and a report on health conditions of the children of this school at the last meeting. A Founders Day sketch was presented by Mrs. M. Beaumont, Mrs. G. Welmrich, Mrs. E. Schelpat and Mrs. K Conlin.

Camden Courier-Post
April 15, 1950










Miss Plotnick's 3rd Grade Class - 1957-1958
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First Row L-R: Norma Velez, Luis Rodriguez, Kathleen Lesnefsky, Jose Gralan, UNKNOWN, Sharon Welch Second Row: Cleone Chin, Lucille Passwater, UNKNOWN, UNKNOWN, Paul Wygocki, Jose Sanchez, Carmen Rivera, David Foster Third Row: Dawn Cobb, Gloria Castillo, Charles Wright (or Wyatt), Carmen Velez, UNKNOWN, Larry Appley, UNKNOWN, UNKNOWN Fourth Row: Irma Caban, Linda Varas, Luis Duran, Howard Reed, UNKNOWN, Leonard Wright (or Wyatt) Fifth Row: Pedro _____, Gerry Maldonado, UNKNOWN, _______ Castillo, George Reed 

Miss Norris' 4th Grade Class - 1958-1959
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First Row L-R: Jose Ortiz, Dawn Cobb, Norma Velez Second Row: Gerry Maldonado, Gloria Castillo, Rafael Domerich, Lucille Passwater, Cleone Chin Third Row: Irma Caban, UNKNOWN, Luis Rolon, Luis Duran, George Reed, Linda Varaa Fourth Row: UNKNOWN, UNKNOWN, Betzaida Rodriguez, Paul Wygocki, Lawrence "LArry" Appley, Luis Rivera Fifth Row: UNKNOWN, UNKNOWN, Luis Rodriguez, Jose Sanchez, Kathleen Lesnefsky, David Foster SIxth Row: UNKNOWN, UNKNOWN, UNKNOWN, UNKNOWN