The Plumb trove includes five certificates of course completion from Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. The first lists courses in Algebra and Drawing From Copy for the academic year 1864-1865. It is signed by Joseph Wood, principal and Peter Cooper, president. Plumb enrolled at “Coopers” or “Cooper Institute” as he refers to it in his letters home, at age 17. Cooper Union was established in 1858 by the wealthy Scottish inventor, engineer, and industrialist Peter Cooper, sharing his wealth by making a practical education available to men and women who did not have the means to pay for a college or university course. Offering classes in engineering, architecture, and fine and applied arts, the school was highly competitive. Plumb attended for five terms and four of five times earned a “Certificate of the First Class.”. An inscription at the bottom of the certificate remarks that: “A Certificate of the First Class is granted for superior ability and diligent attention, a Certificate of the Second Class for ability and diligent attention, and a Certificate of the Third Class for attention and good conduct.” Interestingly, Plumb’s lone “Certificate of the Second Class” was given for coursework in perspective, a skill manifested to a high degree in his subsequent drawings and watercolors. In his letters home, Plumb mentions attending the courses after a full day of work at Hatch & Co lithography and engraving firm, and enjoying the Institute’s world-class free library. After returning home from four years of study in Paris, Plumb began teaching freehand drawing at Cooper Union, where he remained for thirty-four years. The collection includes a silver medal with its original note of appreciation bestowed on Plumb by Peter Cooper’s daughter.

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