James Fenimore Cooper Sesquicentennial Celebration

August 29-September 1, 1940 (Cooperstown, NY).

[May be reproduced for instructional use by individuals or institutions; commercial use prohibited.]


On August 29-September 1, 1940, celebrations were held in Cooperstown, New York, under the auspices of the New York State Historical Association, to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the arrival of James Fenimore Cooper in the fall of 1790, as an infant, in the Cooperstown his father had founded four years before. The ceremonies included:

The 41ˢᵗ Annual Meeting of the New York State Historical Association (August 29-31), at which scholarly papers were presented — two of them directly relevant to Cooper studies — many of which were subsequently published in New York History. The relevant two papers were:

  • Waldo T. Ellsworth (First National Bank of Cooperstown), Cooperstown’s First Bank. New York History, Vol. XXII, No. 4 (October 1941), pp. 401-410. History of the Otsego County Bank, where Cooper did his banking from 1835 until his death.
  • Robert McNulty (High School student, Glens Falls, N.Y.) Leatherstocking and the American Spirit. New York History, Vol. XXII, No. 1 (January 1941), pp. 46-51. Winner of the Cooper Essay Contest.

Sesquicentennial Exercises at the Cooper Grounds in Cooperstown (August 31), [recorded in New York History, Vol. XXII, No. 1 (January 1941), pp. 18-35, with photographs] focused on the unveiling (by a great-great-grandson) of the bronze statue of James Fenimore Cooper, by Victor Salvatore, at the site of Otsego Hall. New York History, in its January 1941 issue, pp. 5-14, described the The Cooperstown Meeting, including the downpour that dampened the unveiling. The celebrations included three addresses:

Cooper Stamp

Cooper stamp.

A memorial service at Christ Episcopal Church (September 1). with a memorial sermon delivered by Anson Phelps Stokes. [New York History, Vol. XXII, No. 1 (January 1941), pp. 36-45.]

Community Sing at the Otesaga Lawn.

Village Pageant, “Historical Cooperstown”, at Doubleday Field (August 31, September 1). See Pageant Program for synopsis and cast (including a large proportion of Cooperstown’s residents)

Finally, the United States Post Office on January 29, 1940, issued a 2 cent stamp, in the Famous American Writers series, commemorating James Fenimore Cooper (the only American stamp ever to do so).

Hugh C. MacDougall, James Fenimore Cooper Society (August 2000)

he Cooperstown Meeting

From New York History, Vol. XXII, No. 1 (January 1941), pp. 5-14

AT GARDEN CITY in September, 1939, the trustees of the NEW YORK STATE HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION broke precedent. Instead of waiting until their midwinter gathering to choose the place of the annual meeting, they then and there selected Cooperstown for 1940 and set August 29-September 1 as the date. The cordial insistence of Cooperstonians, the memory of a fine meeting on the shores of Lake Otsego in 1916, and the establishment of the Association’s beautiful new Central Quarters museum there in 1939 were factors influencing the trustees. But even more persuasive were the plans of a national committee headed by Mr. Owen D. Young to unveil a distinguished new statue of James Fenimore Cooper as part of a celebration to mark his arrival in Cooperstown as a year-old baby in I790, 150 years ago.

During the winter and summer months the Sesquicentennial Celebration became better known. On January 29 the first-day sale of the Cooper stamp in the Famous Americans series was held at Cooperstown, and the Asirociation issued a special cachet with a picture of Victor Salvatore’s new statue of the novelist, Soon afterwards Mr. Stephen C. Clark, of Cooperstown, presented the Association with the unique collection of busts of seventeen great Americans (including Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, and Martin Van Buren) made by means of life masks by John H.I. Browere in about 1825. In February an Essay Contest oa “Leatherstocking and the American Spirit” open tn students in the secondary schools of New Yorlr State was announced with substantial cash prizes and all-expense trips to Cooperstown for the winners. The Celebration also offered $175 in prizes for the best floats showing {6} incidents in Cooper’s Deerslayerand Pioneersin the parade of the Camporee sponsored by the Otschodela Council of the Boy Scouts of America at Cooperstown on June 1. On July Fourth, Mr. Carl Sandburg journeyed to Cooperstown to dedicate the Hall of the Life Masks before an audience of more than fifteen hundred.

During August the pace of preparation for the Celebration itself increased. The program was completed, a mammoth pageant was organized and rehearsals begun, and reservations poured in for the Otesaga Hotel, headquarters for the meeting, and overflowed into other hotels and into private homes. It began to be apparent that the Association’s meeting would be the largest in its long history.

Promptly at 10 A.M. On the morning of Thursday, August 29, President Dixon Ryan Fox called the forty-first annual meeting of the Association to order in the ball room of the Otesaga Hotel, and Mayor Rowan D. Spraker extended the welcome of the village to some four hundred persons. The program of the first session dealt with Cooperstown and Otsego County history. Mr. Waldo Ellsworth, of the staff of the First National Bank of Cooperstown, described the history of ” Cooperstown’s First Bank”, which flourished from 1830 to 1866. Fenimore Cooper was a depositor of this institution, and many of his checks remainin the files of the First National Bank, including one for a “mass meeting to thrash Henry Clay.” The career of “Jedidiah Peck — Statesman, Soldier, Preacher” was related in moving fashion by Mr. Throop Wilder, of Springfield Center and New York. Peck was known as the father of the common school system of New York State. Mrs. Della T. Lutes, Cooperstown author of The Country Kitchen and many other works, brought the session to a close with an excellent and kindly paper on “Erastus Beadle, the Dime Novel King.” Mrs. {7} Lutes praised the high moral tone of the dime novels Beadle published and urged Cooperstown to add his name to its already illustrious list of notables. After the session many of the Association members took a stroll about the village. Everywhere they found efforts had been put forth to make thern welcome. The whole village was decorated with flags, and the merchants had arranged special historical displays in their store windows. The Cooperstown Art Association had placed its annual show to coincide with the Association meeting, and the work of eighty artists was on display in one wing of the Otesaga. A book store specializing in books relating to Cooperstown had also been set up in the lobby.

The session that afternoon was held in the new auditorium of the Association in the Central Quarters museum, and once more the seating capacity was taxed. Mr. William A. Ritchie, archeologist of the Rochester Museum of Arts and Sciences, spoke on “The Present Status of Archeology in New York State,” and considerable discussion was provoked by his plea that archeological sites should be protected against amateur and commercial “digging.” Mr. Ray W. Irwin, of New York University, told of “Governor Tompkins,’The Farmer’s Boy’,” the first man to become governor of the state without either property or social position. “Roscoe Conkling and the Loomis Gang” by Mr. John B. Hoben, of Colgate University, recalled the escapades of those famous central New York horse thieves and of their nemesis, Constable Filkins.

After the meeting adjourned, the members of the Association walked through the Cooper Grounds park to “Fernleigh,” the home of Mr. and Mrs. Stephen C. Clark. There they sipped tea and wandered about the beautiful gardens, enjoying the pleasant companionship for which Association meetings are renowned.

On Thursday evening more than five hundred people crowded into the Otesaga’s ball room to witness an innova{8}tion on an Association program — a “Folklore Night.” Professor Harold W. Thompson of Cornell University, author of the best-selling Body, Boots and Britches, mounted the especially built platform to act as master of ceremonies. Two of his former students from Oneonta, Miss Lou Ella E. Gridley and Miss Janice C. Neal, shared with us the cream of their collections of folk anecdotes, epitaphs, and proverbs gathered in Otsego and neighboring Chenango County. Miss Valerie Deucher, director of Pathfinders’ Lodge on Otsego Lake, attired in appropriate dress, sang two quaint ballads of bygone days, “Barbara Alien” and “Lord Lovell.” But the most electrifying feature of the entire program, and indeed of the whole meeting, was the square dancing provided by a talented group from the Pierstown Grange. Mr. Lee Newcomer fiddled, his brother George strummed the guitar, Mr. Earl Laymon Sang his “calls” in stentorian tones, and Mr. and Mrs. Clifford Drake, Mr. and Mrs. William Laymon, Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Campbell, and Mr. and Mrs. Richard Alger danced expertly and gayly. Round and round went the dancers, obeying the demands of the “caller” or “prompter” for increasingly intricate steps. The skill of the whole exhibition brought the audience to its feet with roars of applause which did not subside until long after the performers had left the room. Professor Thompson then led the audience in the singing of several lively sea-chanteys “that Cooper may have sung.”

At the conclusion of this most entertaining session President Fox came forward to make the presentation of the NEW YORK STATE HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION medal to the weekly newspaper in the state with the best publication of local history. Here again precedent was broken when Mr. J. C. Peck, publisher and editor of the Cazenovia Republican, received the medal for the second successive year.

{9} The Friday morning session, devoted to “Local History in New York State,” was designed especially for official local historians, many of whom had driven to Cooperstown for the day. Genial Dr. Alexander C. Flick, who retired last year as state historian, presided, and excellent addresses were made by Mr. Hugh M. Flick, acting state historian, on “The Work of the Official Local I-Iistorian”; by Dr. Blake McKelvey, assistant Rochester city historian, on “The Rochester Experiment”; and by Mr. R. W. G. Vail, state librarian, on “The New York State Library and Local History.”

The lively discussion which followed ranged widely. Professor Milledge L. Bonham, Jr., of Hamilton College praised Dr. Flick highly for the way he had revived historical interest throughout the state and described the South Carolina system of gathering historical documents with volunteer workers. Professor Thompson of Cornell asked for information concerning folklore of the negroes in New York State and for materials suitable for dramatization by Professor Alexander M. Drummond of Cornell and his folk theatre. Miss Maud D. Brooks, librarian of the Olean Public Library, requested information concerning the history of the petroleum industry in the state. Mrs. Helen Fuller Orton, of Jackson Heights, author of many books for youth including her new story of the Schoharie frontier, appealed for the preservation of old letters and diaries which would throw light on the daily life of the pioneers. Dr. Cornelius F. McCarthy, of Auburn, urged county medical societies to look to their fast disappearing early records. Miss Minnie B. Wade, of Owego, recommended the displays in the New York State Building at the World’s Fair. Dr. Victor Hugo Paltsits, chief of the manuscript division of the New York Public Library, called Professor Thompson’s attention to their excellent negro and theatre collections.

{10} Mrs. George M. Van Duzer, of Warwick, described an early book of cattle ear and brand marks and also materials of interest to genealogists. Mr. John Davis Hatch, Jr., the new director of the Albany Institute of History and Art, told of the Institute’s interest in pictures, letters, diaries, and all other materials relating to the early artists of the upper Hudson Valley. Judge Richard C. S. Drummond, of Auburn, pointed out the valuable contribution that could be made by historical societies in coöperation with the public schools and related the experience of the Central New York Association of Local Historians. He also referred to the excellent work of Mr. Edward J. Sheehan, county archivist of Montgomery County. Mr. Sheehan arose to thank the many local historians who are lending him materials concerning that county so that they may be copied.

The Friday afternoon session, held at Central Quarters, proved to be one of the most delightful of the entire meeting. Dr. Ivor D. Spencer, of Brown University, showed that William L. Marcy, the New York governor who once said “To the victor belong the spoils” was a man of cultivation and taste. Mr. Arthur Pound, an editor of the Atlantic Monthly, then described the New York City man about town of the 1850’s or ‘60’s most cleverly in “Paul Nelson Spofford; the Seer among the Teacups.” Among other things, Mr. Spofford prophesied the use of the airplane, the glass brick, and the elevator. Professor Morris Bishop of Cornell University then led his appreciative audience “In the Footsteps of Mormon” with much subtle fervor and never a dull moment.

At the business meeting of the Association which followed (see the minutes after this article [not included online — Hugh C. McDougall), two new trustees were elected — Carlton J. H. Hayes, of Afton, professor of history in Columbia University, and Mr. Charles Messer Stow, of New -York, editor of the Antiques page of the New York Sun. The trustees’ meeting which followed was uneventful save for the resignation of Mr. Frederick B. Richards, of Glens Falls, as secretary-treasurer after a service of nearly forty years. Mr. Richards was elected first vice-president in place of Dr. John H. Finley deceased, and his duties were passed on to Dr. Edward P. Alexander, the Association’s director at Cooperstown. All other officers were reëected, Dr. Fox as president for the twelfth consecutive year.

On Friday evening a musical treat was provided for the Association when Ralph Kirlipatrick, internationally famous harpsichordist, assisted by Lois Porter, violinist, and Aaron Bodenhorn, violoncellist, was presented in a concert at the Otesaga ball room for the benefit of the Otsego County Children’s Society. The program was devoted to music of the eighteenth century.

Saturday morning brought disappointment to all because rain was coming down in torrents. The morning session, however, went according to schedule. Two papers were of value to economic historians especially: “New York’s Struggle for Champlain Valley Trade, 1783-1823,” By Mr. Chilton Williamson, of Columbia University, and “Legislative Regulation of New York Industrial Corporations, 1800-1850,” by Mr. Charles M. Haar, of the University of Wisconsin. Miss Janet MacFarlane, of the Rochester Museum of Arts and Sciences, gave an able presentation of “The Lady of Godey’s Passes in Review.” The bountiful but beautiful dresses were illustrated with colored slides and modeled by Miss Mable M. Schran, of the Museum’s staff, and by Miss Martha Anne Parker, Director Parker’s young daughter.

At this session also the winners of the Cooper Essay Contest were introduced. Robert McNulty, aged seventeen, of Glens Falls High School, received the first prize of $100; {12} William McEwen, Jr., eighteen, Charles E. Gorton High School, Yonkers, was awarded $75; Isabel Kelly, sixteen, St. Francis de Sales High School, Geneva, $50; and Peter W. Lyall, seventeen, Albany Academy, Albany, $25. Mr. McNulty read his essay on ” Leatherstocking and the American Spirit“ (see it: elsewhere in this issue). A special feature of this session was the presentation to Mr. Richards of a handsome traveling portfolio as a slight token of the Association’s appreciation for his long years of service as secretary and of the deep affection each member feels for him.

The drenching rain continued through the afternoon, but, despite it, the most distinguished single session in the history of the Association was held in the Alfred Coming Clark Gymnasium. Some seven hundred people managed to find seats there, and the invisible audience was much larger, since Station WGY of Schenectady broadcast the entire program.

Mr. Owen D. Young, of Van Hornesville, chairman of the Cooper Sesquicentennial Committee, presided. He first introduced President Fox, who presented an excellent and happily phrased analysis of Cooper’s attitude toward democracy. Then Chairman Young delivered a graceful introduction of the beloved Professor William Lyon Phelps of Yale, who entertained and instructed us for all too short a time with his wise and witty observations on Cooper as a writer. (All of these addresses are printed elsewhere in this issue.) The enormous crowd then went outdoors to the center of the Cooper Grounds, where, on the site of Otsego Hall, Cooper’s home, the new bronze statue in heroic size by Victor Salvatore was waiting to be unveiled. Young James Fenimore Cooper, nine-year-old son of Dr. and Mrs. Henry S. F. Cooper, of Cooperstown and New York, pulled the cord which brought into view the handsome likeness of his great-great-grandfather.

[Not recorded in New York History, but widely believed in Cooperstown, is the story that when the moment came to “pull the cord,” young Jimmy Cooper was nowhere to be found. Search parties were sent out, and quickly located him a block away at Church & Scott’s Drugstore, where he was being treated to ice cream by Dr. Marguerite S. (“Doc”) Cockett, Cooperstown artist, poet, and antique dealer, who had sought to rescue him from the boring speeches. — Hugh C. McDougall]

{13} The most disappointing feature of the rain was that it made necessary the postponement of the pageant, “Historic Cooperstown,” until the following night, and the great majority of Association members decided not to stay over. Those who did remain found the Sunday in Cooperstown a most pleasant one.

All of the Cooperstown churches had extended a cordial welcome to members of the Association, but Christ Episcopal Church arranged a Memorial Service for James Fenimore Cooper, who was a communicant of the parish and a member of the vestry. The Rev. Anson Phelps Stokes, of Stockbridge, Mass., former secretary of Yale University, was the guest preacher, and his forceful address on Cooper (printed elsewhere in this issue) added much to our understanding of the novelist’s personality.

In the afternoon one of the Community Sings for which Cooperstown has become renowned was held, led by Dr. Elmer A. Tidmarsh, of Union College, and accompanied by Lieutenant Roscoe C. Adams’ Tenth Infantry Band of Albany. Light showers made it necessary to hold the sing indoors, the various great rooms, porches, and halls of the Otesaga Hotel being pressed into service. Despite the unfavorable weather, more than thirty-five hundred people were within hearing of the leader, the largest crowd to ever attend one of the sings indoors.

Fortunately the rain stopped in the late afternoon, and plans to go on with the pageant were at once announced. The pageant, a John B. Rogers production directed by Mr. and Mrs. Milliam Pitt Root, was held at Doubleday Field with a cast of four hundred local people. It was a colorful affair and much more accurate historically than many such spectacles. The whole village, under the guidance of Mr. Alton G. Dunn, general chairman of committees, put a tremendous amount of work into the production and deserves full credit for the outcome.

{14} After a prologue ballet, the episodes of the pageant portrayed the Indians of the Otsego region; Colonel George Croghan, the first white settler; an Indian massacre such as the one at Cherry Valley in 1778; the camp of the Clinton Expedition against the Indians at Cooperstown in 1779; the arrival in 1785 of William Cooper, founder of the village and father of the novelist; the coming of the Cooper family, including the year-old James, in 1790; life in early Cooperstown, including one of Judge Cooper’s famed wrestling matches; an early church service conducted by Father Daniel Nash, first rector of Christ Church, rudely interrupted by a bear hunt; an early school scene with young James Cooper as one of the students; the marriage of Cooper and Susan De Lancey; the decision of Cooper to write a novel and scenes from his Deerslayerand Pioneers, which deal with the Otsego region; the invention of baseball on Doubleday Field by Abner Doubleday in 1839; and a grand finale spectacle. Since the performance was repeated on Monday night, more than four thousand people saw the pageant.

All in all, the forty-first annual meeting was a great success. About 250 persons were in residence at Cooperstown, and 393 persons signed Secretary Richards’ register in the lobby of the Otesaga, which is more than a hundred more than have registered at any previous meeting. The way the whole village of Cooperstown coiiperated to make our stay pleasant, the courtesy of Cooper Inn in throwing open the Otesaga for our use, the emphasis of the planning committee on variety and entertainment, and the holding of the Cooper Sesquicentennial exercises as one session of the program helped guarantee that the Cooperstown meeting will not soon be forgotten.

fficial Program

1941 Sesquicentennial Program

Program of the 1940 Cooper Sesquicentennial Cooperstown, N.Y.



under the Auspices of the


This program has been amplified by insertion of the speakers and topics at the substantive sessions, as taken from the detailed program sheet handed out at the meetings. — Hugh C. McDougall

Thursday, August Twenty-nine

10 a.m.          Opening Session. ... Otesaga Ball Room [Dr. Dixon Ryan Fox presiding] [ — — Welcome: Rowan D. Spraker, Mayor of Cooperstown] [ — — Waldo Ellsworth, Cooperstown, Cooperstown’s First Bank] [ — — Throop Wilder, Cooperstown, Jedidiah Peck — Statesman, Soldier, Preacher] [ — — Della T. Lutes, Cooperstown, Erastus Beadle, the Dime Novel King] 2:30 p.m.      Second Session. ... Museum and Art Gallery [Dr. Fox presiding] [ — — William A. Ritchie, Rochester Museum of Arts and Sciences, The Present Status of Archeology in New York State] [ — — Ray W. Irwin, New York University, Governor Tompkins, “The Farmer’s Boy”] [ — — John B. Hoben, Colgate University, Roscoe Conkling and the Loomis Gang]  4:30 p.m.      Reception (For members only). ... “Fernleigh” [ — — by Mr. and Mrs. Stephen C. Clark] 8:30 p.m.      Third Session. ... Otesaga Ball Room [ — — Harold W. Thompson, Cornell University, in charge of old time dances, ballads, and stories.]

Friday, August Thirty

10 a.m.          First Session [Local History in New York State]. ... Otesaga Hotel Ball Room [ — — Hugh M. Flick, Acting State Historian, The World of the Official Local Historian] [ — — Blake McKelvey, Assistant Rochester City Historian, The Rochester Experiment] [ — — R.W.G. Vail, State Librarian, The New York State Library and Local History] [ — — Discussion] 2:30 p.m.      Second Session. ... Museum and Art Gallery [Dr. Fox presiding] [ — — Ivor D. Spencer, Brown University, Governor William Learned March] [ — — Arthur Pound, The Atlantic Monthly, Paul Nelson Spofford; the Seer among the Teacups] [ — — Morris Bishop, Cornell University, In the Footsteps of Mormon] [4:30 p.m. ... Art Gallery and Museum  — — Business Meetings of the Association]  8:45 p.m.      Concert — Eighteenth-Century Music. ... Otesaga Ball Room [ — — Ralph Kirkpatrick, Harpischordist, and String Ensemble. This concert is for the benefit for the Otsego County Children’s Society. Tickets will cost $1.00 per person]

Saturday, August Thirty-one

10 a.m.          First Session. ... Otesaga Ball Room [Dr. Fox presiding] [ — — Robert McNulty, Glens Falls, Winner of the Cooper Essay Contest, Leatherstocking and the American Spirit]  [ — — Chilton Williamson, Columbia University, New York’s Struggle for Champlain Valley Trade, 1789-1823] [ — — Charles Haar, University of Wisconsin, The Corporation in Early New York State] [ — — Janet MacFarlane, Rochester Museum of Arts and Sciences, The Lady of Godey’s Passes in Review (With Colored Slides)] 3 p.m.           Unveiling Cooper Statue. ... Cooper Grounds Park [COOPER SESQUICENTENNIAL EXERCISES  — — Owen D. Young, Van Hornesville, Chairman  — — Dixon Ryan Fox, President, New York State Historical Association  — — William Lyon Phelps, Yale University  — — Unveiling of Victor Salvatore’s new statue of Cooper, by James Fenimore Cooper, great-great-grandson of the novelist] 8:30 p.m.      Huge Spectacle: “Historic Cooperstown”. ... Doubleday Field [. ... Produced by the John B. Rogers Company of Fostoria, Ohio. General admission tickets will sell for 50 cents per person and reserved seats for 25 cents additional] 

Sunday, September One

[All of the Cooperstown churches (Baptist, Methodist Episcopal, Presbyterian, Protestant Episcopal, Roman Catholic, and Universalist) extend a cordial welcome to members of the [New York State Historical] Association to attend their services. Christ Episcopal Church has arranged a Memorial Service (10:45 A.M.) for James Fenimore Cooper, who was a communicant of the parish and a member of the vestry. The Rev. Anson Phelps Stokes, D.D., LL.D., will be the guest preacher and deliver the memorial address.]  4 p.m.           Community Sing. ... Otesaga Lawn [. ... Led by Dr. Elmer Tidmarsh, of Union College, and accompanied by Adams’ Tenth Infantry Band of Albany] 8:30 p.m.      Huge Spectacle: “Historic Cooperstown”. ... Doubleday Field

The Story of Historic Cooperstown

A JOHN B. ROGERS PRODUCTION  under the direction of 

MR. AND MRS. WILLIAM PITT ROOT with a cast of four hundred at


Saturday and Sunday, August 31 and September 1 8:30 p.m. Daylight Saving Time 

[because of heavy rain on Aug. 31, the pageant was in fact held on September 1 and 2 — Hugh C. McDougall]

Prologue Ballet

Out of the shadows come dryads, spirits of the sky, land and flowers. They lift their veils and behold! out of chaos, order is brought. To an everlasting tempo we see the birth of living things, and as a triumphant climax, shaped and molded into a beautiful harmony of movement, appears man — The Red Man.

A Hunter’s Paradise

Little is known about Otsego’s real Indians. The Algonkins lived on the shores of the lake, probably six thousand years ago. In the thirteenth and fourteenth century another great group of Indians, the Iroquois, began to filter into New York State. About the year 1570 the five most powerful Iroquois tribes formed a confederation dedicated to peace, but they thought it necessary to conquer their enemies in order to make them peaceful. The Iroquois had great respect for the women of the tribe, and the term “squaw” was never used except as an expression of contempt. They lived in bark-covered huts called “long houses,” many of which were 200 feet in length. Grinding corn, tanning hides, gardening, basket weaving, hunting, and fishing were a few of the Indian’s many daily tasks.

The First White Settler

Colonel George Croghan, His Majesty’s deputy Indian superintendent for the Northern Department, was the earliest white resident at the foot of the lake. He had great dreams for the estate he laid out there in 1769, but eventually lost all of his land and died in poverty in 1782. George Croghan was, next to Sir William Johnson, the most important Indian agent of his generation. They were very fast friends and the colonel often entertained Johnson and his other comrades with good food, drink, and Irish melodies.

The Massacre

At Cherry Valley on November 11, 1778, one of history’s bloodiest massacres took place. Many are the tales of heroism, horror, and woe that have been handed down as a reminder of the courage that the gaining of American independence demanded. Springfield and other surrounding towns too felt the bite of the red man’s scalping knife. Sir John Johnson’s Greens, the Tories, and British regulars accompanied the Indians in repeated attacks upon the settlers.

Clinton’s Dam

In order to punish the British Indians, General Washington ordered General James Clinton to Otsego Lake and down the Susquehanna to Tioga Point to meet General Sullivan in command of the drive into the Indian country. Clinton ordered Otsego Lake’s outlet dammed to facilitate the passage of heavily laden batteaux when the dam should be broken.

William Cooper’s Arrival

In the autumn of 1785 William Cooper first came to Otsego, riding over the rough trail from Cherry Valley. This land speculator from New Jersey was charmed by the beauty of the spot and planned at once the settlement of Cooperstown. During the next year he acquired 40,000 acres of George Croghan’s patent including the site of the present village.

Mrs. Cooper and Family Arrive

In the Fall of 1790 Elizabeth (Fenimore) Cooper and her family came to take possession of the “Manor House” built by William Cooper at the foot of the lake. The family consisted at that time of seven children, of which James Fenimore, one year old, was the youngest. The story is told that Mrs. Cooper was reluctant to leave her home and friends in Burlington, New Jersey; and when the time came to go, she refused to budge from her chair. Her strong-minded husband had her loaded into a wagon, chair and all.

Life in Early Cooperstown

A street scene in early Cooperstown reveals many interesting activities. The Red Lion Tavern was perhaps the most prominent building. William Cooper was well liked by his settlers, and often engaged in wrestling bouts with them. Politics were prominent, too, at this time, but they had a harsher side than at present. Many a political argument ended in a fight. In 1809 Judge Cooper met his death upon leaving the old Capitol at Albany, when a political opponent struck him a fatal blow on the head.

An Early Church Service

In 1795 the Reverend Elisha Moseley, a Presbyterian, began to hold the first regular church services, and the Presbyterian church was built in 1805. Episcopalians held services in Cooperstown as early as 1797, and Father Daniel Nash was the first rector of Christ Church which was formally organized in 1811.

An Early School

Childhood was unusually pleasant at Otsego Lake with its wild beauty and the excitement of living near the frontier. Judge Cooper, James Fenimore’s father, and Master Cory, his schoolmaster, both helped to mold the novelist. James Fenimore entered Yale at the age of thirteen, but was dismissed during his Junior year because of a college prank. In 1806 he went to sea on a merchant vessel and in 1808 received a mid-shipman’s commission. He also served with a construction party on Lake Ontario, where he saw a new aspect of frontier life.

James Fenimore Cooper’s Marriage

In 1811 young Cooper was married to Susan De Lancey and resigned from the Navy. The De Lanceys were one of the great families of provincial New York. Following his marriage Cooper returned to Cooperstown less frequently but in 1834 he came back to live at Otsego Hall where he dwelt until his death in 1851.

Cooper, the Novelist

The conditions which turned young Cooper into the field of writing were, to say the least, unusual. Chancing to read a book of fiction that aroused his dislike, he declared himself able to produce a better one and upon being held to this, half jocularly, by his wife, he wrote Precautionpublished in 1820. It was mediocre work but praised by his friends. Thus encouraged he wrote the famous volumes the world is familiar with.

The Great American Sport

James Fenimore Cooper with is romances has given Cooperstown immortality, but the village has also gained international fame as the birthplace of Baseball. Fierce was the controversy over the origin of baseball until the testimony of Abner Graves, a mining engineer in Denver, convinced the Baseball Commission that baseball was founded in Cooperstown. Abner Doubleday born in Ballston Spa in 1819, was in 1839 attending an academy in Cooperstown when he first drew up the rules for the first game of baseball.

Grand Finale Spectacle

America is the crucible of all nations, all creeds, all races — the land of peace and freedom today, tomorrow, and for all time. The Wheel of Progress revolves as Cooperstown turns from the glorious past to the present and finally towards the triumphant future that stretches out before her.


Executive Committee

Alton G. Dunn. . ... General Chairman Clyde S. Becker. . ... Secretary-Treasurer Russell Blodgett. . ... Chairman, Finance Committee Rowan D. Spraker. . ... Chairman, Publicity Division Lester G. Bursey. . ... Chairman, Spectacle Division


Harold Hollis     Mrs. Robert W. Atwell     H.E. Pickett     Mrs. Ross Young


In the Order of Their Appearance

Indian Chief
Robert Kinney
Colonel Croghan
Rev. F.W. Connell
Sir William Johnson
Alfred R. Cobbett
Ann Potrikus
Lieutenant Prevost
John Chapman
John Christopher Hartwick
George Carley
Guy Johnson
Theodore Lettis
Indian Woman
Mrs. Elsie Strong
General Clinton
Edgar Hill
Parson Gano
Richard Shepard
William Cooper
Fred Dulin
Mrs. William Cooper
Mrs. Hanson Thomas
Father Nash
Harris L. Cooke
Young James Cooper
William Lindsay
James Fenimore Cooper
John F. Gordon, Jr.
Susan De Lancey
Mrs. John F. Gordon, Jr.
the Deerslayer
Bud Keough, William B. Coddington
Abner Doubleday
Frederick Fox
Ann Clarke, Marguerite Simmons, Jane Clarke, Vickey Salvatore, Cecile Van Yahres, Shirley Carpenter, Jane Kiley, Sally Thompson, Dotsie Smith, Doris Newell, Sally Symington, Jane Lutes, Susie Clarke, Peggy Hanlon, Thelma Campbell, June Bantham, Elsie Whipple, Martha Mooney, Rose Mary Williams, Florence Walrath, Nancy Carpenter, Jean Hoyt, Marie Potrikus, Barbara Hall, Harriet Morgan, Betsy Mooney, Gloria Boorn, Betty Mooney, Phyllis Peck, Patsy Smith, Betty Sullivan, Jody Coleman
Indian Maids
Mary Louise Gardner, Connie Armitage, Ann Trinkaus, Mary Kate Russell, Evelyn Benson, Marilyn Dulin, Dorothy Dann, Polly Stokes, Joan Balch, Lilly Busch, Alberta Welch, Patsy Adams, Madeline Chambers
Indian Braves
Joe Mogavero, Harold Sabatini, John Alexander, Guy VanPatten, Edward Moakler, Ernest Knapp, Lee Kio, Ed Treacy, Art Mills, Norman McComb, Robert Rowley, Donald McRorie, Bill Tyler, Harold Bowne, Richard Hacker, Charles Newell
Indian Women
Mrs. Ernest Knapp, Mrs. Elsie Strong, Sue Gross, Mrs. James Kennedy, Mrs. Guy VanPatten, Mrs. Jos. Macmanus, Mrs. Charles Kieler, Janet Chapman, Mrs. Ernest R. Lippitt, Nicky Sozzi, Mrs. Wm. McEwan
Indian Children
Jerry Clark, Jack Levante, Betty Jane Michaels
Pioneer Women
Agnes Slivsek, Hilda Slivsek, Mrs. Lynch, Mrs. Wart, Clara Holbrook, Betty Davidson, Ida Hampson, Dorothy Rousselot, Esther Gubenko, Helen Pegg, Mrs. H.H. Wilsey, Heddie McCaulif
Revolutionary Soldiers
T.H. Hughes, Al Bernardin, Michael Pochan, Stanley Wilson, A. Paige Strong, Dan St. John, Chris Muldron, Harley McDaniels, Bernard Becker, Jim Brigham, Robert Pickett, Floyd Page, Ralph Thomas, Lawrence Pickett, Mike Estes, F. Yaeger Hacker, H.E. Pickett, Jr.
Margaret Johnstone, Mrs. Wm. Coddington, Jack Thomas, Mrs. Robert Pike, Hanson Thomas
Raymond Armitage, Marion Campbell
Folger Oudin, Betty Pike, Allen Ryan, Isabelle Carter, Averell Carter, Nancy Ryan
Old Fashioned Men
Bruce Hall, James Rich, Leo Veitch, Robert Lutes, John O’Connell, Robert Smith, Rev. Charles Kramer, W.H. McDonald, Charles Root, Jack Nevil, Myron Farwell, Howard Potts, Anthony Travant
Old Fashioned Women
Agnes Michaels, Mrs. Robert Smith, Mrs. Robert Lutes, Ruth Michaels, Mrs. Edgar Hill, Mrs.Ida Herrick, Mrs. Allyn Wood, Mrs. Leo Veitch, Mrs. R.V. Tillapaugh, Mrs. Mary Hollis, Rose DeMayo, Mrs. Daniel Romano, Libby Clancy
School Boys
Lawrence Gray, Francis Ryan, Jerry Lutes, Fred Race, Jason Campbell, Jerry Clark, Billy Meyer, Don McKenna, John Thompson, Robert Crowley, Ed. Lynch, Don Reed, Bud Wells, Bob Clinton, Charles Coleman, Joe Mogavero, Richard Meyer, Jack Burnett, Jack Levante, John Becker, Bill Clark, Richard Rowley, LaRue Jones, Floyd Page, Archie St. John
School Girls
Susie Lutes, Melrose Johnston, Judy Johnston, Doris Wilson, Mary Lou Davidson
Colonial Men
Lawson Carter, Mark Cadwell, Chris Hansen, Ernest Knapp, Rosere Lewis, A. Paige Strong, F. Yaeger Hacker, Richard Shepard
Colonial Women
Jean Cadwell, Molly Neel, Mrs. Chris Hansen, Josephine Kurkowski, Mrs. Joseph Leary, Mrs. Ernest Knapp, Mrs. Elsie Strong, Katherine Davidson
Pioneer Men
V.M. Eggleston, George Gruby, Perry Hotaling, Howard Sherman, James Lynch, Stephen Lynch, Ricks Littell, Ray McGuinus, Leonce Rousselot, Edwin Pegg, H.H. Wilsey, Archie Mogavero
Nancy McKelvey, Susan Pendleton, Dorothy Potrikus, Marjorie Davidson, Geraldine Eckler, Shirley Eckler, Jackie Smith, Betty Dunn, Gloria Rowe, Jean Daniels, Carol Jones, Georgiana Mitchell, Gloria Thompson, Harriet Snyder, Judy Johnston, Mary Wolkonsky, Ruth Bridger, Alice Smith, Nancy Carpenter, Bonnie Lynch, Melrose Johnston, Lydia Acoutin, Beverly Swartout, Martha Mooney, June Smerski, Mary Tucci, Louise Snyder, Ann Harrison, Ellen Kiley, Jean Parrette, Jane Wedderspoon, Marie Vroman, Mary Gray, Joyce Daniels, Mary Bruce Pendleton, Betty Landry, Ruth Eckler, Ann Trinkaus, Aileen Johnson, Patty Boyd, Joan Veitch, Patsy Kimball, Jane Coleman, Jane Kiley, Elinor Stewart, Elinor Webster
U.S.A. Girls
Jean Butler, Jean Crowley, Patricia Butler, Connie Pierson, Helen Tucci, Patsy Fairchild, Connie Gray, Genevieve Smerski, Harriet Houck, Ruth Stewart, Frances Potrikus, Betty Levante, Barbara Webster, Barbara Rudd, Grace Parrette, Betty Roberts, Gloria McKelvey, Diane Smith, June Adams, Isabelle Carter
Pageant Choir
Lucy E. Cooke, Director
Accompanist: Ralph E. Finch
Soloist: Freda D. Hemming
Kay M. Bouton, Frances Cassort, Catherine Davidson, Elizabeth Delong, Mary Eckler, Maude E. Green, Freda D. Hemming, Dorothy Herrick, Frances L. Herrick, Lucile D. Houck, Anna R. Kramer, Carrie F. Lippitt, Mary A. McManus, Carmelita L. Parshall, Mary S. Rowley, Elfrieda E. Smith, Vivian E. Smith, Edith H. Stiles, Gertrude L. Welch, Harriette Willsey, Marie Winterholder
Peter Alotta, Fred Hogan, Stanley Murdock, Charles Stewart, Peter Viek
Madelyn Armitage, Emma Benton, Annie C. Bolton, Laura P. Cooke, Ruth D. Graham, Elsie D. Murdock, Clara L. Potts, Elizabeth Prine, Marjorie C. Stevens
Herbert Becker, Joseph C. Cooke, Harold J. Saxton, Carl H. Johnson, Hugh Winterholder, Peter Jones
Junior Choir
Lucile F. Clark, Geraldine Eckler, Ruth Eckler, Ellen Kiley, Audrey Parshall, Dorothy Potrikus, Genevieve Smerski, Diane Smith, Jaquita Smith, Mary Tucci, Katheryn Webb, Mary Wolkonsky, Aletta Mahan
Peter Alotta, Jr., James Stewart, Lawrence Stiles, Mervin Parshall, Letson Stiles, Jr., Douglas Clark, Burton Beals
Pianists for Rehearsals
Harry Safford, Ralph Finch, Mrs. Doris Buttita, Mrs. Chas. Coleman, Mr. Alfred Cobbett, Mrs. B.E. Morgan

New York History, Vol. XXII, No. 1 (January 1941), pp. 18-35



Cooperstown, New York.  August 31, 1940


OWEN B. YOUNG, Chairman
Van Hornesville, N.Y.
Governor General of Canada
Canajoharie, N.Y.
Hartwick College
Columbia University
New Haven, Conn.
University of Wisconsin
Hamilton College
New Haven, Conn.
Colgate University
Boonville, N.Y.
The New York Times
Union College
Albany, N.Y.
Columbia University
University of Minnesota
New Haven, Conn.
New York City

* Deceased


Dixon Ryan Fox

The Statue Unveiled

THE STATUE UNVEILED In the group at the left are President Dixon Ryan Fox; Chairman Owen D. Young shaking hands with James Fenimore Cooper, who unveiled the statue of his great-great-grandfather; Stephen Carlton Clark, of Coopers-town, a member of the Sesquicentennial Committee; and Victor Salvatore, the sculptor of the statue.  Photograph by Andreas Feininger, Black Star.

WE ARE looking this afternoon, for the first time, upon a noble statue. It is finely wrought by a master artist and adds a valued item to the inventory of our nation’s sculpture. It adorns this sylvan scene with a unique propriety, standing on the very ground its {19} subject lived upon. Once again Cooper looks on Cooper’s Town. It represents a generous concern not only to keep before its people, now and forever, the peculiar heritage they share but to stir as well the appreciative memory of all humanity that passes by.

Others on this program, far more competent than I, are celebrating Cooper as our first great novelist, interpreter of old-time American life in the wilderness and on the sea. He gave to his contemporaries at home and abroad a magnificent saga of personal courage and self-reliance, qualities that have made American life a contribution to the long and slow development of mankind. But Cooper was more than a word painter of the American scene and a teller of heroic tales. Of all his characters he was himself the most fascinating and the most instructive. The sculptor has given us not the imaginative artist sweeping his rich memory for the stuff of drama, but the resolute and fearless publicist defending what he felt to be the central principle of health in a republic: the recognized inequality of men.

Cooper valued himself as an honest, high-minded gentleman in a democracy. He thought he saw the status of such men being undermined by the fraud of demagogues, These cunning, selfish courtiers of the simple and the ignorant he apprehended as the parricides of democracy.

The man [he said] who is constantly telling the people that they are unerring in judgment, and that they have all power is a demagogue. The power of the people is limited by fundamental laws, or the constitution, the rights and opinions of the minority (in all but those cases in which a decision becomes indispensable) being just as sacred as the rights and opinions of the majority; else would a democracy be, as its enemies term it, the worst species of tyranny. In this instance the people are flattered, in order to be led; as in the kingdoms, the prince is blinded to his own defects, in order to extract favor from him. The demagogue always puts the people before the {20} constitution and the laws, in face of the obvious truth that the people have placed the constitution and the laws before themselves.

It would be absurd to call Cooper a democrat in the usual sense of that word, even though he professed allegiance to a party which used that name, and even though when writing for foreigners he patriotically praised democracy as a type of government. Certainly he scorned the doctrine which became so fashionable thirty years ago, that the remedy for the evils of democracy was to be found in more democracy. In his novel The Craterhe solemnly sets down in capital letters “that the more a people attempt to extend their power directly over state affairs, the less they, in fact, control them, after having once passed the point of naming lawgivers as their representatives; merely bestowing on a few artful managers the influence they vainly imagine to have secured for themselves.” He went further; he struck at what we take to be the very basis of democracy. With superb irrelevance in a story of the South Sea Islands he remarks, “A majority of the electors of the State of New York are, at this moment, opposed to universal suffrage, especially as it is exercised in the town and village governments, but moral cowardice holds them in subjection.”

The truth is that Cooper was a whole-hearted and vociferous aristocrat, just as the sculptor here has pictured him — one of the last among well-known Americans to take an unequivocal stand for aristocratic principles. Surely few of us today would want to go back to his position. Democracy has proved itself satisfactory, not because it is perfect but because any other system would, we think, under American conditions, be far less perfect. If Cooper could have listened to the common life about him here in Cooperstown, which I doubt, he might have heard some carpenter, or small tradesman telling his son {21} “to be a little gentleman.” Nothing would have bewildered, even irritated, the novelist more. He was seldom logical or lucid in his social philosophy, but apparently, whatever he said, he really thought that gentle manners were the appropriate mark of the gentry alone; others should become themselves with deference. He had little idea of the social mobility that equal opportunity, universal schooling, evangelical Christianity, and, above all, the machine were bringing to America. Whatever his professions, he was still living in the eighteenth century.

But the children who each day look upon this sculptured face, with its expression of honesty traced with pride, must not think that there is nothing they can learn from this choleric squire. He illustrated certain virtues especially associated with aristocracy, but without which no man and no society can sustain a high level of worthiness.

He stood for individual dignity. Excellence had to underpin good reputation, but reputation itself was a precious asset to be defended at any cost. He was too sensible and civilized to throw his life upon the chance of the dueling ground whenever his honor was impugned; he knew that reputation for high quality as a man and citizen had no reasonable connection with a swordsman’s arm or the quick eye of a pistoleer. But he was not so careless or so lazy or so cowardly as to let a slander go unanswered. No man, however high his editorial prestige, could lie about him and be safe. He fought through innumerable libel suits and with hardly an exception won. No citizen in our history more thoroughly disciplined a free press to responsibility.

In a feudal society prestige exists by mere prescription. It is because it is. Prestige is ascribed to families and assumed to run by hereditary transmission along with blood and property. Tests of ability or public service, {22} once having been applied, are not renewed. Lord Melbourne, I think it was, who expressed his satisfaction with the Order of the Garter because there was “no damned nonsense of merit about it.” Cooper, an excessively serious person, would have been shocked at his lordship’s levity. He was near enough in time and sympathy to feudal institutions to believe that merit and family went together. His admirable characters were generally content with the social station to which an all-wise Providence had called them. His villains, especially the Yankees, were insufferably ambitious, impudently bent on rising in the world by some species of smooth trickery.

We are free from Cooper’s predilections. But we had best realize that prestige founded on feudal prescription is no more deplorable than prestige founded on selfish management or prestige founded upon notoriety. I urge no honor simply because an honor is claimed. Prestige in a democracy rests and should rest only upon merit and service. It should be constantly and closely scrutinized in every individual case to see if it continues to fill these specifications. If it does not, it will soon die of inanition; but if it is well-deserved it will die too unless the public is instructed and induced to give it the nourishment of public honor. I hope I am not misunderstood: individual merit and service in themselves are not necessarily increased by public honor; they root in other soil. But the prestige of merit and service in general is necessary to stimulate mankind to better effort. It implies cleanlined categories of worthy and unworthy, without which no society can know itself. If the lines are blurred by charity it is not so dangerous as when they are dissolved by indifference. This is the social outlook that Cooper preached.

In Cooper’s estimation, a man won status as a gentleman when he could catalogue a sufficient number of things he {23} was too proud to do. And these aversions must be genuine. Beneath every other form of social nuisance Cooper hated a hypocrite. So heartily did he detest pretense of virtue — all sham and cant — and so seriously did he take his mission to deflate and to disgrace it, that he often struck without a clear view of his victim. He was oftentimes unsympathetic, injudicious, and unfair. But at least he had the courage of his prejudice.

The fact is, he had standards, and the most subtle and dangerous menace to nobility of life in a democracy lies in the constant possibility of the dissolution of its standards. In the absence of robes and ribbons, of the objective symbols of meritorious distinction, it is easy to discredit distinction itself. From the principle of equality of rights before the law it is easy to deduce the doctrine that one man is as good as another, as valuable and honorable as another. From this it may seem to follow that one act, attitude, one bearing, is as good as another. With the unthinking, liberty itself may menace standards. When any man may worship as he pleases or express almost any opinion with impunity, it may seem to argue that it matters very little what any man believes. We realize more clearly than did Cooper that the menace of control, either by law hardened custom, surpasses that of liberty; but we have to listen to Cooper and his kind, if high individual ideals are not to be smothered in mediocrity. When a democracy, enervated by an indolent indifference, refuses to classify men according to their personal and social merit, to classify them sharply for varying degrees of public esteem, it has lost its fundamental health and invites some other system to replace it. The purpose of equality before the law is merely to insure that no artificial obstacles prevent the emergence of merit to prominence, responsibility, and — mark this well — to public honor.

{24} I see this statue warning America through all posterity against the confusion of standards. I see it through the ages teaching the children of our nation a respect for the respectable. And, I hope without ridiculous effrontery, I dare to speak the thanks of humankind not only to the great man whose influence it both records and carries but also to those who with fine generosity and insight with artistic skill have made this statue possible.


Owen D. Young

The Cooper Sesquicentennial

THE COOPER SESQUICENTENNIAL Chairman Owen D. Young listens to the speaking. On the front row to the left is Hon. Frank J. Loesch, of Cooperstown and Chicago, another member of the Sesquicentennial Committee. Photograph by Andreas Feininger, Black Star.

HAD I in the later 1780’s asked my great-great-grand father, then living on the Otsquago hills back of what is now Van Hornesville, about Cooperstown, he would have said with a rising inflection: “Cooperstown? Cooperstown? Oh yes! — that is the new settlement they are trying to make down at the foot of the Lake.”

Born as he was on those hills, he would have wondered why one should go into the wilderness when there were such old and well established settlements as the “Squak,” Springfield, and Cherry Valley. Had I asked him after the turn of the century about Cooperstown, he would ha spoken of Judge William Cooper with such admiration as could best be expressed in the picturesque language of the pioneer. It could not be repeated here without violation of the restraining rules of the radio on speech, which even in the laxity of these modern times may be too free.

Had I told my great-great-grandfather that in 1940 I was going to celebrate the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the arrival of the son of Judge Cooper, I am sure would have said with adequate expletives: “Why the boy? Sons are never as good as their fathers.” He would ha cautioned me, I know, to have arranged for a better boat than Captain Crafts had when he carried Judge Cooper down the Lake on his first visit to the Croghan Patent. He would have told me that I need not take any food along for it was to be expected that the descendants of Judge Cooper would have inherited or their neighbors would have adopted his well known flair for hospitable and tasteful offerings of food and drink.

And, I am sure, he would have said: “Boy, when you go to Cooperstown in 1940, whatever else you do, don’t talk politics. I heard a chap try it once with Judge Cooper and I never knew there were so many expressive words in the English language. Why it was even better than our Mohawk Dutch.”

And speaking of Mohawk Dutch, may I say that Elkanah Watson, who was born in Massachusetts in 1758 and who was on intimate terms with George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams, visited the Mohawk Valley in 1788 for the purpose of inspecting the progress of the German and Dutch farmers in that area. He came back again in 1791 and as a result of that visit wrote:

Thus far the German and Dutch farmers have been in a manner remiss in cultivating the first rudiments of literature, while the descendants of the English in New England have cherished it as a primary duty. Hence the characteristics are very different. When literature shall begin to shed its benign rays over this benighted race, then and not till then, the Germans and Dutch and the Yankees will dismiss all local, illiberal prejudices and distinctions; and in twenty or thirty years, the shades of discordance will be hardly perceptible.

At that very time there was living in Cooperstown a young boy who a quarter of a century later was to make the first great contribution to that literature which Watson thought so necessary to “dismiss all local, illiberal prejudices and distinctions.” That influence of James Fenimore Cooper continued to my own time. In the 1880’s I read all of The Leatherstocking Tales, The Spy, and some of the better-known sea stories. Of them all I liked The Deerslayerbest. The charm of that tale has made this {26} Lake and the surrounding hills the one spot which still carries for me the exhilaration of youth and that imaginative overlay which submerges the prosaic reality which inevitably comes with the years. I can pay no greater tribute to Cooper than to call attention to the fact that he wrote The Deerslayerwhen he was over fifty, a story which captured the imagination and excited the lasting devotion of a boy of twelve. So far as I know, and I speak with due deference to the distinguished scholars on this platform and those in the audience, no other author writing in English above the age of fifty has been able to capture youth except Daniel Defoe with Robinson Crusoe.

Except to make this personal acknowledgment it is not for me to speak of James Fenimore Cooper today. That is in more competent hands. Your speaker today is a youth himself, and I challenge either birth certificates or Who’s Whoto deny it. It must be so when all of us who are his contemporaries and all the younger generations at Yale call him “Billy.” That is not writing a story, it is living one. He is a daring youth, too, because for years he has had the unique distinction of challenging the stark solemnity of a Yale Commencement by introducing jocularity in his formal presentation of candidates for honorary degrees.

The literature to which James Fenimore Cooper contributed so much has fulfilled Elkanah Watson’s forecast. Literature having shed its benign rays over the benighted Dutch and Yankees, the shades of discordance on this day are hardly perceptible. It is not inappropriate that your Chairman, a Mohawk Dutchman, should introduce a Connecticut Yankee to speak on James Fenimore Cooper.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have the honor to present Dr. William Lyon Phelps.



William Lyon Phelps

William Lyon Phelps Speaking

WILLIAM LYON PHELPS SPEAKING On the platform also are Chairman Owen D. Young, James Fenimore Cooper, great-great-grandson of the novelist, and President Dixon Ryan Fox. Photograph by Andreas Feininger, Black Star.

I have never heard a more beautiful introduction than Owen Young’s. I am very happy to be on the platform with the Past (myself), the Present (Owen), and the Future (Jimmie Cooper). I think it was eighteen years or so ago when I made a visit to Cooperstown and had the honour of being a guest of Mr. and Mrs. James Fenimore Cooper. He was a grandson of the great novelist, and I was most graciously entertained. We played golf and had other diversions, and it is to this gentleman, the James Fenimore Cooper, that we owe a very great service to literature. He collected the letters of the famous novelist and published them in two volumes.

Fenimore Cooper, the grandson, in addition to preserving these letters, produced four sons, the great-grandsons of the novelist. His son, James Fenimore Cooper, died but left a volume of beautiful poems called Afterglow. This is already rare, and if any of you are collecting volumes of American literature, I advise you to secure a copy if you can. Two of the other sons are here today, and the third would be here if he were not recovering from an operation. All four of them were students of mine at Yale, and it is an additional pleasure that two of them are in this audience.

We are being magnificently entertained by another Yale pupil of mine, Mr. Stephen Carlton Clark, of the Class of 1903. Mr. and Mrs. Clark have given us a wonderful luncheon at their house; and I mention that because often at public dinners I am placed next to some distinguished guest, and I observe that he does not eat anything. I ask, “What is the matter? Why don’t you eat your dinner!” And he will reply, “Well, I feel that if I eat, I don’t speak very well.” Then I say, “But that’s a terrible mistake, {28} because if your speech is a flop, you have lost everything.” Today I want you all to know that so far as I am concerned the event is already a success. The luncheon I had and the people whom I conversed with were alike unsurpassable.

I observe also in the audience still another famous pupil of mine, Dr. Anson Phelps Stokes, the greatest secretary Yale ever had. He knows more about Yale University than any other living man and will prove it as soon as he publishes the volume which he is preparing.

The statue that we dedicate to Cooper today makes me hope that the time will come when there will also be a statue of Fenimore Cooper on the Yale campus. I hope before I die I shall see it. For it is remarkable that the most famous novelist who ever went to Yale was an undergraduate at the same time that the greatest statesman who ever went to Yale was also there. The most famous statesman who ever went to Yale was John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, valedictorian of the Class of I804. The most famous novelist who ever went to Yale was Fenimore Cooper of the Class of 1806, who was expelled by the authorities. In those days they preferred statesmanship to literature. Cooper was not expelled for any disgrace, but merely because he was insubordinate. He was, with one exception, the youngest student in the entire college, and he and the faculty did not agree. He didn’t like discipline. As it was always his method to choose the hardest way, immediately after his expulsion he enlisted as a sailor before the mast in the United States merchant marine. Cooper was somewhat like John Quincy Adams, the greatest scholar who ever sat in the White House. The historian, John T. Morse, said of Adams that the temptation to perform his duty was always strong, but if the duty was particularly disagreeable, the temptation became ungovernable. This was characteristic of our great novelist.

{29} I have never heard a better description of Cooper’s controversies than that given this afternoon by you, Dr. Fox. It has given me much needed information. I look back with regret at Cooper’s fights with the newspapers and with his contemporaries. At the time they seemed important to Cooper, but they are all but forgotten, because there is nothing so extinct as an extinct controversy. Newman, the Roman Catholic, and Kingsley, the Protestant, fought a tremendous battle with the intellectual world looking on. I suppose they thought it was important; nearly every word of that battle is forgotten, whereas a little song Newman wrote on a trade ship in the Mediterranean when he was becalmed — Lead, Kindly Light — became the greatest hymn in the English language. And his opponent, Kingsley, wrote several beautiful songs — The Three Fishers, The Sands of Dee, and Oh, That We Two Were Maying. It is interesting to remember these two great antagonists whose quarrel is forgotten while their little songs are immortal.

Cooper wrote too many novels; he reached the Gates of Eternity with an enormous amount of excess baggage. The reason he got through (because he is on the right side of the gates) was because even his own work could not defeat him. Only a few of his books are universally known, but they are permanent additions to the literature of the world.

Did you ever hear of a novel of his called Lionel Lincoln? Very few people remember it, but although I have not seen the book for sixty years, I remember many things in it and one thing in particular. A few weeks ago two girls were struggling to answer this question — “Name three persons in history or in fiction who had a timber leg.” Many persons would answer “Long John Silver” of Treasure Island. Wrong. He used a crutch. The two girls had got as far as Peter Stuyvesant. I suggested to {30} them Silas Wegg in Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend. And then I remembered a scene in Cooper’s Lionel Lincoln. A few very hungry people were sitting in a room. They had some meat but no wood to kindle a fire to cook it. In came a soldier with a wooden leg; and when he was informed of the situation, he immediately unscrewed his timber leg, chopped it up, built a good fire with it, and even now I can smell the pleasant odour of that cooking ham.

Cooper has been translated into the most remote Oriental languages. He is known in every part of the world. No American novelist has ever had more, or more widely scattered, readers in various nationalities than Fenimore Cooper. The boys of Turkey, Poland, Russia, and in all the countries of Europe are just as familiar with Hawkeye and the Indians as are the boys in England and America.

And here’s an interesting point. The greatness of Cooper consists in his power of invention, the steady excitement of his narrative, in the creation of character (masculine), but not in literary style. The result is that every time foreigners translated Cooper, they improved him, just as our King James Version of the English Bible is better literature than the original Hebrew and Creek. This means that foreign children have a better Leatherstocking series than we have.

Samuel F. B. Morse, traveling all over the Old World, said he had seen the works of Cooper in the front windows of every bookshop of every nation; they were there in Persia, in Turkey, in Russia, in fact everywhere. It is astounding that this man who came from this little town where we are today should have aroused the imagination and delight of children of all the nations in the world.

We can’t overestimate the popularity of the works of Fenimore Cooper. He is immortal, because, apart from the excitement of his narrative, he added to the literary {31} of the world. Anyone can become immortal creating one character that will not be forgotten. Shakespeare and Dickens created scores of them. One of several reasons why our American novelist, Sinclair Lewis is known all over the world is because of Babbitt. Babbitt is just as well known in Europe and Asia as he is in the United States. Edmond Rostand who created Cyrano de Bergerac will live forever. That play inspired every soldier from 1914 to 1918. It is my belief that if Rostand had not died in 1918 at the age of fifty, France might not have surrendered in 1940.

I hope that school readers in the primary schools and early secondary schools are as skillfully, as diabolically constructed as they were in my day. Then they used to select fables in books and stop off at a fearfully exciting point, something like the blood-and-thunder periodicals. I was probably the only boy who had sufficient curiosity to go and search for the originals so I could find out what happened. One of our school readers’ selections was the first chapter of Cooper’s The Pilot. And that led to my reading the entire novel.

The story is told of a certain college man (I do not believe it) who had to leave college in the middle of his Junior year. Two years later he met his professor on the street and addressed him as follows: “My father died and I had to leave college when in your teaching you had brought us half way through King Lear. I have always wanted to know how that came out, and would you be kind enough to tell me?”

There are many extraordinary roads to the kingdom of literature. Cooper became a midshipman in the United States Navy, and he knew what he was talking about for even then he urged that our navy be increased. Now, after he had left the navy and settled down at home, he {32} was reading aloud to his wife an English novel, and he said, as almost everybody has said, “I believe I can write a better novel myself.” And she said, “Why don’t you try?” He never declined a challenge and wrote a quite undistinguished novel called Precaution; he pretended it was written by an Englishman. The late Professor Lounsbury in his biography of Cooper gives considerable space to this novel. Mr. Lounsbury was one of the few critics who actually read it through. Although there was a complimentary review of the book in an English magazine reprinted in the Freeman’s Journalof Cooperstown, the novel could not possibly be called a success. If it had been, Cooper might never have written another. But to use the familiar phrase, all his life Cooper was encouraged by success but inspired by failure. Accordingly, in the very next year, 1821, he produced The Spy, an indubitable masterpiece. I can remember the details of that story as clearly as if I had read it yesterday. I can’t say definitely whether this was the first novel making a hero out of a spy, but surely in times of war it is the spy and not the man killed in battle who makes the supreme sacrifice, because the soldier sacrifices only his life while the spy sacrifices his honour. We have a statue on the Yale campus to Nathan Hale.

During the ten years from 1821 to 1831, Cooper’s production is amazing both in quantity and quality: The Spy, The Pioneers, The Pilot, Lionel Lincoln, The Last of the Mohicans, The Prairie, and The Red Rover. There could not be any greater proof of the enormous popularity of The Spythan the fact that on the day The Pioneerswas published, 3,500 copies were sold before noon.

Cooper’s treatment of women, whom in the prevailing fashion of the day he called females, seems funny to us but his contemporaries had much the same attitude. {33} Washington Irving in one of his most sentimental essays calls a wife “a soft and tender female.” The ideal woman was then both helpless and modest, and it needed only a touch of tuberculosis to make her irresistible. Girls in robust health seemed unattractive. Cooper was so tremendously masculine himself that he said a woman is never so attractive as when she leans on man for support. And he didn’t mean financial support. On another occasion Cooper wrote, “Her little foot moved although she had been carefully taught, too, that even this beautiful part of the female anatomy should be quiet and unobtrusive.”

Of all American writers Cooper was the most amphibious — just as good on the sea as he was on the land. One night at dinner with ladies and gentlemen, Scott’s The Piratewas being discussed, and one of the guests spoke with admiration of the then anonymous author’s seamanship and how remarkable it was that technical details could be so interesting. Cooper immediately spoke up and said that the book was not written by a sailor and that the seamanship was bad, and so by way of a challenge he wrote The Pilot, one of his best stories of the sea. As a child I used to get up long before dawn to read Cooper, and well do I remember his novels, The Pilot, The Red Rover, The Two Admirals, and others. Here also he was a pioneer as he was in the stories of the forest. He took American material, and he used primitive scenery not as a background but as an integral part of his story.

I have often wondered myself why I am so excited by stories of the sea. No one of my ancestors, no member of my family was ever a sailor, and I do not know how to sail a catboat. Yet I like stories of the sea even when they are very technical, and I have a particular gratitude to Stevenson for writing Treasure Island because that book cured me of a severe attack of tonsillitis. I had a high {34} fever, but there happened to be within reach a copy of Treasure Island; after I had read 150 pages, the splendid salt air of the open ocean entered my fevered throat, and when I closed the book, I was entirely well. Let me add that one undergraduate student of mine was cured of jaundice by Pride and Prejudice.

For the average man who loves stories of the sea, I would recommend Cooper rather than Conrad. Conrad was more profound. He tells us not merely of the sea but of the effect of the sea on the minds of sailors. Fiction can be great, self- conscious, and food for the most fastidious minds, but there is an undying charm in the objectivity of Cooper’s sea stories.

Isn’t it remarkable that Cooper was over fifty when he wrote The Deerslayer? This novel is closer to the territory where we are at this moment, because beautiful Otsego Lake is the Glimmerglass of that novel. Even one of its villains is dear to me. I mean Hurry Harry, simply because he was an enormous fellow, of prodigious strength. I have always been a hero-worshipper of colossal athletes. In the District School, I was the smallest boy in the school, and this may account for this form of hero worship.

Although the Leatherstocking series is often correctly called a drama in five acts, The Deerslayer, The Last of the Mohicans, The Pathfinder, The Pioneers, and The Prairie, and the development of character and incidents is steady, the order of writing was The Pioneers (1823), The Last of the Mohicans (1826), The Prairie (1827), The Pathfinder (1840), and The Deerslayer (1841). It seems to me extraordinary that over that span of years and in that order of production he could have given the effect of a steady progress in characterization and plot. It is often said that Cooper had no real art, but he showed great art in the creation of the character, Hawkeye, for I think all boys like {35} The Last of the Mohicansthe best of the novels, and the hero, Hawkeye, is more attractive in that book than in any other.

Mark Twain was cruel to Cooper. He was also cruel to Walter Scott. And the reason is that Mark Twain was a meticulous artist and both Cooper and Scott were so interested in their narratives that they were extremely careless and slipshod in literary style. One reason why Cooper’s society ladies seem so untrue to life was because his imagination failed to work when he described scenes in fashionable society. He was a gentleman, at home himself in fashionable metropolitan circles, but it was only when his scenes of action took place in the great woods or on the open ocean that his imagination was vivid and true. Yet he wrote one great love story, the love of Cora, the white girl, for Uncas, the Indian.

Balzac, whom everybody regards as one of the world’s great novelists, said that if Cooper had succeeded in character as well as in his descriptions of nature, he would have offered the “last word to our art.” Balzac regarded Cooper as one of his peers.

All Americans should be proud of Cooper as he carried novels with purely American scenes and characters into every home in the civilized world. I am happy to be here today and pay this tribute in this place of all places to Fenimore Cooper.


It is a gracious and God-given gift to speak of excellences with emphasis and of deficiencies with sweetness and charm. Only one can do that who has been seasoned in the world’s loveliness and untouched by its irritations.

New York History, Vol. XXII, No. 1 (January 1941), pp. 36-45


A Memorial Sermon


Delivered at Christ Church, Cooperstown, on Sunday morning, September 1, 1940. The Rev. Dr. Stokes was formerly secretary of Yale University.

IT SEEMS appropriate that in connection with the Sesquicentennial of the coming of James Fenimore Cooper to Cooperstown, a Sunday morning should be set apart to commemorate the Christian virtues of its most illustrious citizen.

I am sure that many far more qualified could be found to speak about Fenimore Cooper in his old church on this anniversary. But I have one advantage — that I come from Berkshire County, Massachusetts, whose traditions have much that make them similar to those of this region. Stockbridge, which commemorated its 200th anniversary last year, is rich, as is Cooperstown, in Indian traditions. It, too, has literary and cultural associations of distinction — with the Sedgwicks, Fields, Hopkins, and the great name of Jonathan Edwards. The Lenox-Stockbridge neighborhood and Cooperstown have both become centers of a dignified social life and of secondary schools of note. Both are known for their fine community spirit and for the generosity of leading citizens. Both are in the midst of beautiful hilly country and retain much of the quiet charm of yesterday. Each has its noble lake. Stockbridge Bowl cannot compare in area, or perhaps in romantic interest, with Otsego Lake, but it has a similar charm. So Stockbridge has its beautiful Housatonic River, and you have your equally beautiful Susquehanna.

There are also bonds between the two communities which may have passed unnoticed. The founder and first rector of this parish, “Father” Nash, came from the neigh{37}borhood of Stockbridge, as did his wife. Another probable bond, even more interesting, is that the Stockbridge Indians moved about 1785 to their new home among the Oneidas in your adjoining Madison County, only a score of miles away. Here they lived for some decades prior to their moving west. They had as their great chief in the early Stockbridge days one “Konkapot.” It is interesting to note in Miss Cooper’s Rural Hoursan account of a visit to her father at Otsego Hall of three Indians from some not distant tribe who greatly interested him, their leader being an Indian of noble face who was a Protestant minister, the Rev. Mr. “Kunkerpott.” I have not been able to do the necessary research to connect the two definitely in relationship, but the close residence of the Stockbridge Indians to your community at that time and the near identity of names make it seem altogether likely that Stockbridge and Cooperstown were linked by this incident.

At any rate I know of no two villages in America that have a more enviable reputation for beauty, quiet charm, patriotic and cultural associations, and Christian idealism. Each has a well educated citizenship, and each has been blessed for a century and a half by a family of distinction whose standards and traditions give a dignified unity to the local tradition — in one case Coopers, in the other Sedgwicks. Both their villages have much of the old English flavor about them. Would that the England from which they derived most of their inspiration were all equally peaceful today!

There are many features of Cooper’s life and character which I would like, if time permitted, to deal with on this Memorial Sunday. His eventful life, his strong character, his independence of judgment, his loyal patriotism, his desire — not always tactfully carried out — to set the world right, his prodigious capacity for creative work, his love of nature, especially sea and forest, his appreciation of the {38} Indian, his devotion to the Cooperstown region, his happy domestic life, his imagination, his skill as a literary artist and historian, his interest in religion and the Church — these are among the things which would have to be discussed in any adequate interpretation of his character and significance. Scholars and publicists far abler and better informed have during the past few days dealt with his work as a literary artist and with other phases of his activity. Here I have time to speak of only three things which seem particularly appropriate for emphasis at this time and place. They are his character, his patriotism, and his religion.

First and foremost among his traits which impress the student of American history and biography today is his sterling Christian character. The background is found in his Quaker ancestors in Buck’s County, Pennsylvania, and more immediately in his father, Judge William Cooper, the sturdy pioneer who first came to Otsego Lake in 1785, and in his mother, Elizabeth Fenimore Cooper. From his parents he inherited those qualities of heart and mind which made him great, as well as many of the charming characteristics of the English aristocratic class.

In any analysis of his character one must not forget his parents, his sister Hannah, this frontier community of nearly a century and a half ago, the village school, “Father” Nash of blessed memory — the first rector of this church, who as a Yale graduate probably suggested New Haven for Cooper’s college training, and the Rev. Thomas Ellison of St. Peter’s Church, Albany, a man of strong character, good scholarship, and English ways, who fitted him for Yale. His real nobility showed itself in many ways, in none more than in his depicting the best traits of the Indian, and in his creating a frontier character that will be immortal in American literature — Natty Bumppo, generally known as Leatherstocking and at times as Deer{39}slayer, Pathfinder, La Longue Caribine. He was the best type of frontiersman — a man of inherent dignity, straight-forwardness, loyalty, honesty, chivalry, courage, spiritual nature, and adept in all forms of woodcraft. It is well that his figure stands at the top of the Leatherstocking monument in your beautiful cemetery. It was a tribute to to the ideals and the imagination of the author who created this hero that when the eminent French statesman and man of letters, Gabriel Hanotaux, heard of the entry of the United States into the World War on the side of the Allies in 1917, he exclaimed: “Old Leatherstocking still slumbers in the depth of the American soul!”

The strength and independence of Cooper’s character were depicted in his massive frame. He was, as Washington Irving said, “a very castle of a man.” His integrity of character was never questioned, nor was the sturdy independence which marked it. He was the supporter of everything that was sincere and straightforward; the opponent of hypocrisy and of all attempts at dissimulation. It was not without significance that the name he first thought of for his book on The American Democratwas “Anti-Cant.” He scorned evil and duplicity. He was a man of pure life who believed in ideal men and omen both in his own and other races. He was admired all who knew him intimately and almost adored in his family. No one ever breathed a breath of scandal regarding his life or thought of him as anything other than a foursquare man.

Even Cooper’s greatest mistakes — his many lawsuits with newspapers charging libel, and defending himself against what he believed to be unjust criticism — were evidences of his sturdy independence. Perhaps his mistakes were largely due to the fact pointed out by Professor Lounsbury, his eminent biographer, that although a democrat by conviction, he was an “aristocrat in feeling.” He {40} doubtless went to epistolary extremes, especially in criticizing his own critics who were almost all Whigs — his political opponents. He argued forcefully many of his own cases before the courts and won notable victories. As a result he taught the newspapers of his day, which were given to recklessness, a lesson in restraint and responsibility. It is worth recording that even during the period of his controversies he was serene in his personal and family life and remained loyal in his friendships. Those who knew him best realized that his tendency to lecture the public and especially his opponents was due in large part to his own high standards, coupled perhaps with an inadequate sense of humor and proportion. He perhaps took himself somewhat overseriously.

Professor Lounsbury sums up his impression of his character in these words:

She [America] has had several gifted with higher spiritual insight than he, with broader and juster views of life, with finer ideals of literary art, and, above all, with far greater delicacy of taste. But she counts on the scanty roll of her men of letters the name of no one who acted from purer patriotism or loftier principle. She finds among them all no manlier nature, and no more heroic soul.

The second characteristic of Fenimore Cooper to which I would call attention was his loyalty to his country, his intense, but discriminating, patriotism. This was shown in many ways. As a young man he entered the United States Navy, retiring in 1811 with a lieutenant’s commission. His deep interest in the natural beauty of his native state and in the heroic side of Indian life was part of his American heritage which he wished to hand on to others. This was true of his writing his first great novel — The Spy. It was also his patriotism, his devotion to home and country, that led him to prepare the Chronicles of Cooperstown, and that made him determine at one time to write “The Legends of the Thirteen Republics,” — the {41} original American Colonies. Similarly, when he wrote the important History of the Navy of the United States of Americait was because of a patriotic impulse. His vigorous stand abroad for republicanism. as against what he considered unjust criticisms of America was due to the same loyalty. So was his criticism of the defects which he found in his own land on his return. Home as Foundwas perhaps in some ways an unwise book, but its purpose as expressed in the preface was admirable. The author states:

That the American nation is a great nation, in some particulars the greatest the world ever saw, we hold to be true, and are as ready to maintain as any one can be; but we are also equally ready to concede, that it is very far behind most polished nations in various essentials, and chiefly that it is lamentably in arrears to its own avowed principles.

This attitude was not due to lack of belief in America, but because he was anxious that his country should live more fully up to the high ideals which he had for it. He was so devoted to democracy as a political ideal — even though not as a social ideal — that he wanted it to demonstrate its superiority to monarchy as a form of government. Patriotism was to him a passion, although he saw clearly certain points of superiority in the cultural standards of other countries. He was proud of being a citizen of the great Republic even though conscious of its faults. It would indeed be well if every nation had such critics of its lapses, and more appreciation of the achievements of other nations and races. It was, on the whole, well that this nation, when young, should have had constructive criticism of some of its ways from one whose fundamental loyalty could not be doubted, and who appreciated the strong traits in the American tradition. He showed in his novels the virtues of frontier life. He sensed a half century before a great historian, Frederick J. Turner, the significance of the frontier in American life. He saw, as Turner saw, that “American democracy ... came out {41} of the American forest and it gained strength each time it touched a new frontier.”

Probably no one in the half century following the death of Benjamin Franklin did so much to make Europe take a sympathetic interest in the new nation across the sea. His novels were translated into all the leading languages of the world.

In thinking of Cooper’s contribution to the nation we must not forget the intelligent stimulus he has given the youth of three generations to a deeper insight into American backgrounds. Chancellor Kent, toasting him at a banquet in New York over a hundred years ago, referred to him as the “genius which has rendered our native soil classic ground, and given to our early history the enchantment of fiction.”

A third characteristic of Fenimore Cooper, and one which it seems particularly appropriate to call attention to in this place was his deep interest in religion. His novels all breathed high Christian moral standards and ideals and a devotion to religion as he understood it, especially the orthodoxy of his day. He was devoted to the Episcopal Church; was elected a delegate from this parish to the Diocesan Convention of 1813, and again repeatedly after his return from Europe in 1834. We find him a vestryman from I835 on; the person mainly responsible for planning and carrying out the church’s alterations and improvements of 1840; a member of various church committees; and a communicant, after confirmation here by his brother-in-law, Bishop De Lancey, some six weeks before his death. This solemn event sealing the convictions of a lifetime, created a deep impression.

In the Historical Record Of Christ Church, Cooperstown, published some thirty years ago, it is said that “To him, perhaps more than to any one else the Church owed {43} a great debt of gratitude for his unwearied zeal and energy in forwarding the best interests of the Parish.”

The source of his interest in the Church and in high standards of Christian character was in his own spiritual life. We know from references in his journal of his habit of daily Bible reading. Some of his comments on books of the Bible are most revealing, especially his admiration for the Epistle to the Hebrews and the writings of St. John. In his Journal for March 16, 1848, are these comments on the Book of Genesis which show the springs of his own moral power:

What an extraordinary history! It is impossible for us to appreciate conduct, when a power like that of God is directly brought to bear on it. Obedience to him is our first law. ... The more I read of this book the more I feel convinced that sin is “transgression against the Law,” and nothing else.

His daughter, Susan Fenimore, among her reminiscences of her father, wrote:

I can remember no time, from my earliest childhood, when my dear Father did not say grace at table, and also he regularly read family prayers for us every evening. He used the prayers in the Prayer Book. At a later day, when we had French Protestant servants, the French translation of the Prayer Book was used. Later still, when we were living at the Hall throughout the year, he read family prayers in the evening also.

Even more intimate and revealing, as showing his devotion both to the Christian religion, and to our branch of the Church of Christ, is this note recorded by the same beautiful spirit the day after her Father’s death:

Sitting with dear Mother while the rest of the family are engaged with the necessary details, she lets me talk about him. Speaking of their reading the Bible together, she says it was on his birth-day, about five or six years since that they began to lead it together, regularly; not by chapters but a hundred verses every morning before breakfast, unless the close of a chapter occurred to break or prolong the reading. He admired the Psalms inexpressibly. The Book of Job also. The {44} prophesies of Isaiah, and the Epistles to the Hebrews struck him very forcibly. He admired the Epistle of St. James very much, calling it a beautiful pastoral letter. He told Mother once, “I used to think a great deal of St. James when I was a boy,” He was deeply impressed with the book of Revelations. The allusions to Melchisedec always interested him particularly. He said, speaking of the definition of faith by St. Paul: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” that it was so noble, so comprehensive, so just, so full, that the words themselves seemed to have been sent directly from Heaven.       Speaking of the admiration he had always felt for the Liturgy, dear Mother mentioned his most deep sense of the excellence of the Lord’s Prayer. He loved particularly the anthem, “God be merciful unto us, etc., etc.” “The Liturgy was a blessed service to him” I observed. “Oh,” cried dear Mother, “Blessed indeed!” They were in the habit of saying together every morning for years “Direct us O Lord, etc., etc.” They knelt together, Father’s arms about Mother; when he grew feeble she knelt, and he leaned his head on her shoulder.       On the morning of his death dear Mother kneeled at the bedside, and said the prayers they had been accustomed to use together. He seemed to understand, and follow, though with effort.

It is a satisfaction to know that one who in his writings always upheld the moral standards and the religion of Christ was consistent in his devotion to His ideals in the Church, in the home, and in personal life. As we think of him we may call to mind the words that he put in the mouth of Deerslayer when he killed his first red enemy: “His spirit has fled; Ah’s me! Well, to this we must all come, sooner or later; and he is happiest, let his skin be of what color it may, who is best fitted to meet it.” Cooper, when he died in 1851, was well prepared to meet his God. It is fitting that this church should have memorials which speak eloquently of the loyalty to the best interests of the parish of the great novelist, his devoted wife, and his talented, devout, and public-spirited daughter, Susan.

These three things which I have outlined as most char{45}acteristic of Cooper as a man, are three of the things most needed in our country today. Patriotismwith us has too often become a blind jingoism or super-patriotism without any power of self-criticism or appreciation of other nations. Purity and strength of characterhave been subordinated to pleasure seeking and materialistic self-interest. Religionas the main source of men’s inspiration has been forgotten. If we could only learn to love God and love our neighbor, accepting Jesus’ idea of neighbor to include mankind, there would be an end of domestic and international ill will and strife.

It happens that the three things which I have pointed out as marked in Cooper and as needed today were, rightly understood, all characteristics of Jesus of Nazareth. His character, with its courage and unselfishness, is so high that we cannot conceive of anything higher. His patriotic loyalty to the best ideals of his nation as developed by the Jewish Prophets included the effort to make the nation worthy of those ideals; while his religion not only dominated his life but was the source of his highest inspiration. If we would keep our characters pure and strong; if we would make sure that our patriotism results in helpful service to our fellow men; if we would always have the springs of our religion fed from the purest source, we should keep ever close to Christ and his teachings.

May I not, therefore, urge that in the spirit of Fenimore Cooper we should go out into the world today and help to make America loyal to her highest ideals through true patriotism, sturdy strength of character, and intense loyalty to the religion of Christ. If we have these things which marked Cooperstown’s [sic] heroic soul, whom we commemorate today, we shall be able to resist all onslaughts of materialism, of Nazism and Communism, for a group of coöperating democracies of citizens with truly Christian ideals is the best hope of this war-torn world.