At Christmas, 1866, in the recently incorporated City of Scranton, Pennsylvania, employees of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad (DL&W) presented a gift to their Superintendent of Rolling Stock, Mr. Watts Cooke. The gift was a four-piece silver tea set manufactured by Tiffany and Company. One hundred and forty-eight years later, the set returned to Scranton in December, as a bequest to Steamtown National Historic Site by a descendent of Mr. Cooke. Superintendent Kip Hagen was a primary motivator in acquiring the set, and accepted it on behalf of the National Park Service just prior to his recent, unexpected passing.
"Watts Cooke was a major contributor to the development of the steam locomotive," said Park Historian Pat McKnight." Mr. Cooke was one of nine sons of an Irish patternmaker. His older brother, John, built the Cooke Locomotive Company in Paterson, New Jersey. Watts followed his brother to Paterson, but was later hired by the fledgling DL&W Railroad headquartered at Scranton, and worked there from the mid-1850s to the mid-1860s. Mr. Cooke also began his own locomotive company adjacent to the Scranton Yard of the DL&W. He sold that property to Thomas Dickson who used these shops, 'The Cliff Works,' as the foundation of the Dickson Locomotive Works."
Park Ranger Barbara Brundage, Education Specialist, is excited about this addition to the park's museum collection. "The tea set provides us with a personal connection to the past. Physical objects really help us bring history to life, and this special gift opens a window into the relationship between labor and management here in Scranton. We have just scratched the surface in researching these connections."
The tea set is not available for public display at this time. "Before we can display the tea set to the public, however, we need to have a silver conservator stabilize and do some repairs," said Mr. McKnight. For further information about the set or Mr. Cooke, contact Mr. McKnight at 570-340-5193 or email Pat_McKnight@nps.gov.
One of the most meaningful ways people can demonstrate support and a lifelong appreciation for national parks is through a planned gift in which the National Park Service, a specific park such as Steamtown NHS, or a friends group is named as a beneficiary. For more information about a planned gift donation, contact your attorney or financial advisor directly.
Located in downtown Scranton, Pa., Steamtown NHS is open daily from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. through March 28; regular park hours, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. resume on Saturday, March 29. From I-81 follow exit 185 (Central Scranton Expressway); then, follow the brown and white signs to the main entrance at Lackawanna and Cliff Avenues (GPS: N 41.41, W 75.67). General park information is available by phoning (570) 340-5200 during regular business hours, or by visiting the Park website anytime atwww.nps.gov/stea.
Did You Know?
The Union Pacific 'Big Boy' locomotive, one of 25 built to this design, weighs just under 600 tons - approximately as much as 83 adult male African elephants! It is on display at Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, Pennsylvania. More...