Our majestic Sidlesmith was founded in 1861 by Harriet Sidlewood, then aged 21, and Henrik Coopersmith, 23. Theirs is a story of love and a shared passion for knowledge overcoming adversity and triumphing for the betterment of all.
When Harriet Met Henrik
Sidlewood and Coopersmith were the children of powerful rival families. The Sidlewoods were a feisty Welsh clan who immigrated to Stoneybrook in the late 18th century and built a fortune out of textile goods, which helped make Stoneybrook a destination for enterprising merchants who dared to cross the mountains that surround the town. The Coopersmiths arrived several decades later, but quickly made a name for themselves as merchant seamen who worked hard to build Stoneybrook into the thriving sea port it is today.
By all accounts, the two families frequently clashed. The family patriarchs seldom agreed upon what the best path for growth in Stoneybrook should be, and both were well accustomed to having their own way. Eventually, town meetings when Elder Sidlewood and Elder Coopersmith were both in attendance grew so unproductive that the mayor ordered the two men to stay on opposite sides of the assembly room and commanded them to speak only once per town meeting, in turn with no interruptions. The families responded by shunning one another at social functions and public events and making it clear that their business dealings were just that — business only.
However, both families had a weakness: a love of books that each passed down to their children. Thus it was that one day in 1856, a 16-year-old Harriet Sidlewood and an 18-year-old Henrik Coopersmith both tried to purchase the Stoneybrook bookstore’s sole copy of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, only to end up agreeing to share it after an exasperated bookseller begged them both to leave.
That first meeting spawned a cantankerous friendship which soon blossomed into love. Knowing there was no way their families would sanction their meeting in public, the two quickly formed a habit of meeting in a semi-private space: the stacks of the tiny Stoneybrook Library. Founded in 1828, the library was under-funded and in need of considerable upkeep, but few of the town elders were interested in chipping in to help. So Sidlewood and Coopersmith, aware that their families were much more interested in building something new than in caretaking what already existed, formed an idea that would ultimately unite the town and lead to the creation of Sidlesmith College: when the two of them came of age, they would build a newer, bigger, grander library, right in the center of town.
The Sidlesmith Story
Initially, the new Stoneybrook library that Sidlewood and Coopersmith planned to build was going to be a simple replacement for the one that already existed. But as the two young lovers continued to meet and discuss their plans for the future, they gained a grander idea: they would elope, combine their trust funds, and form a center for academic excellence — one they would name after themselves and their love: Sidlesmith.
The two carried off their plan in style: on December 29th, 1857, on the eve of Sidlewood’s 18th birthday, she and Coopersmith eloped dramatically in a horse-drawn carriage, leaving defiant notes for their families declaring their love. They were wedded in a private ceremony on New Year’s Day, 1858.
The day following their marriage, their families got another shock: Sidlewood and Coopersmith announced that they had secretly purchased a sprawling 100 acres of land just north of the town square. The land, which was famed for its greenery and gently rolling hills, belonged to Mistress Sally Prine. Over the years, Prine had been approached many times about the land and had refused to sell it at any price. The Sidlewood and Coopersmith families had each attempted for years to prise it from her tightfisted grip.
It’s not known how Sidlewood and Coopersmith finally convinced her to sell it to them, but legend holds that the conversation proceeded as follows. They presented to her that on the strength of their love for each other, and mutual love of learning and education, they would erect the most splendid college south of the Ozarks and north of the Mississippi. And when that didn’t impress her, they promised to name the first academic building after her. Thus it was that the Sally J. Prine School of Mathematics and Applied Sciences was born.
With Prine’s blessing and 100 acres of land at their disposal, the two subsequently broke ground on the school. A year later, on the anniversary of their marriage, the two of them received their trust funds from their begrudging families, and the construction of the college really got underway.
In 1861, the centerpiece of the campus, the gorgeous Sidlesmith Library, was finally complete, and the school began accepting its first students. Sidlewood and Coopersmith — by then referring to themselves as “Sidlesmith” as well as the school — were active for many years in the school’s foundational academics, recruiting both teachers and students from far and wide to come to Stoneybrook to study.
Today, Sidlesmith is a thriving campus with a population of 4,000 undergraduate students and 1,200 graduate students, studying a range of subjects from the school’s more than 100 academic disciplines. Classroom size ranges from 12 for small-group sessions to 60 for large lectures. Sidlesmith is particularly well-known for its Engineering program, its Film Studies and Audiovisual divisions, the Damon Runyon School of Journalism, and of course, its pristine library.
At the Sidlesmith Audiovisual Department, Harrison and Drew have a text-in advice show called Kaleidotrope. Drew would like you to know that it is NOT a text-in advice show, it is a music show, and no, Harrison, I didn’t “hack” this webpage, the webmaster gave me the password as part of a social engineering experiment I was conducting, it’s fine. You can stop looking at me like that.