COOPERMADE: Clifford the Big Red Dog


At the suggestion of a book editor, Norman Bridwell (1928–2014), an Indiana native and 1955 Cooper Union School of Art graduate, wrote a story around a drawing he’d made of a baby with a bloodhound. The commercial illustrator had been trying to break into children’s book publishing without success, but in 1962 he took the editor’s advice and exaggerated the dog’s size, spinning a tale about a dog who unexpectedly grows so large, he towers over the houses dotting his family’s neighborhood. Bridwell considered naming the character “Tiny,” but his wife convinced him that “Clifford,” the name of her imaginary friend from childhood, would be a better, more interesting choice. In the story, Clifford’s owner, Emily Elizabeth (named after Bridwell’s own daughter) is unfazed by her dog’s gargantuan height and finds novel ways to take advantage of his stature while reassuring Clifford, who frequently feels embarrassed by his size. Within three weeks of completing the drawings and manuscript, a fledgling company called Scholastic decided to publish the book, a savvy decision that led to both Bridwell’s and Scholastic’s success among young readers. The Clifford books include forty titles that led to three television series and a movie. The appeal of the character, Bridwell felt, was simple: “He tries to do the right thing. He has good intentions, but his size makes him clumsy, so he causes damage. And then he’s forgiven. All children would like that — to be forgiven for the mistakes they make.” 

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  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.