Madison Cooper and Sironia-Waco, Texas
Who Was Madison Cooper?
When I was younger, the Waco Regional Airport in Waco, Texas was referred to as the Madison Cooper Airport. As a child, I toured the beautiful Madison Cooper house where the Cooper Foundation now resides that you see in the photo above.
At some point I had to ask myself, "who was Madison Cooper"? It seems many people around Waco have no idea who he was.
Madison Alexander Cooper, Jr. was born on June 3, 1894, the son of Madison Alexander and Martha Dillon (Roane) Cooper. He graduated from the University of Austin with a degree in English in 1915. He served as a lieutenant and a captain for the US Army in World War I. He became known around Waco as a wealthy, eccentric bachelor businessman, owning Cooper Grocery Company. Around 1924, he began contributing to civic organizations, very often anonymously.
Also during the 1920s, Cooper began freelance writing short stories and actually sold a few of his stories. In the early 1930s, he took three correspondence courses in creative writing from Columbia University.
In 1943, as a memorial to his parents, he set up the Madison Alexander Cooper and Martha Roane Cooper Foundation. In 1954, after a legal battle with J. R. Milam, Jr., Cooper,r sold his interests in the Cooper Grocery Company to Milam, and the business was renamed the J. R. Milam Company.
However, I now know that Madison Cooper is best known for his long novel Sironia, Texas (1952).
This novel made publishing history. This novel took him 11 years to write and when he finally published it In 1952, it was the longest novel in English originally published in book form. It has an estimated 1.1 million words and comes in a 1731 page two volume set that is now out of print and pretty rare to find. (See the links below for a few copies I found).The novel was a New York Times best-seller for eleven weeks.
Sironia's record was superseded in 1988 by L. Ron Hubbard's (founder of Scientology) 10 volume novel Mission Earth, at about 1.2 million words. More recently, in 2008, Mark Leach's Marienbad My Love, has beaten them both with 17 million words. However, his has only been published as an e-book.
Can you imagine trying to read a 17 million word e-book, or to print it out?
Sironia was published by Houghton Mifflin on what is known as thin 'bible paper'. It was quite a scandalous novel and was banned in some places. It talks about small town central Texas life in the early 1900s. Although a topic of much controversy, Madison Cooper modeled some of his characters after real local people. The book involves 83 characters in 21 separate plot lines and traces the conflict between the town's decaying Southern aristocracy and its rising merchant class.
After looking on eBay for a copy of this 2-volume set and not finding a copy, I stumbled upon a set of the books when cleaning out my parents' home after the death of my mother. I'll have start reading it and see what it's all about.
Cooper wrote one additional novel, The Haunted Hacienda (1955), which did not ever see the success that Sironia, Texas did. Hacienda was the first volume of a planned trilogy but it went largely unnoticed. In his later years, Madison Cooper also wrote book reviews for the Dallas Morning News.
Madison Cooper died on September 28, 1956, apparently while jogging, and was buried with Presbyterian rites in Oakwood Cemetery, Waco. In his will he left specific instructions that his literary files were to be burned unread. He left his entire estate of almost $3 million to the Cooper Foundation. He stipulated that it was to be used for the betterment of Waco. By 1984, the Cooper foundation held total assets of $6.2 million and had awarded 321 grants amounting to more than $4.9 million to various Waco projects.
- Cooper Foundation - Waco, Texas
The Cooper Foundation makes Waco, Texas, a better place to live through the support of experimental projects, research, surveys, and special community needs for which normal financing is not available. Eligible applicants are limited to nonprofit org
- File:Madison Cooper House 2008 Photo by Larry D. Moore
- Handbook of Texas Online - COOPER, MADISON ALEXANDER, JR.
Source of Madison Cooper's out of print Sironia, Texas.
- Oakwood Cemetery, Waco, McLennan County, Texas
- Waco Cotton Palace Pageant
The Waco Cotton Palace is an energetic stage production that recounts the history of Waco.
- Waco, Texas@Everything2.com