Back in December we posted a blog on penmanship. At the same time I created a penmanship display for the window opposite the elevator in the library.
The display includes a wide range of facsimile examples: script from the Bank of North America ledgers, lessons from the Spencerian book on penmanship, facsimiles of practice workbooks, and a letter penned by Timothy Matlack (Scribe to the Continental Congress) signed by John Hancock, (President of the 2nd Continental Congress). Matlack’s script became the basis for Copperplate, a style of penmanship scribes were trained to use throughout the nineteenth century.
Since the first blog post and display, there have been many incidental conversations about the fate of penmanship and cursive. The topic which comes up most often is the fact that K-12 students are no longer being taught cursive. Through one of these conversations we received an invitation to visit an archive of penmanship instruction!
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is currently hosting the Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR). The goal of HCI-PSAR is to make better known and more accessible the important but often hidden archival collections held by the many small, primarily volunteer-run historical organizations in the Philadelphia area. The project is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Project Archivist, Celia Caust-Ellenbogen, invited Bart Everts, librarian at Peirce College, for a visit. Upon seeing the display case, Bart mentioned that Peirce College offered penmanship courses well into the 20th Century. Their library has a wonderful archive of examples from the courses. We were eager to see the collection and Celia kindly arranged a visit for us.
Bart pulled many wonderful examples from the collection including: scrap books of penmanship examples and flourishes, an album of penmanship awards, penmanship workbooks and pamphlets of the history of the College.
My favorite documents are the before and after letters. These are short sentances written by students on the first day of the penmanship course and a second sample upon completing the course.
The difference is remarkable!
The workbook of exercises is extensive:
The before and after example from Helen E. Bates:
The Table of contents for the course:
In addition to the penmanship examples, there are albums full of fancy flourishes:
The Internation Association of Master Penmen Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting (IAMPETH) lessons webpage offers more information about creating these flourishes.
After seeing this collection, the question comes to mind, were any of the clerks of the Bank of North America trained at Pierce college? It seems like a good possibility for clerks working at the bank in the latter half of the 19th Century.
We took many more images than will fit into this post. For more examples and flourishes please visit our flickr stream.