Displaying items by tag: Schools
With schools closed this spring, many students missed out on their annual science fair. Montgomery County started holding fairs in 1958, one year after the Soviets launched Sputnik. Sponsored by the Montgomery County Science Teachers’ Association, the annual fair includes middle and high schoolers competing for prizes.
We have a few programs from science fairs in the early 1960’s (1962-1965). They show students examining diverse issues in science: biology, engineering, mathematics, chemistry, and physics. The biggest winners received scholarships to local colleges. In these early years, boys and girls were judged separately.
My favorite thing about these programs is the seal for the science fair. It shows what is a perhaps an artificial satellite in the upper left, a Tesla coil on the bottom, and perhaps a moon settlement in the middle.
The Montgomery County Science Teachers’ Association still sponsors an annual fair, now called the Montgomery County Science Research Competition.
Lee Templeton car dealership in Norristown
I started on a new shelf in the stacks this morning and discovered 42 photographs of buildings from all over the south-eastern side of Montgomery County. The large format black and white photographs are mounted on cardboard. With the cardboard backing, most measure 18 by 24 inches.
The cardboard backing is signed by the photographer, Ellis O. Hinsey. A few have a date, 1959. I suspect that they’re all from that year or year before. They might have been mounted on cardboard for an exhibit.
All of the photographs are of buildings and several are of churches and parochial schools.
St. Gertrude's Parochial School, West Conshohocken
Epiphany of Our Lord (now Holy Rosary), Plymouth
Mother of Divine Providence (now Mother Teresa), King of Prussia
There are also a few businesses.
Two shops in downtown Norristown
Hale Fire Pump Company, Conshohocken
Ellis O. Hinsey was born in 1902 in Akron, Pa. For his day job, he was an English professor, first at Temple and then at the Pennsylvania Military College, now Widener University. He lived in Wyncote, and according to his obituary in the Glenside News, he was a freelance portrait photographer of 20 years. He died at 58 from complications of lung cancer.
I came across an interesting old document last week, a news magazine produced by eighth graders at a local junior high school. The magazine was created simply with paper and pencil and bound together by string. The somewhat damaged cover gives the title “Cultur[al] Works” and declares it the March issue (complete with lion and lamb).
There are three sections, one on world news, a literary section with poems and stories, and a final section on style. No year is listed on the cover, but heavy coverage of the Roosevelts suggests a 1933 date. The kids also covered fashion, a California earthquake, and wrote biographies of several historic figures such as Franz Liszt and Robert Lewis Stevenson.
Betty Bean, editor of "Cultural Works" and Jeanette Poser, a contributor, from their 1937 NHS yearbook
Each article has a by-line, but the school isn’t mentioned. I did some math and some poking around and found most of the students mentioned in Norristown High School’s 1937 yearbook. So they could have been at Rittenhouse or Stewart Junior High Schools.
Overall, the magazine is a nice production. It’s the sort of thing that often doesn’t survive, usually getting thrown away by parents or simply falling apart. The pencil is very faded on some pages, and we can assume the paper you see above was originally white. The inclusion of newspaper clippings would have only accelerated the deterioration (newsprint is very acidic).
Teaching students about media continues to be part of the curriculum in the Norristown Area School District. Just last week our own Barry Rauhauser was interviewed at Norristown High School for the Hank Cisco show. You can check it out on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BoXADgxX-M.
From the Ambler High School yearbook
We have in our archives a small collection of items from Ada Worthington. All of the papers concern her education, beginning with her third grade report card from Prospectville School in Horsham. It was the 1924-1925 school year.
Ada was a good student. Her fourth grade report card is also in the collection. When looking over her grades, keep in mind, this is before grade inflation, so 75 should be the average.
This invitation to her elementary school graduation indicates she was valedictorian.
After attending Ambler High School, Ada was admitted to the Abington Memorial Hospital School of Nursing. Her letter of acceptance includes a list of what to bring with her, including $22 for textbooks.
Using Ancestry, I was able to follow Ada through her life. In 1942, she married Camillus G. Schlecter in Delaware, though both listed Philadelphia addresses on their marriage license. Interestingly, Ada lists herself as about a year older than Camillus. Her birthdate on the marriage certificate is March 29, 1916, however, on a form from the school district from when the family moved from Cheltenham to Horsham (when Ada was 6 years old), her birthdate is listed as March 29, 1915. Did she shave a year off her age? Or did her parents have reason to list her as older than she was? Is it just a clerical error?
A little more searching revealed that Ada passed away in 2013. She’s buried in Ambler, with 1915 listed as her date of birth on her tombstone.
In the very early days of this blog, I wrote about Treemount Seminary (you can check out that original post here). The school was a private boarding and day school founded in Norristown in 1857. The school existed for 43 years and educated about 5,000 students. For decades after the school closed, an active alumni association continued to keep its memory alive through annual reunions.
I revisited the Treemount Seminary papers this week while working through our school collection. This morning I found a small box, donated to the Historical Society of Montgomery County in the 1940’s that contained tintypes of students from the school.
Most of the tintypes are identified with a last name on the reverse, and most were taken by Thomas Saurman, whose shop was located at Main and Green in Norristown. According to Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Montgomery County by Henry Wilson Ruoff, Saurman himself was a graduate of Treemount.
Tintypes were a popular form of photography for the second half of the nineteenth century. They were cheaper than competing forms of photograph such as daguerreotypes and ambrotypes. Their cheapness and their small size made them perfect for sending to family or collecting pictures of your friends.
Tintypes were also known as ferrotypes, are made through a process similar to how ambrotypes were made. They used a wet collodion process to create a direct positive image that was reversed. No negative was made, so only one image could be produced from each exposure, no copies. The main difference between the ambrotype and the tintype was the material the image appeared on. Ambrotypes used polished glass while tintypes were produced on metal.
The process of creating a tintype was invented by Hamilton L. Smith at Kenyon College in 1856. The plate was a thin piece of iron that had been lacquered black or dark brown. The image was not was sharp as an ambrotype, but their affordability made up for this shortcoming.
The rosy cheeks you see in so many of the photos was added by hand, and was typical at the time, not just for tintypes, but for daguerreotypes and ambrotypes.
The paper mats you see around the images were also typical. Daguerreotypes and ambrotypes had to be kept in cases to protect the glass plates. Tintypes sometimes have cases, but the paper mat is more typical.
Henry C. Trexler's tintype
These tintypes were owned by Harry C. Trexler, a graduate of Treemount Seminary and came to the historical society through his brother Frank.
Ruoff, Henry Wilson. Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Montgomery County Pennsylvania. Biographical Publishing Company, Philadelphia, 1895.
Ritzenhaler, Mary Lynn and Diane Vogt-O’Connor. Photographs: Archival Care and Management. Society of American Archivists, Chicago, 2006.
As I continue to make my way through our school collection, I discovered two interesting catalogs from Cheltenham Military Academy, which was once located on several acres in the Ogontz section of Cheltenham Township.
It was founded in 1871, when Robert Shoemaker and Jay Cooke, business tycoon, approached Dr. Edward Appleton of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church about the need for a military academy in the area. It was located on land purchased from the estate of Gabriella Butler.
Our catalogues are from 1891 and 1892 and were donated to the society in 1950 by Septimus Kriebel. They fall in between the times of the school’s two most famous students. Jesse Grant, youngest son of Ulysses S. Grant attended the school briefly in 1873. Ezra Pound attended the school from 1897 until 1900, sometimes as a boarder though his family lived in nearby Jenkintown.
The school’s catalog explains that the school could accommodate sixty boarders. Tuition for boarding students was $275 per year. Piano lessons were an addition $45. There were additional charges for the boys uniforms, though the catalog notes that the school was not “in the strictest sense a Military School.” Military drills were carried out by all the students.
Parents of the pupils were given many instructions. They were not permitted to send food other than fresh fruit and were urged not to give their students extra pocket money. Then there is this instruction:
The school had football and baseball teams as well as a drama club. The school also organized a summer excursion in Europe for a small number of pupils.
There were three courses of academic study. The Classical and Latin-Scientific courses prepared students for college or scientific schools, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The English course was for boys intending to go into business and not attend college.
The 1892 catalog has a very interesting enclosure. This table shows the admission requirements to the nation’s top colleges. Interestingly, few of them had any interest in science, and the mathematics requirements are the equivalent of first year high school algebra. A thorough knowledge of Latin and Greek was, however, required.
The school closed in the early twentieth century.
Among the many school records housed in our lower stacks, are many large ledgers called “Teacher’s Monthly Reports.” Issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Common Schools, the books were used by teachers to record attendance, textbooks used, and other events that might have happened at the school.
Several teachers often appear in the same book suggesting that teaching was a temporary position, held for a few years only. Whatever the teacher, he or she filled out the two page spread for each month. Boys are one side and girls on the other, but otherwise the method of taking attendance is not unlike the way my teachers marked attendance.
The absence rate seems high for some students. It’s possible that some were working on family farms or in family businesses, though in an age before mandatory vaccinations and antibiotics, its possible many students were experiencing what were common childhood diseases. School at this time let out for lunch, and the teachers recorded if the children missed the morning (a horizontal line) or didn’t return after lunch (a vertical line).
The second teacher to use this book from Gwynedd Lower School, James Creighton, recorded the students’ ages, giving us a snapshot of a one room school house with students as young as 7 and as old as 18.
This book is from a series of Teacher’s Monthly Reports books from Gwynedd Township (Gwynedd was split into Upper and Lower in 1891). The books were originally printed in 1868. The one we’ve looked at here began use in 1871 and is filled throughout, ending in 1876. We have books from other school districts as well.
The inside of the front cover is printed with instructions on what symbols to use and how to calculate the average attendance. It also suggests that teachers keep their attendance on a separate sheet and copy the records in neatly at the end of the month. It notes, “A teacher’s character is in no small degree indicated by the manner in which the monthly report is kept.”
At the end of the month, the book was examined by the secretary of the school district, who signed it and gave the teacher his or her monthly pay. The receipt of the payment was also noted in the report.
While preparing for our June 2018 exhibit, Made in Montgomery, I found a portrait that struck my curiosity. According to our records, the portrait is believed to be of Dr. Daniel A. Wilson. Since portraits were generally made for prominent people, I wanted to learn more about Dr. Wilson.
According to multiple sources, Dr. Wilson was the first African-American physician in Montgomery County. Dr. Wilson received his degree from Hahnemann Hospital for homeopathic medicines in 1890. His accomplishment was so groundbreaking, that it was even published in the Norristown Herald on May 12, 1890.
Dr. Wilson’s ability to graduate from Hahnemann was, in part, the result of a movement led by his own father, Rev. Amos Wilson. In 1839, the Norristown School Board established a public school on Powell Street exclusively for African Americans.  However, in the 1880s, Rev. Amos Wilson led a movement to desegregate Norristown schools. This successful movement coincided with a larger, statewide, desegregation movement. Although an 1881 law made it illegal to segregate schools based on race, many Pennsylvania public schools either ignored or found a way to circumvent the law. It was not until Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 that all public schools in Pennsylvania ended segregation.
Despite the challenges of segregation, Dr. Wilson led a successful career as a physician. He lived on Elm Street in Norristown until his death in 1934. Recognizing his success, the Times Herald published his obituary on the front page of the December 22, 1934 paper.
According to the second and third obituaries posted in the Times Herald on December 24th and 26th, his funeral service occurred at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church (Norristown) and he was buried at Tremont Cemetery.
 Dan Kelley, “Blacks Came for Work, Gave So Much More,” Times Herald, http://www.timesherald.com/article/JR/20050724/NEWS01/307249998.
 “Desegregation of Pennsylvania Schools,” Pennsylvania Heritage, http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/portal/communities/pa-heritage/desegregation-pennsylvania-schools.html.
Recently I was looking through a very old box labeled “Schools.” I found some very old items relating several now defunct schools in Montgomery County, including the North Wales Academy and Business School. There was a catalogue for the school for the 1884-1885 school year. There were also several copies of a school periodical called The Academy Acorn.
North Wales Academy can be seen on the lower left in the 1877 atlas
North Wales Academy was founded in 1867 by Samuel Umstead Brunner. Since the original school was in Kulpsville, its name was the Kulpsville Academy at that time (less formally, it was often called Brunner Academy). In 1871, the school moved to North Wales to take advantage of the newly built North Pennsylvania Railroad, according to Mrs. John M. Willis in her 1921 paper “The Brunner Academy of North Wales.”
A photograph of the school in the 1884-1885 catalogue
With the move to North Wales, the school began taking boarders. Many day students also attended. The school hosted several lectures each year which were open to the public and free. The school was co-ed and taught a college preparatory program as well as a business program.
Small private schools at this time existed all over the county. They were generally led by an individual and the school’s identity largely came from that individual. Samuel Brunner was born and raised in Worcester Township, attending public school there until he went to Washington Hall in Trappe. He attended Eastman’s Business College in Poughkeepsie before returning to Pennsylvania to work in Philadelphia. He taught on and off throughout his younger years and spent one year teaching in a public school in Jenkintown before starting his own school.
Samual Brunner from Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania by Henry Wilson Ruoff
The school taught math, science, music, literature, ancient and modern languages, as well as book-keeping and telegraphy. The Academy Acorn is a combination of articles about education (presumably by Brunner) about education and articles by the students themselves. In the first issue, Brunner writes about the public school system and an article titled “Prepare for College,” which claims that Pennsylvania’s high schools do not properly prepare students for college. Student articles include “The Growth of Intellectual Life during the Middle Ages,” “A Few Benefits of Physical Culture,” and “The Women and Shakspeare [sic].”
The school did not outlast Professor Brunner, which was typical of these sorts of schools. After he died in 1901, the building became a private home and was purchased in the 1940’s to be home of the local American Legion.
As June comes to an end, graduation season is winding down. I thought this photograph of Norriton's Township's graduating class of 1900 was an appropriate one for this week. The photo was donated by Irma Schultz in 1978, and that's her brother Raymond (he's easy to spot). Lidie Cassel is on his right, but the girl on the left is unidentified. The bottom row is Mary Allebach Markley Lesher, Samantha K. Hoover, and the final girl is also unidentified.
The back of the photograph has the stamp of S. H. Cope, a photographer with a studio in Norristown. Many of Cope's photos have made it into our collection. The photo doesn't give an indication of what school the teens attended. Dr. David Schrack's 1895 article on the history of then Norriton Township (published in our own Sketches) notes that the township had 5 public schools at that time, but doesn't list them.
So, it is possible that they attended this school - the Jeffersonville School. This two room schoolhouse was built in 1898, and this photo is from around that time. It stood on School Lane and West Main Street. It was later expanded and remained in use until 1926, according to The History of West Norriton Township (2009).