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Displaying items by tag: colleges

Tuesday, 07 November 2023 20:18

Dr. Ralph Linwood Johnson

You may recall a recent blog about the accession of the Hophni Van Fossen Johnson portrait into our collection. You can read the old blog by clicking here.

Why am I bringing this portrait up again? Well, I have some exciting news! We are fortunate to add another member of the Johnson family to our portrait collection. The portrait of Dr. Ralph Linwood Johnson was recently donated to HSMC. Ralph was the youngest son of Hophni Van Fossen Johnson and Elizabeth Shrawder.

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Portrait of Dr. Ralph Linwood Johnson, 2023.061 HSMC Portrait Collection, Gift of the Johnson Family

Dr. Ralph Linwood Johnson was born on October 2, 1873 in Lower Providence Township, Montgomery County. He attended Ursinus College but had to occasionally interrupt his education with periods of teaching to help pay for tuition. As you may recall from the last blog about Hophni, the family struggled with finances for a while.

Ralph attended Ursinus on and off from 1889 until his graduation in June 1897. He obtained his master's in arts from Ursinus in June 1899. After college Ralph became a teacher and later a principal in West Conshohocken.

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Dr. Johnson's Honorary Degree, 2023.061, Gift of the Johnson Family 

Along with the portrait, we also received his honorary doctorate from Ursinus College. It is written completely in Latin and printed on either thick paper or potentially animal skin. The degree states Anno Salutis MDCCCCXX, which I believe translates to "In the year of salvation 1920". So this honorary degree was bestowed upon him 21 years after he obtained his master's degree from Ursinus.

Published in Found in Collection
Thursday, 24 June 2021 18:55

A photographic mystery

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A couple of months ago, I received an email from the Hershey History Center about three photographs they had found in their collection.  The photos show a graduating class of a women's school.  We know from the small inscription in the lower left corner that this is the class of 1924.  What we don't know is what school we're looking at.  A nurse appears in two of the three photographs, so perhaps we're looking at the graduates of a nursing program.

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Unfortunately, we can see very little of the buildings behind the graduates, but I thought that one of our dozen or so readers might recognize something in the photos.

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Henry K. Bussa was a Norristown photographer that I wrote about a few weeks ago.  But, of course, he didn't work exclusively in Montgomery County, so it's possible that this school or hospital is in Philadelphia, Chester, or another nearby county.

If you have an idea of where these photographs were taken, drop me a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in Found in Collection
Thursday, 04 March 2021 18:36

Schissler College

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The Albertson Trust Building, showing Schissler College on the second floor

Recently one of our members sent me a link to a postcard for a long forgotten business school in Norristown and suggested it might make an interesting topic for this blog. I recognized the name from some items in our collection and thought maybe others would find it interesting.

Schissler College began as a night school founded by the 23 year old A. J. Schissler in 1887. Schissler had been born in Manayunk and attended school only to the age of nine when he was sent to work at a local mill. He continued his education by attending night school and at 21 he took a business class and was able to begin clerical work at a local grain merchant. He began the school by teaching in his home two nights a week, but soon expanded to nightly classes in separate buildings. Day classes began in 1890.

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The following year, Schissler founded a second school in Norristown. Housed in the Albertson Trust Company building at the corner of Main and Swede Streets, it had classes during the day and in the evenings for both men and women.

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Example of shorthand from the 1896 prospectus

Courses at the college included bookkeeping, commercial law, penmanship, shorthand, and typing. Students could also choose an academic course “for pupils who contemplate a more complete course of study, but are not prepared to enter upon it, because of lack of early education.” French, Italian, and Spanish were also available for an addition fee of $5 per month.

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The college also maintained an employment bureau for its students, and the college prospectus has a long list of firms at which it has placed students. In addition to three years of the college’s catalogs, we also have a graduation booklet from 1896. That year, the Norristown College graduated 53 men and 64 women in a ceremony at the Grand Opera House.

I don’t know how long the college lasted. The latest record I could find of it was this 1915 advertisement from the Conshohocken Reporter.

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Published in Found in Collection