Monday, January 26, 2015

Peirce’s Penmanship Past on Display at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Last year, the Peirce College Library began a conversation with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) about the Penmanship Collection in our archives. Based on this discussion, a number of staff members from HSP visited Peirce to see the materials. They were impressed with the depth of the collection and the story it tells about penmanship education in nineteenth-century Philadelphia. 

When HSP began to assemble an exhibit on the history of penmanship and penmanship education, Tara O’Brian, the Director of Conservation and Preservation, invited us to be a part of the display. The exhibit, “Pen to Paper” opened earlier this month and features a few notable items on loan from the Peirce Archives.

When Peirce students enrolled in the penmanship program in the 1880s, they were asked to submit a sample of their handwriting in the form of a letter to Thomas May Peirce. At the end of the program they would write the same letter, showing how the methods taught by the Peirce faculty improved their penmanship skills.

A few of these student samples are included in the Historical Society’s exhibit. The display also contains a letter written by Thomas May Peirce, showing his own penmanship skills. Our founder’s letter is in good company, displayed next to a letter written by Michelangelo to Pope Leo X. Another interesting non-Peirce piece in the collection is an 1865 lithograph of Abraham Lincoln appearing through the text of the Emancipation Proclamation. The exhibit captures the importance of skilled penmanship in the pre-typewritten world through the lens of Pennsylvania people and institutions. 

Thomas May Peirce's Example of Perfect Penmanship
Letter from Michelangelo to Pope Leo X
1865 lithograph of Abraham Lincoln appearing through the text of the Emancipation Proclamation

 In other archive news, we’ve created an exhibit documenting the first 50 years of Peirce which includes catalogs, photographs, letters and promotional materials from the archives. This can be viewed in the Library through the end of February.