Friday, September 21, 2012

Education Documents in the Grems-Doolittle Library

This blog entry is written by Hannah Hamilton, a Library volunteer.

The education files contain over three hundred items including lists of colonial schoolmasters, receipts for the tuition of students, hand-made textbooks and diplomas from Union College. The documents date from the late 18th to late 20th century. Click here for a complete list of documents in the collection.

Particularly charming are those documents which are written out in longhand (cursive script). The Toll family was one of the prominent families in the Schenectady area for much of the early history of this country. A number of their family documents pertaining to the education of their children have been preserved and are included in the Education documents (part of the Historic Manuscripts Collection) at the Grems-Doolittle Library. Images of some of these documents may be viewed below.

The front page of a small, string-bound notebook written in longhand and discussing global geography. The first page is a description of the geography of Africa (ED 182). Beside it, the front page of another textbook, this one focused on “Arithmetick.” Both are presumably products of the Toll children (ED 184).

A receipt for $13.00 paid to the Schenectady Female Seminary by Reverend John C. Toll for his daughter Jane Sarah Toll. The Education was to take place between December of 1826 to March of 1827 (ED 183). An image of the ladies’ school dating from the 19th century is alongside it (ED 139). The photo is a photocopy of the original.

Can you figure out this tricky little math problem? It reads “POSITION; When first the marriage knot was tied / Betwixt my wife and me / My age did hers as far exceed / As three times three doth three / But after ten and ___ ten years / We man and wife had been / Her age came up as near to mine / As eight is to sixteen / Now ____ skilled in numbers say / What were our ages on the wedding day”.

The student who wrote out the puzzle was clever enough to work out the answer, and wrote below, “Sir forty five years you had been / Your wife no more than just fifteen”. The slip of paper was found at the beginning of a thick, hand-bound book of arithmetic. The opposite side of the paper is a simple explanation of arithmetic series (ED 268).

These files are all particularly interesting due to the strong personality conveyed through the hand-written documents. The modern scholar can sense the amount of attention which students paid to details, and the grueling levels to which they went in order to simply take notes. They also offer a fantastic view of the attitudes which high-society families held towards the education of women. If the handwriting can be labored through, we can gain a better perspective of colonial and ante-bellum education.

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