Author Topic: How to Find /Acquire Examples of Everyday Handwriting by Year  (Read 668 times)

Offline AnasaziWrites

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How to Find /Acquire Examples of Everyday Handwriting by Year
« on: September 18, 2020, 10:38:32 AM »
@Trazo
I'm making a separate post here with an answer to your question as to how to find examples of handwriting from the Spencerian era, as it might be of interest to others in the future and this makes it easier to find.

A great source of handwriting by ordinary people is, naturally, letters. After 1845 (in this country), any letter mailed required a stamp. All US stamps have a Scott number, which can be found in a stamp catalog such as this one (my favorite):
https://www.mysticstamp.com/Catalog.aspx

Look for a stamp made in the year you wish to see a letter from, for example Scott 65 (again, one of my favorites, as this was during Spencer's lifetime). Choose a stamp that is the cheapest to buy, you'll get more results this way in the search to follow.

Go to ebay, type in Scott 65. Refine search by choosing US stamps. Refine search further by going to Covers.
(Sometimes the search will immediately go to US stamps if you have done this search before, whereupon refine to US postal history covers)

This mornings search resulted in 223 hits. I didn't go through them all, but in the first 10 covers (envelopes), there were two with letters--great examples of everyday writing from the 1861-3 era. photos 1-4 attached). Save the images for future study, or, if you really like them, buy them to add to your collection.

Occasionally, you'll find examples of a master's work (see last photo--Flickinger) (This cover is currently for sale. These can be pricey, though, particularly if the stamp is rare. In this case, $500 or best offer. I sent a modest offer on it, but was rejected).




Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: How to Find /Acquire Examples of Everyday Handwriting by Year
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2020, 08:27:08 AM »
Well arenít you the clever one! I never would have thought of that. Ingenious process! Thanks for sharing. And beautiful samples.  ;D
Truly, Erica
Lettering/Design Artist, Homeopath, Photographer, Mom, Wife
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Offline Trazo

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Re: How to Find /Acquire Examples of Everyday Handwriting by Year
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2020, 12:13:04 PM »
Wow! This is fantastic! Exactly what I was looking for. Very smart idea. I never thought of eBay as a source of knowledge  :)

Thank you very much.


Offline Trazo

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Re: How to Find /Acquire Examples of Everyday Handwriting by Year
« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2020, 01:41:08 PM »
Well, I have already started to play with my new eBay toy and definitely there is a lot of material there. If you just type "US letter" and the year, you get a lot of envelopes and letters. However, instead of calming my curiosity, this real material has put new questions in my mind. I have gone through dozens of letters from the period between 1850 and 1900, but very few seem to be written by a hand trained in Spencerian script. According to the big Spencerian revival in the calligraphic world nowadays, one may think that almost every American gentleman of the period wrote in a beautiful Spencerian way (at least, that is what I thought). But which was the real scope of the Spencerian script in those times? Was it taught in primary schools? Were there other concurrent scripts? I would appreciate if anybody knows a book or a website about this topic.

Once again thank you for sharing this fantastic tool. I have already found a couple of exemplars of the kind I was looking for: writers that surely had some kind of Spencerian training, but used the script in their own personal way (as everybody does with the system, he/she learned at school, except calligraphers  :))

Offline jeanwilson

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Re: How to Find /Acquire Examples of Everyday Handwriting by Year
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2020, 11:22:06 AM »
Unfortunately I do not recall which rock star it was - but at my first IAMPETH conference, someone with an abundance of knowledge on the topic of penmanship explained to me that the percentage of people who are taught any of the various styles of penmanship and then end up with beautiful penmanship has remained the same over the years -- a very low percentage. With any system of writing, people end up on the bell curve - where a few people can follow the exemplar perfectly. Then the scale slides past those who do a pretty good job and eventually, tips over to those whose penmanship is functional and finally - at the other end of the curve - illegible.

As someone who has taught a lot of penmanship and had numerous conversations with others who teach - most of us agree that there has never been one system that works better than any other system. We notice that those who WANT to do better - do better. Many kids just see penmanship as torture. I've always wanted to work with a school that would allow students to choose their own style - Spencerian, Palmer, Getty-Dubay, D'Nealian (and others) to see if kids did better when they were given a choice rather than being forced into the same *box.*

Offline AnasaziWrites

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Re: How to Find /Acquire Examples of Everyday Handwriting by Year
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2020, 12:22:25 PM »
I have gone through dozens of letters from the period between 1850 and 1900, but very few seem to be written by a hand trained in Spencerian script. According to the big Spencerian revival in the calligraphic world nowadays, one may think that almost every American gentleman of the period wrote in a beautiful Spencerian way (at least, that is what I thought). But which was the real scope of the Spencerian script in those times? Was it taught in primary schools? Were there other concurrent scripts?
I concur with what Jean just posted. Millions of people were taught to write (Spencerian, also called by other names) in the 1850-1920 period in primary schools, but few actually wrote well after their schooling was done, or even during it. It's the same today--millions are taught to write, but how many people do you know have beautiful handwriting?
Here are examples of students writing from the 1870's from my collection of copy books. The first is most typical--most people wouldn't recognize it as Spencerian. The second is recognizable as Spencerian (by those who know what Spencerian is, anyway). The third is pretty good Spencerian. Not masterful, but nice. It stands out. I have only one other example of writing at this level in a copy book.

Offline Trazo

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Re: How to Find /Acquire Examples of Everyday Handwriting by Year
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2020, 04:14:02 PM »
First of all, thank you very much, Jane and Anazasi, for sharing your knowledge and your materials with me. Definitely, very few people stay in the realms of the handwriting system they learned in school (in the case they got to learn it properly!). I guess this is something normal, because there are a lot of factors (psychological, technical...) that press our handwriting out of the learned model. In fact, I don't see this as something negative. Otherwise, everybody would have pretty much the same signature...

The copy books attached provide a very interesting material: the exemplars are truly Spencerian in the three of them but the performance is absolutely different (different age? different grade? different teacher?). The most amazing thing is that the best performance is by the one in the lowest grade of the copybooks system (he/she is still writing words, while the other two are writing sentences).

I asked the question of the former post, because I couldn't recognize any Spencerian trace in the majority of the period letters I found on eBay. Under this new light, it is difficult to say if they were trained in Spencerian script or not. However, all this information is valuable for me, as it put in context the real scope of truly Spencerian practice in everyday life in US during the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

I am sure I will have more questions for you, as the more I learn on the topic the more curious I become. I hope not to abuse of your patience. Thanks again.

Offline lyric

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Re: How to Find /Acquire Examples of Everyday Handwriting by Year
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2020, 06:04:32 PM »
As someone who has taught a lot of penmanship and had numerous conversations with others who teach - most of us agree that there has never been one system that works better than any other system. We notice that those who WANT to do better - do better. Many kids just see penmanship as torture. I've always wanted to work with a school that would allow students to choose their own style - Spencerian, Palmer, Getty-Dubay, D'Nealian (and others) to see if kids did better when they were given a choice rather than being forced into the same *box.*

As an education major and former substitute instructor I agree wholeheartedly with this approach.  It seems; however, that choice goes against most public educational systems.
Scribbalicously yours, Lyric
Calligraphy Journey began 01.06.2020
Penwomanship began 10/2020 :-)

Offline jeanwilson

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Re: How to Find /Acquire Examples of Everyday Handwriting by Year
« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2020, 06:53:32 AM »
Yes - and from a practical standpoint - it would be asking way too much for teachers to become proficient in several different styles of penmanship.

Offline AAAndrew

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Re: How to Find /Acquire Examples of Everyday Handwriting by Year
« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2020, 10:56:51 AM »
Excellent method for a more focused search! It is fascinating to see how established schools of penmanship end up "translated" into everyday writing. I know my script looking little like the Palmer I was taught in school.

Andrew
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https://thesteelpen.com/

Offline Vicky

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Re: How to Find /Acquire Examples of Everyday Handwriting by Year
« Reply #10 on: February 17, 2021, 12:57:18 AM »
This is a great idea for researching how writing forms were "really" used. Another option would be to look for handwritten letters online at the Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov) and download for free. I do genealogical research and read compilations of letters from individuals over time. One observation is that exhibition of penmanship skills depended on the recipient -- a billet-doux to a sweetheart would show the best hand possible, bills and letters to friends would be far more casual but still presentable, while a personal journal would be scribbled in something more akin to what we see today.