The passing of Labor Day is always a sign that fall is near and school is back in session. All of the excited students—and the not-so-excited students—I’ve seen with backpacks and books this week got me thinking about school items the CLIR team has found during the survey of archival, manuscript, and photography collections. While you can browse yearbooks from Brooklyn schools in the Othmer Library, family papers and manuscript collections also have photographs, homework, and ephemera that give us an idea of what school was like in Brooklyn way-back-when.
The James Atkins Noyes collection covers one of the foundations of early education—writing. In 1867, James mastered the tricky art of penmanship with the help of his copybooks.
Once he had the hang of neat and formal cursive, James graduated to copying standard text that a businessperson of his day might use, like these sample receipts.
Thomas C. Morgan attended P.S. 56 in Flatbush, where he regularly received merit awards. As a third grader in April 1897, he was commended for “Industry, Punctuality, and Good Conduct.”
Juliette Jacobson was another stellar student, attending St. James Academy on Jay Street, which closed in 1933. Her biology notebook from 1915 has detailed definitions and drawings.
Juliette’s graduation photo shows her wearing medals she earned for academic excellence, no doubt the result of her excellent note-taking.
The 1918 graduating class of the P.S. 50 in Williamsburg was very well-behaved in their class portrait. There isn’t a single set of bunny ears among the students.
A less formal portrait of a class at Bedford-Stuyvesant’s P.S. 93 in the early 1920s gives us a peek into the classroom and what students wore to school.
Finally, something a bit more modern—Ann Kranjec was a second grader at P.S. 8 in Brooklyn Heights when she wrote this short composition in 1970.
I like living in the city because it [has the] Botanic Gardens, and tall buildings. I like the city for its nice parks and zoos, and its famous bridges.