Family history documents and stories to supplement the genealogical information at

Saturday, January 24, 2009

National Handwriting Day

My great-grandmother, Katie Weinsz Gordon, spent a lot of time writing things down. She kept a journal, and almost every photograph and document that passed through her hands bears a notation of some sort. The following example is a particularly detailed one, written on the back of a photo of her girlhood home.
Weinsz House, Dover, Ohio
Weinsz House, Dover, Ohio

I don't have too many memories of her; I was brought up in Illinois and she lived in central Ohio and we didn't see each other that often. But one time when she came to visit in Illinois, she sat down with us kids and showed us how (encouraged us?) to do handwriting exercises. I remember these exercises as rows and rows of scrolling ovals, but I'm sure there was more to it than I remember. I thought it was fun because I'd never seen anything like that when I learned to write.

I didn't know then, but those exercises were similar to the ones set forth in the Palmer Method. A. N. Palmer's penmanship book was published in 1894 and I think Katie was already attending school by then, but she must have learned handwriting by a similar method.

National Handwriting Day is January 23, the birthday of John Hancock, and brought to us by (surprise, surprise) the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association.

If you want to know more about the development of penmanship, there's a fascinating book review of Handwriting in America at Paperpenalia.

I don't know about you, but my handwriting has greatly deteriorated since I started using a keyboard for almost all written communication. Time to add penmanship exercises to the list of things I oughtto do. I should have stuck with them when Grandma tried to teach us.
Katherine Weinsz

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At January 24, 2009 9:12 AM , Blogger Carol said...

I also love to look at the copied pages I have of my grandmother's diaries to see how she wrote.

And like you, my handwriting has gone downhill since I type most of my communication, not that it was ever that good to begin with.

At January 24, 2009 4:48 PM , Blogger Annie in Austin said...

Hi Entangled,

I seem to remember charts of Palmer Method letters on the inside covers of notebooks when I was a kid. While talking on the phone my mom sometimes doodled those ovals she practiced in school.

When my kids were in school they began the move from printing to cursive around the end of 2nd- beginning of 3rd grade. If it worked like that when Katie was a child, she'd have been the right age to be an early adopter.

I can't even read my own grocery lists.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

At January 24, 2009 6:29 PM , Anonymous Eileen said...

I can remember when Elinore Ruth Linden would write on everything she had also. She would even write the date on the food she had. I remember her having some boxes of Jello that the date on it was from 20 years earlier and my mom mixed it up just to see if it would set up and it did. This must have been something they did back in the old days.

At January 25, 2009 8:18 AM , Blogger Entangled said...

Carol: I feel more of a personal connection when I read handwriting than when I read typescript. Your grandmother's handwriting looks similar to my great-grandmother's, I think. Wonder what our future family historians will make of our blogs (assuming they can find copies somewhere)?

Annie: I think by the time I learned to write, the teacher was happy enough if she could just read it. Somewhere in looking up material on handwriting for this post, I found something that suggested that earlier generations were not taught printing at all - they started them off with cursive writing. I know in one of these upcoming letters from Katie's mother that she mentioned that Katie had a hard time writing with a pen because she had learned on a slate.

Half the time I forget to take the grocery list to the store with me, so it doesn't matter what I wrote ;-)

Eileen: I have a couple of little books that Elinore gave my great-grandmother, and I believe she wrote a gift inscription in each one. I haven't looked at those in a long time - I'll have to get them out again to see what she wrote.

Funny story about the Jello!

At January 27, 2009 4:49 PM , Blogger chuck b. said...

If my handwriting was as nice as your great-grandmother's I would feel more jealous of my cursive. I can't even remember the last time I've seen my cursive. I wonder what it would look like now!

At January 28, 2009 12:06 PM , Blogger Entangled said...

Chuck: I tried to write cursive again a few years ago (don't remember why) and was horrified. I'm afraid to try again.

At February 8, 2009 7:12 PM , Blogger Claudia's thoughts said...

I find it totally amazing and what a treasure for you that she wrote on the pictures. I wish my ancestors had written on their pictures.

At February 23, 2009 7:40 AM , Blogger Cherie said...

I really like your blog and feel like I've learned something here! I have chosen you for a KreativBlogger Award

At February 23, 2009 9:59 AM , Blogger Entangled said...

Claudia: Family history is so much easier when the ancestors help to write it! We have so much information from that side of the family and lots of it came from Grandma's notes.

Cherie: Thanks for the award! I'm honored.


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