"Born to Please":

The Art of Handwriting Instruction

Introduction | Early Modern Handwriting Manuals | The Eighteenth Century | The Spencerian and Palmer Methods | The Early Twentieth Century | Variants and Unique Examples | New Office Skills, or, Post-Handwriting

The Early Twentieth Century


Vertical vs. Oblique Penmanship
John Jackson, F.E.I.S.
The Theory and Practice of Handwriting; A Practical Manual for the Guidance of School Boards, Teachers, and Students of the Art, with Diagrams and Illustrations. Revised Edition.
New York: William Beverley Harison, 1894.
William Savage Textbok Collection.
–  Jackson, the author of several books on vertical penmanship and publisher of “vertical penmanship pads” and “vertical copy books,” here, in a book on handwriting theory for teachers, makes an extended argument in favor of using a vertical hand. In surveying contemporary writing manuals, Jackson finds that angles for script ranging from 10 to 70 degrees from upright are all taught as correct. The illustrations here are meant to show that the vertical lines at the top are clearly the most legible and the preferred script. This volume bears the ownership marks of Patterson Wardlaw (1859-1948), dated Feb. 1, 1896. Wardlaw was professor of education and Dean of the School of Education at USC, whose building is now named for him.



F. W. Tamblyn.
F. W. Tamblyn’s Home Instructor in Penmanship. Fourth Edition (Revised).
Kansas City: F. W. Tamblyn, 1917.
Gift of Elizabeth Newton.
–Tamblyn, as another American handwriting entrepreneur, emphasized different hands for different purposes, and this Home Instructor carried lessons in plain business hand as well as lessons in artistic writing and lettering, engraver’s script, and instruction in creating decorative flourishes and ornamental penwork such as the illustrations here.

Frank O. Putnam.
Helpful Suggestions for Teaching The Practical Writing Course; Teacher’s Manual.
Dallas, Chicago and Atlanta: Practical Drawing Company, 1920.
William Savage Textbook Collection.
– Putnam’s Practical Drawing Company offered correspondence courses in penmanship for teachers, following the philosophy that continual attention is needed for one’s handwriting not to “backslide,” and that teachers, above all, needed to maintain and perfect their hands as “inspiration and stimulus” for their pupils. This teacher’s manual to Putnam’s Practical Writing course is intended for introductory business writing and was to be used with any of Putnam’s 8 student texts.


Berry’s Writing Books. Book 4. South Carolina Edition, 1911-17.
Chicago: B. D. Berry & Co., 1911.
William Savage Textbook Collection.
– This slim workbook of 20 exercises is aimed at the 4th grade. Berry produced one for each year of schooling, primarily using quotes from contemporary poetry as the basis for its copying exercises. In the pages above, the first half of the exercise is practice, and the following page is intended for the completed assignment. One Spencerian pen stroke/form exercise is also included for each lesson. This book was printed for exclusive distribution in South Carolina schools at a fixed price of 5 cents each.

Alfred C. Cox and A. G. Baker.
A Copy Book for Teaching the Disabled Soldier to Write Well With the Left Hand.
[London]: Ministry of Pensions, ca. 1918.
Joseph M. Bruccoli Great War Collection.
– This undated copybook provides a series of lessons and exercises for left-handed writing for soldiers and veterans whose right hands were injured or amputated. As in the American Civil War, a wide variety of new surgical innovations, equipment, and rehabilitation techniques all rapidly advanced out of sheer necessity following the first World War. 

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