Wednesday, August 12, 2009

when writing was based on rhythmic motions...


for the past year or so, i've been collecting multiples of a 1967 pinback button for a small project that will happen sometime next year. the pin is not incredibly rare, and i've found close to 30 of them on ebay over the past year or so. i usually find the pin alone, but once in awhile i'll have to buy a little bag of pins to get the one i want. usually the rest of the pins go into the goodwill box or the trash. on monday a package arrived in the mail containing a dozen or so pinbacks, including the one i've been collecting, as well as the "palmer method" pinback pictured above.

one of the great things about collecting old objects, is that you never know what kind of random, yet interesting, information might be revealed to you through an object and/or its history. when i pulled this palmer method pin out of the small plastic sandwich bag of junk, i certainly fell in love with the graphic quality. i then went online to see what i could find out about it...and lo and behold, wikipedia had an entry on "the palmer method".

it seems that around 1888, austin palmer developed a "uniform style of cursive writing with rhythmic motion". by 1912, over a million copies of palmer's manual - the palmer guide to business writing were sold, and palmer received a gold medal at the panama pacific exposition in san francisco, california, in 1915, and at the sesquicentennial exposition in philadelphia, pennsylvania, in 1926 for his writing method.

at some point educators felt that teaching "manuscript" writing earlier than cursive could shift the early focus on writing from visual form to more important ideas surrounding vocabulary and written expression. thus palmer's method fell out of favor.

the pinback pictured above was given to students as a reward for "satisfactorily finishing the first 25 drills" and is probably from around 1910 or 1920. you can read more about the palmer method here

there is also an incredibly beautiful facsimile of a 1935 version of one of palmer's books here, and i would HIGHLY recommend you clicking on one of the three images of classrooms with writing students, as the drawings are pretty incredible (and a bit like henry darger...).

to bring things full circle, a few years ago i was visiting a friend who teaches at harvard and we spent some time going through one of the libraries dedicated to children's and educational books. one of the books that fascinated me was a book on handwriting, and i took photographs of a couple of pages on writing, and in particular one that had the word "moon" written on a piece of paper in four different directions... of course, looking at the 1935 version of palmer's guide, i now realize the book that i was so interested in was an early version of the "palmer method"...

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Blogger ArtSparker said...

Wow, they're like little Buddhas. I have a couple of books where the children featured have mysteriously identical facial expressions. Do you know the Cuthbertson verb wheels?

7:39 AM  
Anonymous Terry Pitts said...

What a beautiful pin! Palmer spent some time in Cedar Rapids before his school really became successful. Apparently he had Grant Wood create some panels about the Palmer Method for the Chicago Century of Progress fair in 1933, but the artwork seems to have disappeared. Around the same time, the Palmer mansion was lent to the Cedar Rapids Art Associaiton (now the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art) for an extra exhibition space.

2:27 PM  
Blogger ghaines said...

Page 21 of the Palmer Method...Lesson 5 - Drill 2 - a minimalist masterpiece!

8:57 AM  

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