Platt Rogers Spencer, who is my 3rd cousin 5 times removed, was a social activist. In other words, he saw something that was socially or morally wrong, such as slavery, and he actively fought against it. These days that would mean protesting, lobbying, and blogging against it. Social activism has it’s place, but should be done in the proper way. Platt Spencer was a zealous promoter of the antislavery movement…an honorable cause. He was a prominent advocate of the abstinence movements. He was instrumental in founding business colleges in the United States, and was in organizing several business colleges in the United States, and he was an instructor in business colleges throughout the country.
In 1815, Spencer taught his first writing class, and in New York, where he founded the Spencer Seminary in Jericho, housed in a log cabin. From 1816 to 1821, he was a clerk and a book keeper and, from 1821 to 1824, he studied in law, Latin, English literature and penmanship. He also taught in a common school and wrote up merchants’ books. In 1824, he contemplated entering college with a view to preparing for the ministry, but, due to his alcoholism, which was aggravated by the prevalent drinking customs of the time, he did not. He struggled with alcoholism for a number of years. He then taught in Ohio, where in 1832, he was able to withdraw from alcohol completely, becoming a total abstainer. He advocated abstaining from alcohol for the remainder of his life. Soon after his recovery from alcoholism, he was elected to public office, as county treasurer of Ashtabula County, Ohio for twelve years. He also was a founding member of the Ashtabula County Historical Society established in 1838 and he was instrumental in collecting the early history of Ashtabula County, Ohio.
In 1840, Platt developed a beautiful and unique style of writing and named it after himself, calling it Spencerian Script. The penmanship style quickly became the standard in the United States from 1850 to 1925. It was considered the American de facto standard writing style for business correspondence prior to the widespread adoption of the typewriter. Platt used various existing styles as the inspiration for his unique oval-based style. His style could be written quickly and legibly and yet it still looked elegant, which made it perfect for business correspondence, as well as personal letters. Immediately following his development of the Spencerian Script style, Platt began teaching it in the schools he established for the purpose of teaching his penmanship style. As soon as his students began to graduate, they started replicas of the Spencerian Script abroad, and then in 1850 it reached the common schools. Unfortunately, Platt Spencer never got to see the full success of his unique penmanship, because he died on May 16, 1864. Nevertheless, his sons made it their mission to bring their late father’s dream to fruition. They accomplished that feat by distributing Spencer’s previously unpublished book, Spencerian Key to Practical Penmanship, in 1866. Spencerian Script was gradually replaced in primary schools with the simpler Palmer Method developed by Austin Norman Palmer…which is sadly very plain by comparison. The Coca-Cola Company famously used Spencerian Script in its now famous logo, and continues to do so to this day.