After I wrote about my ancestor, Platt Spencer, who developed Spencerian Script, which was used in the United States until 1925, when the Palmer Method took over as the main penmanship, I became interested in learning how to write the Spencerian Script. As I was looking for practice sheets online, I stumbled upon another family ancestor, Enoch Noyes, who also developed a penmanship style that was used in the United States prior to the Spencerian Script. An Analytical Guide to the Art of Penmanship by Enoch Noyes, was published in 1839, and while I can’t find evidence of this style being widely used in schools, I can understand why it wouldn’t have been. Enoch Noyes focused on the elegant and ornate style of writing. He believed that penmanship really could be art. I would expect that the wealthier people might have used his style of penmanship as a way of emphasizing their stature.
The different penmanship styles of the past remind me of the vast array of font styles that are available on the computers now. The biggest difference between the two ways of writing, are that with penmanship, students are often taught one style. Each student can elaborate on the style to make it their own, and most people have done that at one point or another. With the computer fonts, it’s easy to change your font style at will, then back again. That allows the imagination to run wild to create a personalized look, and there is no need to learn how to write out the font.
As I was researching the different penmanship styles, and there are more than just the ones I have mentioned here, I was a bit surprised that there seemed to be a battle, of sorts, to have each persons own style be the accepted style of penmanship in the schools…much like trying to pick a font out of the hundreds of styles available. It made me think of a battle, or duel to be the accepted font. I suppose that sounds like a silly idea, but I can envision that very thing…complete with elegant script styles, with hands, legs, and eyes, walking the paces before turning and aiming their guns…like dueling fonts.
My Uncle Bill Spencer always loved the handwritten letters that were written by his family. It didn’t matter to him if it was nieces or nephews, his siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins. He saw in every word, great value…as if it were pure gold. The more I look at old letters, and search for information about my family online, the more I realize that Uncle Bill was really on to something. Seeing the handwriting of our ancestors…be it on a letter, draft card, or photograph always gets me excited. To think that my ancestor actually signed that card, or wrote that letter is very cool. I especially love finding things that were written in some other language. When my grandmother Anna Schumacher Spencer and her brother Albert Schumacher were in school, the teacher made fun of their language. When they came home and told their mother, my great grandmother, Henriette Hensel Schumacher, she decided that German would no longer be spoken in their home. I don’t know if she ever changed her mind on that issue, but if German was spoken, it was not often. So to find a letter written in German by my Great Grandmother Henriette Schumacher to her daughter, my Aunt Min Schumacher Spare is especially exciting. I wish that I understood then, what I understand now about the handwriting of my ancestors. I am so excited about to find these great letters from people I have come to feel like I know well.
When I look at the handwriting of my great grandmother, I see a woman who, even in the face of much pain and adversity, prided herself on her handwriting. Of course, life happens, and we can’t always have the same control of our handwriting that we once might have, but at the time of this letter in May of 1911, her handwriting was pretty and delicate. My great grandmother suffered much with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and yet, I believe that she loved beautiful things, and that she was a delicate and beautiful woman. I know that she was so proud of her family. She would like to help them all she could, but with a large family, and tough times, it was not much. Nevertheless, it was her hope that all of her children would succeed in anything they chose to do…after all, America was the land of opportunity.
Mina Schumacher always wanted to be a teacher, but in the end, she became a bookkeeper. I think she was probably ok with that, but maybe always felt a bit of regret. Nevertheless, her hanwriting to me shows strong woman who loved the pretty and delicate things in life. She often signed things using beautiful script or calligraphy. It was her own sense of style. Many people never give any thought to the impression their signature will make on another person, but she did, and I loved it since the first time I saw it in my dad’s photo album. It was just as beautiful and graceful as she was. She knew that the handwriting of our ancestors is important.