School days of Brooklyn’s past

The passing of Labor Day is always a sign that fall is near and school is back in session. All of the excited students—and the not-so-excited students—I’ve seen with backpacks and books this week got me thinking about school items the CLIR team has found during the survey of archival, manuscript, and photography collections. While you can browse yearbooks from Brooklyn schools in the Othmer Library, family papers and manuscript collections also have photographs, homework, and ephemera that give us an idea of what school was like in Brooklyn way-back-when.

The James Atkins Noyes collection covers one of the foundations of early education—writing. In 1867, James mastered the tricky art of penmanship with the help of his copybooks.

Copybook, 1867. James Atkin Noyes collection, ARC.069, Brooklyn Historical Society.

Copybook, 1867. James Atkins Noyes collection, ARC.069, Brooklyn Historical Society.

Once he had the hang of neat and formal cursive, James graduated to copying standard text that a businessperson of his day might use, like these sample receipts.

Penmanship book, 1869. James Atkin Noyes collection, ARC.069, Brooklyn Historical Society.

Penmanship book, 1869. James Atkins Noyes collection, ARC.069, Brooklyn Historical Society.

Thomas C. Morgan attended P.S. 56 in Flatbush, where he regularly received merit awards. As a third grader in April 1897, he was commended for “Industry, Punctuality, and Good Conduct.”

P.S. 56 merit reward, 1897. Morgan family papers, ARC.073, Brooklyn Historical Society.

P.S. 56 merit reward, 1897. Morgan family papers, ARC.073, Brooklyn Historical Society.

Juliette Jacobson was another stellar student, attending St. James Academy on Jay Street, which closed in 1933. Her biology notebook from 1915 has detailed definitions and drawings.

Juliette Jacobsen biology notebook, 1915. Fred Hoyt family research collection, ARC.043, Brooklyn Historical Society.

Juliette Jacobson biology notebook, 1915. Fred Hoyt family research collection, ARC.043, Brooklyn Historical Society.

Juliette’s graduation photo shows her wearing medals she earned for academic excellence, no doubt the result of her excellent note-taking.

Juliette Jacobsen in her school uniform at graduation, 1917. Fred Hoyt family research collection, ARC.043, Brooklyn Historical Society photograph collection (V1992.40.32).

Juliette Jacobson in her school uniform at graduation, 1917. Fred Hoyt family research collection, ARC.043, Brooklyn Historical Society photograph collection (V1992.40.32).

The 1918 graduating class of the P.S. 50 in Williamsburg was very well-behaved in their class portrait. There isn’t a single set of bunny ears among the students.

Graduating class of P.S. 50, 1918. P.S. 50 John D. Wells School collection, 1991.005, Brooklyn Historical Society photograph collection (V1991.2.1).

Graduating class of P.S. 50, 1918. P.S. 50 John D. Wells School collection, 1991.005, Brooklyn Historical Society photograph collection (V1991.2.1).

A less formal portrait of a class at Bedford-Stuyvesant’s P.S. 93 in the early 1920s gives us a peek into the classroom and what students wore to school.

P.S. 93 class, circa 1925. Minnie Grace Hillard collection, ARC.041, Brooklyn Historical Society photograph collection (V1987.045.5).

P.S. 93 class, circa 1925. Minnie Grace Hillard collection, ARC.041, Brooklyn Historical Society photograph collection (V1987.045.5).

Finally, something a bit more modern—Ann Kranjec was a second grader at P.S. 8 in Brooklyn Heights when she wrote this short composition in 1970.

Ann Kranjec schoolwork, 1970. Kranjec family papers, ARC.034, Brooklyn Historical Society.

Ann Kranjec schoolwork, 1970. Kranjec family papers, ARC.034, Brooklyn Historical Society.

I like living in the city because it [has the] Botanic Gardens, and tall buildings. I like the city for its nice parks and zoos, and its famous bridges.

About Weatherly

I'm an Archives Survey Technician working on the CLIR project at BHS.
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