Example of Palmer Penmanship
1940 marked the end of the era of academic penmanship instruction in most American schools.
Instead of learning the long-taught Palmer Pensmanship Method perfected by Austin Palmer which engages the entire arm and shoulder to form smooth, fluid pen strokes, students were taught the simpler block manuscript alphabet, otherwise known as “printing,” followed by cursive handwriting when they reached mid-level elementary grades.
Beginning in the 1940s, simple “Ball and Stick” manuscript printing
replaced basic Palmer penmanship instruction in many U.S. schools.
Today, many schools have dropped all pretenses at formal penmanship or handwriting instruction. Students learn to print and are taught basic cursive, but there is little reinforcement or training as a follow-up. The emphasis has shifted from handwriting to keyboarding, and basic computer skills. But all is not lost!
Although 1940 rang the death knell for Palmer Penmanship in the academic curriculum, the adult enumerators of the United States Census of that very year were, no doubt, previously prepared for their particular temporary vocation by the standard penmanship instruction of their youth — the Palmer Method.
Your participation as an indexer for the 1940 U.S. Census will give you a rare opportunity to personally examine remnants of past perfect Palmery with surviving examples of exemplary embellishment as exhibited throughout the 1940 U.S. Census by enumerators who were surely schooled in the standard of their time. This alone is reason enough to offer one’s services in the indexing project. When one considers the added benefit of contributing one’s time and talent to a most worthwhile project, it’s the biggest no-brainer in the history of volunteerism.
Until the pendelum swings back perfecting personal penmanship, we will have to enjoy such random glimpses of the past as demonstrated in the careful lines of the 1940 Census Ennumerator.
Ode to the Palmer Method
Perfectly practical Palmer, master of muscular movement
A classic style, a business skill that always paid the rent.
We wrote with ease and speed, accuracy, endurance
Lessons and drills were our employment assurance.
And then came 1940, a new month, a new year,
Progress marched in, Palmer’s out on his ear.
Block-letter Manuscript was the chime of the hour,
Smooth cursive followed, nothing like Palmer Power.
Dick and Jane were the model, for perfecting one’s script
Alas, Granddad Palmer was cut free and adrift
To float away on the tide, proud, straight, and strong,
Until April 2, 1940 at last rolled along.
Then the world knew, saw with its own eyes
The delightful legacy of the Palmer Penmanship Prize.
Page after page in the United States Census
Bore witness to Palmer and his good senses.
Remarkably legible, long line after line
The ennumerators handwriting could not be more fine.
[well, mostly :>)]
Sign up now to index the 1940 U.S. Census when it’s released April 2, 2012, and enter the community project indexing practice contest for a chance to win a VISA Gift Card. No poetry required! It’s easy and fun. Don’t delay, this contest ends March 30, 2012.
1940 U.S. Census Project Website — Sign up to help index the census, participate in contests, learn more about the 1940 U.S. Census
As part of the 1940census.com ambassador program this blog post enters me into a drawing for weekly prize.
Copyright, 2012 Denise Levenick