During my college days in Nebraska, a favorite pastime was picking up treasures at farm auctions. Upon opening one such bargain, an antique trunk, I found a spelling book a little girl had scribbled in many years ago.
Her spelling book, The Graded World Class Speller was written by Mortimer A. Warren and published by Taintor Brothers, Merrill and Co, NY, 1876. The curriculum was described as containing several thousand words grouped in classes, and arranged to form a progressive course in spelling.
Near as I can tell, her name was Lucy J. V. Bucher. (In my imagination, she is Lucy Joanna Victoria). I’m certain a parent inscribed this for her…(it looks fairly mature) but she was learning cursive.
This page in the back of the book, Chapter VI, is a “List of Words Whose Pronunciation or Whose Spelling I have Found Difficult” seems to have a mature penmanship first, hers to follow, for practice sake.
I suspect she was about nine in 1890. Apparently she lived in Thayer, Nebraska, one of the nine villages in York County (est. 1855) in the south eastern part of the state. I like to think her schoolmaster looked something like this, my great-grandfather who taught school for many years. Indeed, in his classes, boys and girls were separated on separated sides of the room.
Lucy likely attended a one-room school where five or six age and grade levels were given lessons at different times. When applicable, the same lesson might be taught to the entire class. Textbooks were purchased by families and often passed down within the family until the book was tattered and worn. Lucy’s book, copywrite 1876, might have been used and battered by older siblings. Hence its disreputable condition. Lucy’s pencil might have been “yellow” by then. Originally pencils were left unpainted to showcase the natural wood, but yellow paint came into fashion about 1890 to showcase use of Chinese graphite. Older children used pen and ink, but sparingly.
It’s fun trying to make a long ago little girl a bit more real. My five year old grandson has already resisted the concept of homework. He complained to his daddy about having to write his name ten times, explaining “You’re not my boss.” I wonder if Lucy felt the same, considering all the doodling in her practice pages,, and of course, the mysteries she left behind.
One scribbly page claims “Fred is go to mery Lily Boile.” (Another page claims “Martha is go to mery..” somebody also but I can’t read the name.) Anyway, did they? Marry, I mean, a couple of decades down the road?
Perhaps the dearest things that fire my imagination are: “What is my doll name?” Mixed in with numbers and math.
And…the mysterious name Charlie Mix?…was she writing his name because he was her first grade school crush? Or was he, boringly, simply another kid who used the book?
I’m sure hoping for the former!