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"Be a good boy and learn..."

Updated: Dec 9, 2022

Samuel C. Booth's Penmanship Book, 1820

From the Collection of the Longmeadow Historical Society

Penmanship copybooks like this one used by a young Samuel C. Booth (1812-1895) are tangible reminders of students’ diligent work as they practiced the art of penmanship.

Samuel C. Booth of Longmeadow, Massachusetts would have been just two months shy of his eighth birthday when he began to fill the now-delicate pages of his copybook with his work. Occasionally splotchy, and certainly uneven in form, his letters filled lightly drawn guide lines across each page of the book. Rather than learning to write his letters A-Z, Samuel would have been taught to practice writing letters with similar shapes first. In this book, lines came first, followed by “ti” “n” “v” and “f”- or at least what looks like a cursive “f.” Likely his teacher wrote a model letter at the beginning of each line for him to follow, and set him on his way to sit at his seat with his quill pen and ink.

From letters, students like Samuel C. Booth progressed to words and then aphorisms meant to teach moralistic lessons to young children. Samuel’s copybook shows him writing, “Be a good boy and learn,” “Honor parents at all times,” and “Quarrelsome boys are bad.”

"Be a good boy and learn/Honor parents at all times"

From the Collection of the Longmeadow Historical Society

"Quarrelsome boys are bad"

From the Collection of the Longmeadow Historical Society

Booth was educated in Longmeadow public schools, though he clearly would have enjoyed an opportunity to study at college. Every census shows that young Samuel grew up to be a farmer, but his obituary reveals a deeper passion; he was a talented mineralogist. Booth accumulated a celebrated collection of rock and mineral samples which he stored, displayed, and categorized in various rooms and outbuildings on his property. Upon his death in 1895 he left the collection to the Springfield City Library and it became an important foundational collection at the Springfield Museum of Natural History. Specimens from his collection are still used in displays in the Mineral Room at the Springfield Science Museum at the Quadrangle today. His daughter became a noted scientist as well, and some of her specimens are displayed alongside her father’s.

And to think his life as an amateur geologist began so humbly learning to write his letters in penmanship copybooks.

Image Courtesy of Springfield Museums

from Historical Sketch Museum of Natural History 1859-1909

Springfield Museums, Mineral Room

December 2022

- Contributed by Melissa M. Cybulski, Longmeadow Historical Society

Special thanks to Zoe Cheek and Maggie Humbertson at the Springfield Museums Library and Archives and Jenny Powers, Director of Science at the Springfield Museums

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