Whirling Dervish Penmanship

Primary schools today don’t teach the old methods of penmanship. If they teach handwriting at all, I’m not sure what to call it; 21st-century cursive looks a lot like it was  scribbled by a species that forgot it had opposable thumbs (there’s probably an app for that). Anyway, I admire vintage writing books and marvel at the way “the perfect hand” was taught. This is one in an occasional Daily Heller series on the-art-of-writing exercise texts.

You all know about the historic Palmer Method. I recently found The Champion Method for cursive writing. This is the 1911 version of “The New Barnes” method, from the A.S. Barnes Company, which published textbooks under the “Library for Teachers” imprint. Note the emphasis on whirling and swirling. Now that’s when penmanship was not just fun, it was an accomplishment. It was also necessary for writing checks and sending thank-you notes.

7 thoughts on “Whirling Dervish Penmanship

  1. Lola

    Apropos of your penmanship article-having attended public elementary school in NYC in the days of
    method, I had the devil of a time learning to write as my teachers didn’t know how to teach left-handed

    Wonderful article. Having grown up in NYC at a time when a Palmeresque method of teaching was
    The Way, and being left handed, the teachers did not know how to help me. As I got further along in school, I developed my own style , a combination of print and cursive, pencil held straight. I have done well. And now I have 2 “leftie” grand kids in Publc School in IL. Times have changed.

    I have a penmanship book in which you may be interested -the elaborately written cover:
    “Payson, Dutton and Scribner’s National System of Penmanship in 12 Numbers ”

    This book is 1

  2. Kate Gladstone

    Whether or not there’s an app for writing as if one hada hand problem, there’s st least one app for improving handwriting (with a built-in workbook, sketchpad, text/audio collections of hints, and more). In the iOS App Store, search for BETTER LETTERS …

  3. Charlotte

    Thank you for sharing this. I miss seeing beautiful handwriting. My parents went to school in the 1920’s and both had beautiful handwriting. Our children have grown up with fewer fine-motor skills and more hand-eye coordination. I guess that’s the change from writing to gaming.
    I learned the Palmer Method, and now that everything is done on a keyboard my handwriting has certainly deteriorated. I do try to write – long hand – a page every day. It’s rather calming.

  4. Carol Arrington

    My mother and her sisters had learned the palmer method in school. and when I went to school my mother complained about the methods of teaching handwriting. I do remember practice sheets where you had had to draw ovals over and over. ironically in later life I became interested in calligraphy. when I did a workshop at the U of C in Chicago I was pleased at how many students were interested.

  5. Nikki Corbett

    My oldest daughter was taught cursive in elementary school, but by the time my younger daughter reached 2nd grade, it had been removed from the curriculum–despite the eager kids who desperately wanted to learn cursive. Now, children write in cursive in such a haphazard manner that they often go over the same portion of a letter two and three times. It is now apparently up to parents to teach their children cursive since our school systems have abandoned the practice.
    On another note, I once brought some handwriting practice sheets and shared them with my daughter’s preschool so that all of the children could practice–simply tracing circles, loops, and zigzags. Turns out (I was told years later) my daughter was the only one made to do the practice sheets. No other children benefitted. Sad.