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Maine Memory Network

Shaylor and Family

Theory of Spencerian Penmanship, 1874

Theory of Spencerian Penmanship, 1874

Item 74462 info
Maine Historical Society

Spencer, known as the "Father of American Handwriting," was born in 1800 along the Hudson River. He, like Horace W. Shaylor, spent his youth in Ashtabula.

Spencer's mother was widowed and his family was so poor that he could not afford paper. Instead, Spencer practiced his handwriting on leaves, bark, snow and sand.

He loved writing so much that he performed extraordinary acts just to explore it further. One time he walked barefoot for 20 miles simply to borrow a book. Another time, Spencer was supposed to demonstrate script for a visitor but did not have a pen; he used a broom straw and blood from his finger instead.

Spencer taught handwriting at age 15. Often he was so engaged with his lessons, he forgot to collect pay from his students.

His script has been described as rhythmic, comfortable and derived from natural forms. During lessons Spencer often brought in items from nature such as rocks, to show the forms had similar curves to handwriting.

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