Ideas and Ideals: Growth and Challenge
“…a design for instructing a People, and adorning the Minds of their Children with useful Knowledge, can carry nothing in it but what is friendly to Liberty, and auspicious to all the most Sacred Interests of Mankind.” — William Smith, 1755
« New Engagements »
he expansion of Pennsylvania’s population during the eighteenth century was accompanied by a burst of educational opportunities and experiments.
By the 1740s, the Quakers had built an impressive system of schools open to the public in Philadelphia, with a central Academy as well as schools for younger children elsewhere in the city. Anthony Benezet, perhaps the most prominent Quaker teacher, began at the Quaker English School in 1742, and his popularity was such that he brought about a jump in enrollments. Beginning in 1754, he supervised a girls’ school which educated many daughters of prominent Quakers. Shown here is one of Benezet’s account sheets, detailing the practical expenses borne by colonial teachers, for which the Quaker Overseers or Trustees reimbursed him. The chart of enrollments here makes clear that the Overseers were supervising multiple schools for children of different ages, faiths, and economic classes.
Leaders of the Academy and College of Philadelphia also engaged in other kinds of “outreach.” Franklin and William Smith supported an ill-fated project to start “charity-schools for poor Germans,” which would teach English to German populations and, it was hoped, shift their political allegiance away from the pacifist Quakers of the Pennsylvania Assembly. What Franklin and Smith overlooked, or chose to ignore, was that the Germans had established complex schooling systems of their own. Teachers and students in the German classrooms of the region, particularly those of Christopher Dock in Skippack, often produced elaborate fraktur vorschrift, writing examples, with alphabets, numerals, and scriptural verses. The example here is by one of Dock’s students.
« Germantown Academy »
erman and English residents of Germantown cooperated in the construction of the Union School of Germantown (1761), later renamed Germantown Academy, which contained both English and German schools. One of its first teachers was the charismatic David James Dove, formerly of the Academy of Philadelphia, who continued to engage in satirical exercises like this “doggerel poem.”
« Evening Schools »
oor students or servants who could not attend daytime classes might attend one of the growing number of evening schools in Philadelphia, like William Ransted’s.