1910-1911 Manuscript Personal Journal and Academic Notebook of a Union, Missouri Middle Schooler

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On offer is a delightful notebook which is at once a journal and academic notebook of a young teenager in Union, Missouri, in the early 20th century. 

This book belonged to Florence (Flora) Schiller (1897-1993) who was born in Union, Missouri to Ida Mantles and Charles Schiller. At the time this notebook was written, she was a 13 year old middle school student. Schiller lived her entire life in or near Union. She worked in shoemaking until becoming a housewife when she married Frank Herbst (1886-1969), a cabinet maker. They were married in 1932, later in life for both, and there is no evidence that they had children. 

Flora kept this notebook between November, 1910 and late April, 1911. It is clearly intended to be a notebook recording Flora’s academic subjects, but she blends her academic notes with personal, making this journal an insightful look into the life experience of a 13-year-old girl. The book opens with Flora’s handwritten summaries of her school’s Literary Society meetings, which includes the names of dozens of her classmates, transitions into notes for a history exam, to the lyrics of the school song, and similarly oscillates back and forth between personal affairs and academic throughout the book. At the end, she writes the script for a school play she participated in in the 7th grade. Academic subjects noted include literature, mathematics, geography, history and civics. 

Throughout the notebook, her personality is evident and behind the lessons, a reader can glimpse a lively, good-humoured child:

“Examinations/The other night I went to bed/But not to sleep, for my poor head/Was filled with a most awful dread/Examinations!/I thought of this and then of that/Of set and sit, which goes with sat?/I fear my brain has run to fat…” [p12]. 

Many lessons followed a classic rote methodology with focused, fact-based questions followed by answers. History lessons were focused very much on American history:

“What two naval battles were similar in importance? The two naval battles that were similar in importance were Paul Jones sea fight and Constitution captures Guerriere…” [p. 21]. 

Many of the history lesson point to a wider cultural approach to the American ‘experience’ and philosophy:

“Peter Zenger editor of New York newspaper dared to find fault with Gov Cosby he was put in prison. When the day for the trial came on hand the judges were surprised to see Hamilton in the courtroom. He declared in a speech “that it was not the poor editors fault nor of New York alone. It is the cause of Liberty. Zenger was set free” [p. 81]. 

For a cultural historian this notebook is a fine glimpse into the world of early 20th century mid-west America. Through what is taught to children, an observer can discern what the larger community believes is important and values. For an educator, this is an excellent example of teaching that took place a century earlier. A genealogist would find the names of classmates a welcome source of information.

This small notebook measures 8.5 inches by 6.75 inches and contains 106 pages. It is 100 % complete. The cover is in fairly good condition with some chipping and staining. The binding is sewn and the stitching is extremely loose but all pages are intact. The spine was bound with tape which has worn through in places, especially the upper and lower corners. The handwriting is legible.

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