Thursday, September 15, 2011



December 3rd, 1915, was apparently a busy day for Miss Beagle, who ran the job placement office at the Manhattan Trade School for Girls -- or at least it was busy for her assistant, who had to type up at least two letters, as you can see above. I suspect there were several other similar letters sent out that day.

As you can see, both of these letters are addressed to students who had failed to claim their diplomas. Here's the backstory: After students at Manhattan Trade completed their coursework and training, they were required to demonstrate a proficiency in their chosen trade (dressmaking, millinery, or whatever) in the workplace. Only then could they apply for a diploma. Apparently some students didn't bother with this step and simply kept working. The letters shown above appear to be part of a broad attempt to contact past students who were diploma-eligible.

"Proficiency" in a student's trade was usually deemed to have been established after a year. One of the letters shown above was sent to a dressmaking student named Margaret Griffin, who had been finished her coursework way back in 1910 -- more than five years before Miss Beagle wrote to her. She responded with the following letter:

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It's a little hard to read, so here's a transcription:

Mr Dear Miss Beagle,

Received your letter. Thought I would get an opportunity to go down and see you personally, but have been so busy. So I dropped these few lines letting you know that I would be delighted to receive a diploma.

I have worked in Lord & taylor for two season and went to McCreary last October, a year ago. Thanking you for your past kindness I remain

Margaret Griffin

According to Margaret's file, she received her diploma on January 14, 1916.

The other letter was sent to a decorative boxmaker named Jennie Guaraglia. Her file contains no indication of any response to the letter, and it appears that she never applied for or received her diploma.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I find the style of language fascinating; it is so refined, something I would expect from a bourgeois, not a laborer. This gives me a better appreciation for life back then. Nearly one century later, it seems as though grammar and elocution have lost their importance in all levels of society. One can only wonder if civility and manners (or the lack thereof) are related to this.

    Thanks for doing this blog, Paul. I am really looking forward to the Slate series!