Thursday, July 26, 2012

Laurentia Report Card front.jpg Laurentia Report Card Inside.jpg
Click images to enlarge

Reader Jared Wieseler recently found and scanned some school records pertaining to his grandmother, Laurentia Keiser, who grew up in Nebraska. What you see above are the inner and outer panels of her sixth grade report card from 1932.

Lots of interesting details here, beginning with the near-perfect handwriting of Laurentia's teacher, Edith Billerbeck. What was it about 20th century schoolteachers that gave them such perfect penmanship? Like, were they hired strictly on that basis or something? And do today's teachers still have great handwriting, or has that gone to hell in the computerized era?

Other items of note:

• It's also interesting that a report was sent to Laurentia's parents every month (when I went to school in the 1970s, it was quarterly).

• Laurentia's father, Stephen Keiser, must have had a strong preference for pencils over pens: He used a pencil every time he signed the report card. (Or maybe he simply couldn't afford pens -- this was during the Great Depression, after all, and inexpensive ballpoint pens wouldn't come into common use until the mid-1940s.)

• Too bad Ms. Billerbeck didn't fill out the graph on the back of the card. That would have made for a great visual.

• Laurentia didn't study arithmetic; she studied mental arithmetic. I love that.

• I don't think I've ever seen orthography listed on a report card before. In academic terms, orthography covers a wide range of subject matter; given the other topics already listed on Laurentia's card, however, I believe it referred simply to spelling. Anyone out there know more?

Here are the front and back of a card from two years later, when Laurentia was in the eighth grade (you can click to see a larger version):

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Laurentia still had the same teacher, so it must have been a very small school. Good to see Mr. Keiser was sticking to his pencils, too. But what I really love about this card is the little "If You Wish to Succeed in Life" tutorial. Interesting that the very first attribute they chose to stress was caution.

Laurentia eventually graduated from the eighth grade, at which point she was given diploma, which was produced in its own little folder (again, you can click to enlarge):

8th grade diploma cover.jpg 8th grade diploma open.jpg

I especially like the seal at the top, with the books on the left, the stagecoach on the right, and the wreath of wheatstalks sprouting from an ear of corn. The seal at lower left complete with two different colored ribbons, is a nice touch as well.

Jared -- Laurentia's grandson -- says there's lots more where this came from. "I also have an eighth grade diploma for Laurentia's sister, Teresa, that seems to be actual felt affixed to cardstock, wrapped in gold fabric that's sort of like the lining of a suit jacket," he says. "It has an added matching ribbon tied around the diploma."

Sounds amazing. Jared, if you're willing to share, let's see more!


  1. Being a Cornhusker born and bred, it was somehow exhilarating to see an entry that is Nebraska related.

    Small school, indeed. Cedar County only has around 8000 residents, with 1500 or so of them in the county seat of Hartington. The population has changed little since the '30s. Despite its low population, the county supports two high schools (one public, one Catholic).

    Back in those days, Nebraska was first or second in the nation (along with Texas) in number of school districts. As a result, there were great numbers of tiny districts with one room school houses with a single teacher for kindergarten through eighth grade. Consolidation has taken root over the past few decades, but I have a friend who graduated in 1984 who attended such a one roomer in the '70s, so some of them persisted for a long time.

  2. Holy moly, Robert -- you're not only PermaRec's most consistent reader, but you seem to have a personal connection to nearly every post!

  3. The connections seem to be on the increase. I almost fear what might be around the corner.