Monday, November 24, 2014

Student of the Week: Annie Seixas

For all documents, you can click to enlarge

The Manhattan Trade School student whose record we're examining this week is Annie Seixas. As you can see above, she was born on Jan. 29, 1895, and grew up in Harlem on West 120th Street before moving to Lenox Avenue — or, as it's now also known, Malcolm X Boulevard. Interestingly, the notation in the upper-right corner indicates that she studied novelty box making and millinery, but the note at the bottom of the card says she received a certificate in "costume sketching," a term that I don't think I've seen used on any of the other Manhattan Trade School cards in my collection.

Annie's school and work records are, frankly, unremarkable. She appears to have been a good student and a steady worker, as you can see in the series of cards I'm about to present. The most interesting thing is the very last notation on the last card in this series:

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That final entry, dated Nov. 10, 1919, reads, "Came down to Manhattan Trade School two weeks ago to take exam for substitute license." Note that this was more than three years after the previous entry in Annie's file, and seven years after she'd been granted her diploma. She would have been approaching her 25th birthday. And she was apparently applying for a license to be a substitute teacher — interesting!

Annie's file also includes a letter that she wrote on Nov. 5, 1919. It was addressed to Miss Beagle, who was the school's job placement secretary at the time:

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The handwriting, while lovely, can be a bit difficult to decipher, so here's a transcription:

Dear Miss Beagle,

I saw Janet Jacob the other evening and she told me that you were waiting to hear from me. I am truly sorry for the my seeming neglect to communicate with you but I supposed you would hear that I had been down to see Miss Marshall [the school's principal — PL] and had even taken the examination for a substitute license.

I do realize that I should have thanked you long ago for letting me know of the examination, so will you accept my apologies and at the same time my sincere thanks for your remembering me.

When I visited the school two weeks ago, it was my first peep at the new building and I was so glad to see that at last you had a home worthy of all the good work that is being done there.

I am waiting now for a reply from the Board of Examiners and hoping, of course, that it will be a favorable one, and I am coming down to the school to see you just as soon as I can — that is, if a friendly chat will be permitted.

Yours very sincerely,
Anne Seixes

A few points regarding this letter:

• Note the reference to the school's new building. That's because Manhattan Trade had just moved to a custom-designed building at the northwest corner of Lexington Avenue and 22nd Street in 1918, one year before this letter was written. Annie had attended the school when it was at its previous location, just around the corner on East 23rd Street. (The 1918 building is that one that the school used for the rest of its existence. It remains in use today as a high school, but its original identity is revealed by the "Manhattan Trade School for Girls" lettering that's chiseled into its fa├žade.)

• I love how Annie consistently wrote the word "and" diagonally. I don't think I've seen that before. Is that something that was typically taught a century ago?

• Unfortunately, Annie's file contains no indication of whether she was approved for the substitute teaching license.

My best wishes to everyone for a happy Thanksgiving. I'll be back with another Manhattan Trade student next week.

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