poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘autograph album

early schools – the autograph book

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A tradition in schools before the 1960s was the autograph book. I had one of these books in the 1960s, but although I collected some autographs, it was considered a quaint activity.


two of Jane Margaret Norman's autograph albums

two of Jane Margaret Norman’s autograph albums


Both my mother and my aunt had autograph books in the 1940s and 1950s. One of my aunt’s albums was from her students when she taught in a one room school.

I also have my great-grandmother’s autograph album with messages from 1885 to 1914. Her name was Mary Jane (Johnson) Clarke. Her daughters (including my grand-mother) wrote in the album in the later years.


Mary Jane Johnson Clarke's autograph album

Mary Jane Johnson Clarke’s autograph album from the 1880s


These books are small, rectangular in shape. The covers are heavy stock paper, sometimes flocked. The older albums have embossed leather covers. The albums range in size from about 3″ by 5″ to 7 3/4″ by 4 3/4″ (the oldest books are the largest). Each page of the book held one autograph: the date, a message, saying or poem, perhaps an address and a signature. Males as well as females wrote in the albums. The albums from the 1940s and 1950s have variously coloured pages in now-faded pink, yellow and blue. The pages in my great-grandmother’s album are beige and white.


my grandmother's autograph in my great-grandmother's autograph album

my grandmother’s autograph in my great-grandmother’s autograph album


Some of the messages offer serious advice for a good life:

Life is like a mirror

Reflecting what you do

And when you face it smiling

It smiles right back at you


Some messages are amusing or even politically incorrect. One from 1947 shows a disturbing flippancy about marital violence:


When your husband at you flings

Knives and forks and other things

Seek revenge and seek it soon

In the handle of a broom


Some messages are just funny, and seem almost modern:

Great-Aunt Laura Clark's autograph in my Great-Grandmother's autograph album

Great-Aunt Laura Clarke’s autograph in my Great-Grandmother’s autograph album in 1909


Since my focus in my ‘old schools’ project will be on the school in the context of the landscape, I was pleased to find one or two messages about landscape!


When hills and dales divide us

And distance is our lot

Just cultivate the little flower

That is called forget-me-not




I’m glad the sky is painted blue

And the earth is painted green

And such a lot of nice fresh air

Is sandwiched in between


June 8 2016 'the autograph' Jane Tims

June 8 2016 ‘the autograph’ Jane Tims  (Is she writing the autograph for her friend or her doll?)


Did you ever have an autograph album? Do you remember any of the verses people wrote?


Copyright 2016  JaneTims

Written by jane tims

June 15, 2016 at 7:00 am

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