J. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) Currey.

Chicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.1) online

. (page 42 of 59)
Online LibraryJ. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) CurreyChicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.1) → online text (page 42 of 59)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

of many of the children in the schools. Mr. Haven urged the city to provide
playgrounds and simple gymnastic apparatus for the schools; but land even then
was considered too valuable to be used merely for pleasure, and the idea of free-
hand gymnastics was slow of development, in spite of its involving no expense,
and affording immense gain to the children.


A graded course of instruction, prepared by Superintendent Wells, was adopted
in 1861 by the board of education. This attempt (the first in Illinois) to estab-
lish an extended graded course of instruction was the beginning of the thoroughly
graded system upon which our public schools are now based. The grammar school
work was divided into five grades, the primary work into five. In his outline of
the course of studies, Mr. Wells laid especial emphasis upon lessons in manners
and morals, and on natural science. The progressive character of Mr. Wells'
work as superintendent, and the vigor of its execution made him one of the most
influential figures in the development of the Chicago schools. This organization

2 Daily News Almanac.
'Andreas: I, 216.


of the schools was one of his important achievements. Immediately upon its
publication it was extensively copied by other cities, with modifications to suit
their needs.


An interesting though short lived arrangement may here be spoken of. Until
1863 there was no discrimination against colored children in the public schools
of the city but the intense partisan feeling of the time resulted in an expression
of race prejudice in regulating the attendance at the public schools. The city
charter adopted in February, 1863, contained the following provision for the es-
tablishment of a separate school for colored children: "It shall be the duty of
the Common Council to provide one or more schools for the instruction of negro
and mulatto children, to be kept in a separate building to be provided for that
purpose, at which colored pupils between the ages of five and twenty-one years,
residing in every School District in said city, shall be allowed to attend; and
hereafter it shall not be lawful for such pupils to attend any Public School in
the City of Chicago at which white children are taught, after a school for the in-
struction of negro and mulatto children has been provided."

In accordance with this provision the Common Council passed an order estab-
lishing a separate school for colored children. Such a school was held in a rented
building at the corner of Taylor street and Fourth avenue, and was continued
until April, 1865, when the provision for separate schools for colored children
was repealed by the city charter of 1865, in consequence of the gradual disap-
pearance of the harsh feeling which had prevailed in the years just preceding this

In 1864 Mr. Wells resigned his position as superintendent, to enter business
life, after eight years of invaluable service in improving the city schools. 4 Dur-
ing these years he had developed his own system of graded courses, which became
a model for educators all over the country ; he had delivered lectures explaining
his system and had written a book on it; and he was for one year president of
the Illinois State Teachers' Association. After his resignation he was still closely
connected with the schools, and an energetic worker in their behalf, being on the
school board for many years, and writing textbooks which became standard au-
thorities on the subjects of which they treated. He was a member of the Chicago
Historical Society, the Public Library board, and was a well known figure in
the city until his death on January 21, 1885.


Josiah L. Pickard was elected to succeed Mr. Wells. In 1865 two innova-
tions were introduced into the school system by the new superintendent. The
study of German in the schools below the high school was decided upon as an ex-
periment by the board, and in the fall a class was formed in the Washington
school in the West Division. So large a number of pupils elected the study, that
in the next year it was decided to have German classes in one school in each
division. Twelve years later the instruction was graded; the study had become

4 Andreas: I, p. 215.


so popular that it was a part of the course in eighteen of the district schools, a
special teacher of German having been engaged since 1874. Another experi-
ment of that year was the public support of a free evening school, started in 1856
as a private undertaking, the board at first only giving the use of the room in which
it was taught. Its sessions were held in West Market Hall, on Randolph street,
near Desplaines street. Daniel S. Wentworth, principal of Scammon school, vol-
unteered to conduct the evening classes, being mainly assisted by day teachers,
who gave their services to the work. The first direct support given evening schools
by the Common Council was $5,000 from the general fund, appropriated in 1865.
The work has been continued until the present time, with the exception of a short
period after the fire, and during the year 1877, when there was no money for
the support of evening schools.

About the same time another addition to the list of studies was recommended
by the superintendent. This was the teaching of drawing, then considered by
many a useless fad. An unsuccessful attempt was made in the Teachers' Insti-
tute to secure for teachers some instructions, that they might be able themselves
to teach drawing. This failing, in 1870 two drawing teachers were appointed.
The Bartholomew Series of drawing books was at first used, and later the Walter
Smith system of free-hand drawing.

Between 1860 and 1870 the number of pupils in the schools increased from
14,149 to 38,939, and the number of teachers from 123 to 557. The increase in
seating capacity in the schools was not proportionate, and it was estimated that
in 1863 there were 2000 children of school age not in attendance; in 1868 there
were 12,000. An assistant superintendent was provided for and elected in 1870.
owing to the increased burden of management.

The puzzling question of discipline in schools, always a present one with the
teachers, was claiming the attention of educators throughout the country at this
time. In the advanced schools of the East the doctrine and practice of sparing
the rod had been found successful, and had given rise to much argument in other
communities regarding the good old fashioned idea of deserved corporal punish-
ment. The board in Chicago, led by its president, held out against the new con-
ception of discipline, but finally, when corporal punishment had been practically
abandoned in the schools, the board formally ruled against it.


A class for the deaf was started in September, 1870, by Mr. D. Greenberger,
in rooms furnished by the board of education, but otherwise not supported by the
city, the pupils paying tuition. In 1875 the board assumed control of the school,
and in 1879 the state legislature made an appropriation for the support of a. school
for the deaf in the city, which gave the school already started the means to en-
large its work materially.

Other classes for the deaf were started, and knowledge that such public in-
struction was offered in certain schools became more widely known among parents
of deaf children. In 1 895 there were four schools in which there were these classes,
two on the West Side, one on the North Side, and one on the South Side, with a
total enrollment of sixty-five pupils. With so few centers, the difficulty in keep-


ing up the standard of attendance was due to the distance of many pupils from
the schools, necessitating carfare and often the company of older persons to and
from school ; besides, often parents had not heard of these classes, others could
not afford the expense and trouble of sending the children to a distant school, and
still others sent their children to the Jacksonville school for the deaf, where the
students remain away from home nine months of the year. The passing of a bill
"authorizing School Districts managed by Boards of Education or Directors to
establish and maintain day schools for the deaf, and authorizing payment from
the State Common School Funds" resulted in further public action in behalf of
deaf children, and in 1896 Miss Mary McCowen, a woman of experience in the
education of the deaf, was elected as supervising principal of the Chicago Public
Schools for the Deaf. The establishment of new centers has increased to such an
extent that at the present time, thanks to the enforcement of the compulsory edu-
cation law, and the growth of the department, there are in the city more than
twenty centers for the instruction of deaf children. In some of these rooms the
teaching is by the wholly oral method, by which the children learn to speak and
to read the lips of others; in other rooms the combined system of studying both
speech and the sign language is used in teaching. ' Parents may choose to which
classes to send their children. The rooms used for this instruction are in the reg-
ular school buildings, so that deaf children are associated with other children at
recess and before and after school. The partial realization of ideals set by Miss
McCowen and indicated in her report for 1897 has meant progress in these schools;
in this report she wrote, "With a uniform course of study, and classes carefully
graded, for all deaf children of the city, whether taught by the Combined System
or' the Pure Oral, with small classes near the homes for primary children, larger
classes at central points for intermediate children who are able to go greater dis-
tances alone, and a central grammar school, or two if necessary, one for each
method, our schools for the deaf may, in my opinion, be vastly improved." In
some of the larger centers for the deaf the pupils have been graded according to
their relative deafness, and according to their advancement in studies have been
assigned to their proper classes, and occasionally allowed to participate in the
recitation work of hearing children. This is found to be a great benefit and stim-
ulus to them.

Classes for the deaf are necessarily small because of the great amount of time
that must be given to each pupil. However, though the expense per capita in
this department is therefore great, compensation is evident in the useful, dis-
ciplined lives of those who would otherwise be among the dependent members of
society. The department is at present in charge of one of the assistant superin-


In 1871 came the Great Fire which, devastating as it was, had the same effect
upon the school system as upon the city in general the marking of a new period
in its development. There were sixty public schools in Chicago in 1871, of which
fifteen were burned. Of the number destroyed, five buildings were rented by the
city for the use of schools, and ten were owned by it, one of these being located
in the South Division and nine in the North Division ; those left standing in the


North Division were the Newberry and Lincoln schools. Among the schools de-
stroyed were the Jones, Kinzie, Franklin, Ogden, Pearson street primary, Elm
street primary, La Salle street primary, and the North Branch primary. Some
of the buildings which remained standing were put into immediate use by the Chi-
cago Relief and Aid Society as temporary sleeping places for those made home-
less by the fire. This unusual occupancy continued for a week or more, until other
shelter could be provided for the sufferers. Within two weeks after the fire the
Board of Education reopened these buildings, secured temporary school rooms,
and began to engage the former teachers. The number of teachers employed was
much greater than the number of available rooms. The teachers were accordingly
divided into four classes: (1) those who were burned out and were homeless; (2)
those who had parents or younger members of the family dependent on them for
support; (3) those who had to depend on their own earnings for a livelihood; (-1)
those who had friends or relatives who could provide for them for the present.
In being assigned to duty they were given employment as nearly as possible in
the above order, some remaining without employment for a year; most, however,
were working after six months. The rebuilding of the schools which were burned
was a work of three years, and the loss suffered from the damage done to the school
fund property was felt much longer.

A great loss to the schools was the burning of all the books and papers which
were kept in the offices of the board. These included the city and state reports,
the manuscript records of the proceedings of the board from its beginning, and
the school library. It was estimated that the pecuniary loss to the board of edu-
cation was about $251,000. 5


A change was made in 1872 in the manner of choice of members of the board
of education. By enactment of the legislature the mayor, with the approval of
the council, was to appoint the members, and the board was given the power to
buy sites, erect buildings, loan funds, etc., subject to the approval of the council.
Although the board was thus given greater power than before, it found it difficult
to carry out plans for increasing the school equipment. The question of providing
for the rapidly growing enrollment of pupils was now, more than ever before, a
serious one. The council had listened to the urgent requests of the school board
for more school buildings to such an extent that they were accused of great ex-
travagance. Ten new buildings had been erected within a period of four years,
and still, according to the school report of 1875, one-fifth of the 50,000 pupils en-
rolled were having but half-day sessions, on account of the scarcity of seats. The
board had trouble in securing provision from the council for repairing old build-
ings and providing new ones. The board even accused those members of the
council who were on the school committee of neglect of the people's interests and
of collusion with property owners in preventing the board from buying lots that
were needed. The board did not have the power to condemn property for school
purposes, and in the purchase of lots there was always the difficulty of dealing
with sellers who showed a disposition to demand an exorbitant price from the

5 Report of Chicago Relief and Aid Society (1874), p. 13.


city. Conditions became worse and worse, and in 1879 only 37.7 per cent of the
school population could be accommodated. This extremity, together with the poor
sanitary condition of many of the school buildings, was followed by the build-
ing of more schools and by improving the lighting and ventilation of the buildings,
both old and new. The use of stoves was still prevalent, however, and the light-
ing of the school rooms was so inadequate that an examination of the eyes of
children in the grammar and high school grades of a certain neighborhood showed
a steady increase of myopia from lower to upper grades.

For some time before 1875 there had been discussion in the board of educa-
tion and among the citizens regarding Scriptural reading in the public schools.
After being considered in the newspapers, on platforms, and in gatherings of so-
cieties, the question was voted on by the board and it was decided to omit the
reading of the Bible in the schools. This movement is generally thought to have
been started by the Catholics and to have been, in its outcome, a victory for them.

The schools were regraded in 1875, so that the number of elementary grades
was reduced to eight, an arrangement which still exists. In 1877 Mr. Pickard was
succeeded by Duane Doty as superintendent of schools.


The introduction of manual training into the schools marks the beginning of
an epoch in which attention is being paid to making a wider appeal to those not
satisfied with the course of studies as it had hitherto been. In 1876 the first
step in this direction in Chicago was taken. In the school report for the year
ending June, 1910, the present superintendent of schools, in calling attention to
the still existing need for more manual training equipment in the schools, says that
"it is a quarter of a century since Chicago began to advocate training the hand,
and training to a knowledge of the home arts." At the time referred to a year's
course of manual training work was included in the curriculum of the North Di-
vision High school, and in the next year was lengthened to a two years' course; in
1890 the English High and Manual Training school was organized and offered a
three years' course in this work. The movement in this country to introduce
manual training into the schools had its origin in the interest aroused at the Paris
Exposition of 1867, at which there were exhibits of the technical work of the
pupils of European schools, which gave new ideas to the American visitors who
were interested in educational methods. It was more than ten years after the
Paris Exposition that the experiment of making manual training a part of the
school course was tried in the schools of Gloucester, Massachusetts, and Boston,
and New Haven. In 1876, when Chicago opened three ungraded schools for
truants, "sloyd" was introduced as a course there. In 1885 the Chicago Woman's
Club made an earnest but unsuccessful effort to have manual training introduced
into the schools. It was in the following year that manual training was finally
made one of the courses offered at the North Division High school. The first time
it was taught in the grades was when, in 1891, at the expense of Mr. Richard T.
Crane, a room was fitted up and a teacher engaged for the Tilden school. In
this room instruction in manual training was given to the boys of the eighth grades

6 Hannah B Clark: Public Schools of Chicago, p. ^^.


of the Tilden and neighboring schools. Another such center was established in
the following year at the Jones school by the Chicago Herald.

After the beginning thus made through outside assistance, the board gradually
undertook the work. Of the progress made since then we may judge by words
from the 1910 report of Mrs. Ella Flagg Young, the superintendent of schools.
"In spite of all our warmth of espousal of the cause of manual training and house-
hold arts, only three schools in every four in our city are equipped for manual train-
ing and only seventy-three out of two hundred and fifty for cooking. When will
our works keep step with our belief in training the hand, the eye, the muscles of
children, through use of the materials furnished man by Mother Earth, such train-
ing coming through a few simple, every-day, industrial arts? Every elementary
school should be equipped with a manual training shop, a kitchen, and a sewing
room. The work of the teachers in class-rooms and of teachers of industrial arts
can never be integrated so long as the pupils are sent away from the building to
a distant school to be taught one phase of the integration, while the teachers busy
in their separate buildings have no opportunity for conference and, at times, for
cooperative work in class instruction. If this work is suited for the children
below the seventh grade, as suggested in the report of the superintendent for
1908-9, there is no school so small that it could not occupy the full time of a
teacher of manual training and a teacher of household arts in carrying out the
hand work in conjunction with the book work."


Instruction in domestic science was first given in the Chicago schools in 1897,
when a group of private individuals offered to pay the expenses of teachers and
equipment if the board of education would grant them the use of necessary rooms.
Cooking and sewing classes were taught in two such rooms during the first year,
and the next year the board of education appropriated $25,000 for the mainte-
nance of ten centers for the teaching of sewing and ten for cooking. To these
centers pupils were sent from 145 schools. Domestic science courses have re-
cently been introduced into more of the grades and into some of the high schools.
In thus wisely providing for training in active hand work as well as in academic
studies, the educational system of Chicago is recognizing the necessity for the
rounded development of the boys and girls. To quote Dr. Dewey on this subject:
"The simple fact in the case is that in the great majority of human beings the
distinctive intellectual interest is not dominant. If we were to conceive our
educational end and aim in a less exclusive way, if we were to introduce into educa-
tional processes the activities which do appeal to those whose dominant interest
is to do and to make, we should find that the hold of the school upon its members
would be more vital, more prolonged. . . . The school should not be an in-
stitution that is arbitrary and traditional, but must be related to the growing evolu-
tion of society. One of the social changes most prominent at the present time is
the industrial one. .It is absurd to expect that a revolution shall not affect educa-
tion. Correlated with these industrial changes is the introduction of manual train-
ing, shop work, household arts and cooking. The school must not remain apart,
Isolated from forms of life that are affecting society outside. The impulse to


create, to produce, whether in the form of utility or art, must be recognized. This
impulse or tendency is just as real and imperative in the development of the human
being as something that appeals simply to our desire to learn, to accumulate in-
formation and to get control of the symbols of learning." 7


To relieve the crowding in the one high school of the city, so-called* "division
high schools" were opened in 1881, in which a two years' course of instruction
was offered to those not wishing the four years' course. These branches of the
high school finally became regular high schools established in different divisions
of the city.' In 1890 an English High and Manual Training school was organized,
where a special three years' course of technical instruction was offered to boys.
This was the means of keeping many more boys than formerly in attendance at
high school, especially after manual training was introduced, through the gener-
osity of Mr. R. T. Crane, into the seventh and eighth grades, in about 1891. The
course at the English High and Manual Training school was lengthened in 1901
to four years, the course being thus put on a par with that of the best secondary
technical schools in the country. In 1903 a new building for the English High
and Manual Training school was finished and called the Richard T. Crane Manual
Training High school; another high school for boys is the Albert G. Lane Tech-
nical High school, finished in 1908 and accommodating 1500 high school boys.

A statement of the number graduating from the high schools of Chicago will
give some idea of the increase of demand for secondary schools during the past
fifteen years. There were 794 graduates in 1895 from the fourteen city high
schools; in 1900 there were 1249 who graduated from the fifteen high schools;
in 1910 the number of those graduating from the eighteen high schools was 1560.
In making a resume, in 1900, of the high schools of the city, Mr, Nightingale,
then assistant superintendent of schools and in charge of the high schools, said in
his report: "With an examination standard of 50 per cent, where we now require
75 per cent, about one hundred pupils entered the one high school at its opening
October 8, 1856. (There were 2500 in the common schools.) Today [in 1900]
there are fifteen high schools with nearly 10,000, and each and every school is a
monument to the wisdom, the sagacity, the far-sightedness, the philanthropy and
the patriotism of the few citizens who, after thirteen years of agitation, founded
the first high school in Chicago in 1856, which was open to both sexes." There
has never been a time since then when the overcrowding in the high school de-
partment has not been a question of more or less seriousness.

Online LibraryJ. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) CurreyChicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.1) → online text (page 42 of 59)