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A Look Back at Mid-19th Century School Life (9/8/2021)

1982:042:003 Reading, Writing and Arithmetic
1982:042:003 Reading, Writing and Arithmetic

School students today use computers, paper, and pens or pencils to complete their schoolwork. Mid-19th century students used slates and slate pencils to practice their lessons. Slate is a quarry stone that flakes into sheets. The sheets of stone then were put into wooden frames.  Students wrote on a slate with another softer stone, often soapstone.  Students could write on both sides of a slate. To clean the slate, students used either a rag or their own shirtsleeves. Sometimes slates had lines incised in them so that students could practice neat rows of handwriting. Nineteenth-century classrooms were not quite.  Slate pencils shrieked and squeaked on the slates.


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