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A 19th Century Report Card

HERE IS another example of fraktur, the Pennsylvania German folk art that included colorful, handmade renditions of important documents, usually marriage and birth certificates, house blessings and bookplates. This is a “Reward of Merit” given to a student by a teacher in about 1830.

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Joseph Ebbecke writes:

I’ve run across the concept of a ‘merit’ before.

H. L. Mencken described his elementary education in The Caves of Learning.

He attended a private school in Baltimore called Knapp’s Institute in the 1880′s. The students were mostly German-American and instruction was in English, but the founder and primary teacher was from the old country.

For good marks or behavior Professor Knapp would award his students a ‘merit’, which might be candy, a pencil, a pen-knife for a boy or kerchief for a girl or the like. The ultimate merit was a copybook with a quote or drawing from a teacher or the Professor himself on the inside cover.

I wonder if the Professor used the German word ‘belohnung,’ or if his drawings matched the Pennsylvania fraktur in beauty.

Mencken said the Professor often reminded his classes that (in contrast to the public schools) ‘no alumnus of the Institute had ever ended on the gallows.’

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