Welcome to my genealogy blog. Ancestors I Wish I Knew is a combination of genealogical information and stories about individuals in my family tree. The focus is on those from my Cochrane, Eitelbach, Merrett, Minarcik and Richards lines and their descendants.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

#86--Gertrude Richards Goes to Packer Collegiate Institute

Packer Collegiate Institutue
The women in my family have a long history of attending Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn, New York.  My grandmother, mother, and assorted aunts and cousins all went to Packer.  I also went there.  I recently was at the Brooklyn Historic Society and was able to look at some very early Packer catalogs.  I was anxious to see what I could learn about my grandmother, Gertrude Richards’s education at Packer.  The catalogs contained a wealth of information:  the names of all students, teachers, and trustees; the curriculum for each grade; admissions and attendance requirements; and tuition rates.  At the time she was there, Packer was divided into 4 departments:  Primary, Preparatory, Academic, and Collegiate.  Each was divided into grades, the number of which changed over the years. The highest grade in each department was called the first grade with the lowest either the fourth or third.

Based on her date of birth and some information I had from her autograph book, I guessed that Gertrude Richards was a student there in 1886.  I started by looking at that 1886 catalog and found Gertrude Richards in the Primary Department in Grade 1.  I went back and found her in 2nd grade in
Gertrude Richards
1885 and in the 3 grade in 1884.  I did not find her in any earlier.  I then went forward and found that she was at Packer until 1889, when she completed Grade 1 in the Preparatory Department.

The curriculum looks very similar to what students study today.  The Primary Department described the curriculum as follows:  “In addition to instruction in arithmetic, geography, and reading, careful attention is given from the first to writing and outline drawing.  There is daily use of “Elementary Lessons in English” and a lesson in French or in German is given at least three times a week.”   The Preparatory Department’s curriculum was as follows:  “Pupils are required to pass searching examinations in Arithmetic, Grammar and Geography.  The history of the United States is studied.  Two lessons a week are given in a modern language.  The students of this department have regular excises in reading and writing.  They also have lessons twice a week in drawing.  Special attention is given to spelling and composition, and there are oral lessons in literature. “

The school year, which was divided into four terms, began in mid-September and ended in early June.  There were vacations for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and Washington’s Birthday.  School began at 9 a.m. and ended at 2 with a half hour recess at noon.  Tuition per term in 1885 ranged from $16 for the Primary Department to $35 for the Collegiate Department.

Some of the things in the catalog seemed very familiar to me as a Packer student.   One was the
The Library
library: I remember spending study hall in that library.  At that time the library contained about 5000 volumes, including encyclopedias, dictionaries, classics, sciences, and literature.   Then, the library looked like this and it looked very much the same when I was at Packer.

When I was a Packer student, there were many different sports teams and great rivalry between the classes to win various physical education awards which they called calisthenics.
So I was interested to see that that emphasis had much earlier roots.  All students were given daily instruction in physical exercises, which the catalog stated improved the health of the student body.

One of my fondest memories of Packer was the daily chapel service, which brought together the entire student body.  The catalogs do not refer to a chapel service but rather to daily opening
The Chapel
exercises, where the 600 voice chorus (that would be the entire student body) sang.  Not only did they sing from what I read, they practiced for 30 minutes during Term I and 15 minutes for the other terms.  That was a far cry from our choir, which sung once a week.  However, the student body did sing several hymns during each chapel service.

I do not remember talking with Granny about her years at Packer, but I wish I could.  I would like to know where she went to school before she entered Packer and if she received any other education after she left.  I also would like to know how she got there as it was a very long walk from her house.  I would like to know what she liked the best and least about her education.

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