The World in Their Hands

This week's prompt shows what looks like a chemistry lab in a school. It didn't take long for me to find this old photo of a classroom of some students studying geography.

This comes from Boston Public Library's Flickr collection. This collection is immense and taken from scans of old photos from photographers that have left their collections with the library.

This photo is from the George Putnam School in Boston, dated around 1892. I don't believe this building is still in existence and haven't been able to find a newer building with the same name.

Boston Public Library - Flickr
There are some drastic differences in comparison with today's modern classrooms. These walls are stark and bare. The walls are mostly slate board with beautiful penmanship inscribing the lessons for the day. The teacher has quoted an idiom from Aesop's fables on the blackboard, "Slow and steady wins the race." The students are wearing similar clothes. Almost every child has a piece of paper that is used for taking notes neatly to the left.

But what strikes me mostly from this photo is the shear size. There are over 40 students in this room! This photos was amongst dozens of classroom photos of similar size that came up when I searched the archive. Class sizes of this proportion must have been the norm in the late 1800's.  That's a huge student teacher ratio. Today's standards marks anything over 20:1 a large classroom size.

But even though that class is huge it's nice  to see everyone is working diligently and that each student had their own globe to study.

If you wish to find many more great Sepia Saturday posts, click here.


Bob Scotney said…
Interesting to see two black children in the class. Teachers today would be shocked when faced with a class this size. I was surprised to see that they had a globe each.
Sharon said…
It looks too neat to be real.

We had the old desks similar to this. Once I left a a cicada in my desk and of course it died and everyone (including me) wondered what the smell was!
Kathy said…
My age is showing as I remember classes of more than 30 students when I was in elementary school - but those classes must have been a handful! Great photograph to share with us.
Postcardy said…
It certainly doesn't look like a typical group photo or typical school day. I think the "perfect" arrangement of globes and paper detracts from the children as subjects.
Don't you feel sorry for the three boys with no globe ?

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