Platt R. Spencer

From Ohio History Central
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Platt Rogers Spencer was an educator and developer of a popular style of penmanship.

Spencer was born on November 7, 1800, in Fishkill, New York. Spencer's father died when he was only five years old. In 1810, his mother took their family of ten children to Ashtabula County, Ohio. She hoped to provide them with a better life on the frontier.

Spencer's mother placed a strong emphasis on education. She faced great difficulties in providing her children with schooling on the frontier. Legend has it that Spencer loved to write as a young child, but his family could either not find or could not afford paper for him until he was seven years of age. He did not enroll in school until he was twelve when a school opened in nearby Conneaut, Ohio. On one occasion, Spencer purportedly walked twenty miles barefoot to borrow a mathematics book.

To help support his family, Spencer took several jobs, primarily as a clerk in local stores and businesses. In these positions, he actively practiced his penmanship. He created a new style of penmanship known as the "semi-angular" or "Spencerian" system. By the early 1860's, schools across the United States were teaching their pupils the Spencerian style. It became the preferred style for clerks working for the United States government. Spencer personally opened schools to teach his system at Geneva and Cleveland, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He also was a strong supporter of the temperance and abolitionist movements. After he died on May 16, 1864 his sons continued to teach their father's method in various schools across the country for a number of years.

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