The Evolution of American Handwriting: From Spencerian to Palmer and Beyond

The Evolution of American Handwriting: From Spencerian to Palmer and Beyond

In the world of penmanship, few names carry as much weight as A.N. Palmer. But to understand his impact, we need to step back and trace the evolution of American handwriting.

The Spencerian Era

Our story begins with Platt Rogers Spencer, the father of Spencerian script. This elegant, shaded style dominated American schools in the late 19th century. Its flowing loops and ornate flourishes were a hallmark of refined penmanship.

Enter A.N. Palmer

A student of Spencer, A.N. Palmer saw room for improvement. He recognized that the modern world needed a faster, more efficient writing style. Palmer stripped away the extra loops and shades of Spencerian, creating what became known as the Palmer Method. This streamlined approach to cursive writing quickly gained popularity and became the standard in American schools for much of the 20th century.

The Rise of Cursive

Palmer wasn't alone in his quest to refine handwriting. Other penmen like Behrensmeyer, Champion, and Mills developed their own systems. These various styles collectively became known as "cursive," each with its own unique flair.

The Turn of the Century and Beyond

As the 20th century dawned, curriculum companies rushed to capitalize on the handwriting trend. Each claimed to offer the "best" method, leading to a proliferation of writing styles. However, the rise of computers in the latter half of the century began to erode the emphasis on penmanship in schools.

Revival and Modern Adaptations

In recent years, there's been a renewed interest in handwriting, largely thanks to the efforts of individuals like Michael Sull. A Master Penman, Sull has dedicated his career to reviving the art of penmanship. He coined the term "American Cursive," which is essentially an updated version of the Palmer Method. While the differences might be subtle to the untrained eye, they reflect modern advancements in the field.

The Cursive Connection 

Today, educators like Cheyenne are carrying the torch, teaching American Cursive to a new generation. The Cursive Connection curriculum draws inspiration from the Palmer Method, incorporating the same techniques and practices that proved effective a century ago. It also borrows from the works of other influential penmen like Mills, Behrensmeyer, and Mary Champion.

As we look to the future, it's clear that the art of handwriting, while changed, is far from lost. Through the efforts of dedicated penmen and educators, the flowing lines of cursive continue to connect us to our past while adapting to the needs of the present.

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