The Lost Art of Penmanship

This week on CBS Sunday Morning there was a segment about penmanship and how the art of handwriting could be lost. While it is a poignant thought there is far more at stake. The onset typewriters and then computers have changed how we communicate by the written word. Two hundred years ago, even with the printing press, the first draft of any written item was by hand.

Will the great grandchildren of the mid 21st century have letters and diaries handwritten by their ancestors? Will they have letters or diaries at all? How many of you print off your emails to save for future generations? It is just not feasible to do and emails these days are small bites of information. People rarely sit down and write a long letter to family that stayed behind when they emigrated. It is easier and less expensive to send an email, telephone or Skype. People are blogging but will the thoughts, sentiment and information in those blogs be available to our ancestors?

I remember in school learning to write and having difficulty writing the capital letters F and J. When we graduated from printing to writing, and could write clearly, we got a BIC pen. That pen was the most coveted item in my grade 4 class. Everyone wanted to move from the pencil to the pen, it was a status symbol.

I remember the excitement of finding a letter written by my 2x Great Grandmother to her soon to be husband in the early 1900s. It is a simple letter saying thank you for a box of chocolates and not being able to meet the next day because of a previous engagement. This is the type of thing that we would send an email or call someone about today. Since there were no computers in the early 1900s I have that letter in the handwriting of my 2x Great Grandmother. There is cookbook written in the hand of my 3x Great Grandmother with little notations and thoughts in the margin. These are items that the future generations will probably not be getting from this generation. They will not get the thrill of finding something in our handwriting.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research

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