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Professor Paul E. Bolin

The University of Texas at Austin, Department of Art and Art History

“Preparing Children for the World of Work: Influences of Legislation on the Proliferation of Drawing Manuals and Materials for Public School Students in the Northeastern United States, 1860-1876”

From the 1820s forward, until about the Civil War, “Art Crusaders”  took it upon themselves to promote the availability of instruction in drawing to the general public through writing and publishing drawing manuals and handbooks. Beginning in the 1860s, impetus to spread drawing skills throughout the population of the Northeastern United States accelerated and intensified, and also became more directed toward a specific group within the general population: children. In 1860, lawmakers in Massachusetts introduced Drawing as a specifically listed optional subject of study for children in that state’s public schools. Ten years later, in 1870 Drawing was ratified by Massachusetts legislators as a required subject for students in their public schools. Soon thereafter, lawmakers in states adjacent to and near Massachusetts followed the lead of legislators in that state, making Drawing a compulsory subject of study within the public school curriculum of Maine in 1871, New York in 1875, and Vermont in 1876. Drawing lessons for children were often undertaken through the utilization of the many drawing books and manuals available in the United States during this time. 

This session explores how and why legislators in Massachusetts, Maine, New York and Vermont ratified legislation that required Drawing to be taught in the public schools of these states. Specifically, by looking at the inclusion of Drawing as a mandatory curricular subject in public schools, investigation is made into the role economic betterment for individuals, communities and states played in shaping the education of children toward the world of work in these Northeastern states in the final third of the nineteenth century.


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