Handwriting Samples

Posted on January 23rd, 2015 by

Today, January 23rd, is John Hancock’s birthday – and thus, it is also National Handwriting Day.  Handwriting is near and dear to the hearts of archivists, historians, and curators because we encounter examples of it nearly every day, from centuries-old documents to modern collections folders hand-labeled in pencil.

A sample of archival folders, each labeled by a different JMM staff member or volunteer.

A sample of archival folders, each labeled by a different JMM staff member or volunteer.

However, as computers and tablets and smartphones become more and more prevalent in U.S. culture, the art of penmanship has been dropped from some schools’ course schedules. Educators debate the pros and cons of skipping the cursive lessons, while grandparents bemoan the fact that little Emily and Mason can’t read their birthday cards unless they’re written in print.

From my point of view, the problem with not being able to write in cursive is that then you can’t easily read it. Perhaps the upcoming generation of historians – and, in the more immediate sense, upcoming summers of student interns – will have trouble reading a legal document written in clear, careful Copperplate, let alone something written in a more hurried or idiosyncratic hand.  Yes, deciphering someone’s individual writing style takes time and practice (there’s nothing quite like the revelation that the 19thcentury diary author, whose tiny smudged entries you’ve been struggling with for hours, never crossed her t’s).  It helps, though, if you’re at least familiar with the underlying structure of the writing: two bumps is an n, three bumps is an m, that swoopy thing in the front is a T, etcetera.

Diaries, journals, cookbooks, letters, legal documents, bills, photograph captions, business records, and more: handwritten information is everywhere in our archives.  So, at the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, I urge everyone to brush up on – or start learning – penmanship skills.  Historians of the future need you!  And in celebration of National Handwriting Day, I offer a few examples from our collections.  See if the partial transcriptions included here match what you can decipher . . . then go home and handwrite someone a letter.

Donated by Paul and Rita Gordon.  1995.104.030

Donated by Paul and Rita Gordon. 1995.104.030

Studying the history of organizations and businesses can require a willingness to immerse yourself in the handwriting of the past.  Here’s a page of meeting minutes for the first meeting of the Frederick Section of the National Council of Jewish Women, written by Recording Secretary Mrs. Leo Weinberg. It begins: “March 23rd 1921. Realizing that ‘In union there is strength’ and appreciating the necessity for co-operative and harmonious action, The Jewish Women of Frederick met Wednesday March 23rd 1921 on the second floor of the Masonic Temple for the purpose of organizing The Frederick Section, Council of Jewish Women.”

Donated by Mrs. Gerald Heller. 1962.9.1

Donated by Mrs. Gerald Heller. 1962.9.1

Written on a scrap of cardboard from a larger container, this handwritten note commemorates an apparently epic games party near Eutaw Place, Baltimore: “Progressive whist given at the new home of Mrs. Hennie Strouse, 1628 Madison Ave., October 20, 1907.” It’s signed by attendees including Morton Emanuel Hecht, Rosalyn W. Sawyer, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph M. Mann, “Kid” Nusbaum, Phil Rose, and Sadie, Helen, and Joseph Ulman.

Donated by Rose Kushner. 1985.62.2

Donated by Rose Kushner. 1985.62.2

Midwife Lena Barber of Baltimore kept records of all the births she attended, making handwritten notes in pre-printed journals such as this volume from 1892-93. Here are two records from February 1892: on the lefthand page is male baby born to Anna and Louis Glaubenfeld, and on the right is a female baby born to Hana and Samuel Block. Interestingly, comparison of the writing on various pages – such as the two pages pictured here – shows several different writing styles throughout the book, indicating that more than one person was helping Barber keep track of things. Sometimes, a handwritten document reveals more than just the information that’s written down.

Donated by Mrs. Samuel Block.  1971.20.260

Donated by Mrs. Samuel Block. 1971.20.260

It isn’t only paper collections that require some handwriting knowledge; photographs are frequently captioned by hand.  This image of Harry Greenstein (seated in the center) surrounded by well-wishers has this handwritten note on the front: “With affectionate greetings on my 30th Anniversary as Executive Director of Associated Jewish Charities, 5/1/1958, [signed] Harry Greenstein.”

Donated by Mrs. Gerald Heller. 1962.9.2

Donated by Mrs. Gerald Heller. 1962.9.2

In 1865, Isaac Strouse of Baltimore went to Europe. During his travels he kept a journal, written in pencil in a leather-bound, pocket-sized blank book.  The page shown here begins, “I have spend [sic] my time up in [Dek?] from 1/2 after 6 to 8 in walking about & conversation & now I am in the smoking salon …” …and here’s where my handwriting-deciphering skills fail me; I’m not sure about that “Dek.”  (Brackets indicate a word the transcriber is unsure about.) A full reading of the surrounding pages will likely provide some hints, but in the meantime, do any blog readers have any ideas what that word says or means?

JoannaA blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts from Joanna click HERE.

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Volunteering Makes the Perfect New Year’s Resolution

Posted on January 5th, 2015 by

Welcoming a new year offers a wonderful opportunity to make new choices and take new chances in life. Whether you reflect proudly on your many accomplishments in the past year or you can’t wait to turn a new page and look toward the future, the new calendar year is an opportunity to do the things that might have been on your back burner. If you’ve been thinking about volunteering for years or have been contemplating your resolutions for the New Year, consider volunteering in 2015!

new years resolution pic

What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

Volunteering makes the perfect New Year’s Resolution because it creates a trifecta of great outcomes. Volunteerism has countless benefits to the community and also to the health and happiness of individuals who commit to volunteering.

Here are just a few reasons to sign up to volunteer today:

1. Volunteering has been linked with increased levels of happiness and decreased depression. A recent Huffington Post Article, Volunteering Could Boost Happiness, Decrease Depression And Help You Live Longer: Study, written by Sara Kondrath, PhD, outlines new research into the topic of volunteerism, health, and happiness.

2. People who volunteer report physical, mental, and emotional health benefits. Doing Good is Good for You: 2013 Health and Volunteering Study reveals key benefits of volunteering that make a positive impact on people’s health including feeling better mentally, physically, and emotionally.

3. Volunteers help create and support healthy communities.

Volunteering can easily become one of those back burner activities. The type of activity that always seems like a nice thing to do, but loses steam when it comes to reaching out and signing up.

Make volunteering a reality this year. Many organizations have made it easier than ever to find opportunities and sign up online. Visit http://jewishmuseummd.org/get-involved/volunteering/ to find out more about our volunteer opportunities and to sign up to become a volunteer at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

There has never been a better time to commit to volunteering in the New Year. Help us at the JMM, to promote our mission and to help yourself.


ilene cohenA blog post by Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Cohen. The first Monday(ish) of every month she will be highlighting one of our fantastic JMM volunteers and sharing insights on volunteerism. If you are interested in volunteering with the JMM, drop her an email at icohen@jewishmuseummd.org or call 410-732-6402 x217! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.

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Volunteer Spotlight On: Gloria Savadow, Front Desk!

Posted on December 8th, 2014 by

Gloria Savadow has been volunteering at the JMM for over 6 years.  She volunteers as a Front Desk Receptionist.  Visitors to the JMM might assume that all of our volunteers are Baltimore natives and while in the strictest sense of the word, Gloria is, she hasn’t always lived in town.

Gloria, hard at work!

Gloria, hard at work!

Although Gloria grew up in Baltimore she went to high school in Massachusetts.  She then attended college at the University of Denver and fell in love with the southwest and northwest portions of the United States.  She did however return to the Baltimore area after college since her family was here, and taught English to middle school students.  That only lasted for a short period of time as she then moved to Israel to teach English there too.  Upon the conclusion of that program, she returned to Baltimore for the duration.  First she worked as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the blind, and assisted her clients in finding jobs.  Upon completing her Master’s degrees in Counseling and Social Work, Gloria worked at Mergenthaler Vocational – Technical High School (Mervo) for 20 years.  She enjoyed tremendous freedom in her job there.  One favorite example is when she raised money to take the students to NYC to see a Broadway show; another was taking students to Virginia to tour colleges.

In her position as a Front Desk Receptionist, Gloria appreciates that she’s been able to add to her Jewish education.  She enjoys learning from the exhibits and many programs that the JMM offers.  Her favorite aspect of being at the Front Desk is talking with visitors and finding out what in particular they like about their visit to the JMM.  She likes hearing about their tours and visits in the exhibits.  She also appreciates being able to talk and learn with members of the JMM staff.

Besides the JMM, Gloria also volunteers at Center Stage and Everyman Theaters.  She has been an usher at both places for many years and enjoys doing so.  And her very favorite activity is hiking outdoors.  While she was working in schools, she had the opportunity to spend three to four weeks each summer in the US National Parks out west.  She still enjoys doing that when she gets the chance.
ilene cohenA blog post by Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Cohen. The first Monday(ish) of every month she will be highlighting one of our fantastic JMM volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering with the JMM, drop her an email at icohen@jewishmuseummd.org or call 410-732-6402 x217! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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