Letter reporting on a two-day “teacher’s association” conference that was mailed in an illustrated envelope featuring the two-story Bridgewater Normal School, the first building in the United States specifically built for the education and preparation of future teachers

Bridgewater to Fall River, Massachusetts: 1861. Unbound. This two-page letter is dated “Bridgewater, Dec. 14. 1861.” It is enclosed in an envelope featuring an illustration of the Bridgewater State Normal School which has been franked with a brown-red 3-cent Washington stamp (Scott #65). The envelope bears a red, circular “Bridgewater Ms.” postmark dated “Dec 16 1861.” The letter and envelope are in nice shape; the envelope flap was torn upon opening. Transcript included. Very good. Item #009159

Bridgewater Normal School was founded in 1840 by Horace Mann, the first Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education and “father of public education” in the United States, who appointed Nicholas Tillinghast as its first president, charging him to establish a school specifically for the purpose of educating future teachers. After calling the basement of the Bridgewater Town Hall home for six years, the school, moved into a then state-of-the-art two-story facility specifically constructed to meet its needs. The building contained a number of various-sized classrooms, each equipped with blackboards, and supported up to 85 students. (See Boyden’s The History of Bridgewater Normal School).

The two-story school building is featured on this cover.

In his letter, Madison reports that the school had closed for several days so that its “scholars” could attend a two-day “teacher’s association” held about three miles away in East Bridgewater. Madison and “a gentleman that boards here” walked to the conference and upon arrival enjoyed a free dinner of “pig and doughnuts.” Although Madison notes that there were several lectures, he spends far more time venting his displeasure about the “domicil” arranged for ten attendees that had “no comb or brush in the room, so we combed each other’s hair with our fingers,” although in the end, he reports that “on the whole [I] had rather a pleasant time. . . .” Bridgewater Normal School, which is recognized today as the “home of teacher education in America,” still exists as Bridgewater State University, the oldest permanently located school of higher education in Massachusetts and the second largest institution in that state’s public university system. (See the Bridgewater State University website.)

Madison’s unique letter reporting on the “teacher’s association” meeting provides historical evidence suggesting that even over 150 years ago, attendees at academic conferences were more interested in the free food and their accommodations than an event’s content. The illustrated “Bridgewater Normal School” cover is truly rare; there are no records of similar covers having appeared at public auctions or on eBay, none are for sale in the philatelic trade, and OCLC shows none are held by institutions.

Price: $350.00

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