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XII. JOSIAH HOLBROOK.*
JOSIAH HOLBROOK, whose name is indissolubly connected with the earlier development of the Lyceum, and with the efforts to improve our system of popular education in America, was the son of Colonel Daniel Holbrook, of Derby, Conn., where he was born about the middle of 1788. Col. Holbrook was an officer in the Revolutionary war, and a man of wealth and influence. His son received the ordinary common school education of the day, fitted for college under Rev. Amasa Porter, of Derby, and entered at Yale College in 1806, graduating in 1810. Three years afterward, he married a daughter of Rev. Zephaniah Swift, of Derby. She died in 1819, leaving him two sons, Alfred and Dwight. On the death of his father and mother, at about this time, the care of the farm devolved upon Mr. Holbrook, and it was during the period occupied in this vocation that the ideas which were the central ones of his subsequent labors first occurred to his mind.
Acting on these views, he opened, about this time, on his own farm in Derby, in connection with Rev. Truman Coe, one of the first schools in America which sought to teach a popularized form of natural science, and to combine manual labor with education. Boys in this school were allowed to pay a portion of their expenses by laboring on the farm. The institution was not permanent, but the experiment satisfied Mr. Holbrook of the practicability of the principle. We quote from a letter of Mr. Coe, to a son of Mr. Holbrook, the following statements respecting this school.
"He had long cherished the idea of endeavoring to found an institution in which the course of instruction should be plain and practical; an agricultural school, where the science of chemistry, and mechanics, and land surveying should be thoroughly drilled into the mind of the pupils by practice. With these views the Agricultural Seminary was commenced in Derby in 1824, and continued to the fall of 1825, under the direction of your father and myself; and, as far
* We are indebted in part for the material of this memoir to our own correspondence with Mr. Holbrook; to letters furnished by his son, Dwight; and to a paper prepared by Rev. Cyril Pearl, of Maine, for insertion in this Journal, but which, proving too long, will be issued by its author in a separate volume, and will be found a valuable contribution to the Biography and History of Popular Education in the United States.
as I know, was the first educational movement of the kind in all that region. But the institution, being unendowed and on a private footing, labored under many embarrassments, especially in never having land enough to carry out and accomplish the ends of its founders. We did what we could to train the students in the analysis of soils, in the application of the mechanical powers to all farming operations, and took out our young men often into the field and country for practical surveying, geological excursions, road-making, and the labors of the farm; but, not being able at that time to place the school on an eligible foundation, it was abandoned."
While at work on his own farm, Mr. Holbrook's zeal in the pursuit of knowledge led him, with the design of increasing his acquaintance with chemistry, mineralogy, and geology, to attend the lectures of Prof. Silliman, at New Haven-riding over and back from Derby for the purpose, notwithstanding distance and an inclement season.
The precise train of thought and of circumstances which led Mr. Holbrook to transfer his efforts from the farm and school at Derby to the wider field of popular scientific lecturing, we have no data for tracing. The American Journal of Education, then conducted by Mr. William Russell, contains, in its tenth number, for October, 1826, a paper by Mr. Holbrook, setting forth his views on the subject of "Associations of Adults for the Purpose of Mutual Education," which we here insert, with the editor's introductory remarks, as the earliest printed exposition of his principles.
ASSOCIATIONS OF ADULTS FOR MUTUAL EDUCATION.
[The following article is from an individual whose attention has been long and peculiarly directed to the subject on which he writes; and who has contributed extensive and efficient service to associations modeled on a plan similar to that which is now presented to our readers. The subject here introduced to public attention is one of uncommon interest, when regarded in connection with the progress of general improvement by means of education; it is equally important in a political point of view, as intimately connected with the diffusion of intelligence, and with the elevation of character among the agricultural and mechanic classes; and to the friend of moral improvement it offers a source of peculiar gratification, as a sure preventive of those insidious inroads of vice, which are ever ready to be made on hours of leisure and relaxation.]
TO THE EDITOR.
SIR-I take the liberty to submit, for your consideration, a few articles as regulations for associations for mutual instruction in the sciences, and in useful knowledge generally. You will see they are upon a broad basis; and the reason is, that men of views enlightened enough upon education to see its defects and its wants, and spirit enough to act, are scattered more or less through the country; and all that is necessary for action, is some definite plan of operation, by which their efforts can be united and brought to bear upon one point. It seems to me that, if associations for mutual instruction in the sciences, and other branches of useful knowledge, could once be started in our villages, and upon a general plan, they would increase with great rapidity, and do more for the general diffusion of knowledge, and for raising the moral and intellectual taste of our countrymen, than any other expedient which can possibly be devised. And it may be questioned if there is any other way to check the progress of that monster, intemperance, which is making such havoc with talents, morals, and every thing that
raises man above the brute, but by presenting some object of sufficient interest to divert the attention of the young from places and practices which lead to dissipation and to ruin. I do not doubt but alterations in the title and articles will be advisable; but I believe, most confidently, that something of the general plan may be carried into effect.
Society for Mutual Education.
The first object of this society is to procure for youths an economical and practical education, and to diffuse rational and useful information through the community generally.
The second object is to apply the sciences and the various branches of education to the domestic and useful arts, and to all the common purposes of life.
Branches of this society may be formed in any place where a number are disposed to associate for the same object, and to adopt the following or similar articles as their constitution:
The society will hold meetings, as often as they think it expedient, for the purpose of mutual instruction in the sciences, by investigating and discussing them, or any other branch of useful knowledge. The several branches of Natural Philosophy, viz., Mechanics, Hydrostatics, Pneumatics, Chemistry, Mineralogy, Botany, any branch of the Mathematics, History, Political Economy, or any political, intellectual, or moral subject, may be examined and discussed by the society.
Any branch of the society may, as often as they think it expedient, procure regular courses of instruction, by lectures or otherwise, in any subject of useful knowledge.
The society, as they find it convenient, shall procure books, apparatus for illustrating the sciences, à cabinet of minerals, and other articles of natural or artificial production.
The society may aid in establishing and patronizing an institution, or institutions, for giving to youths a thorough education-intellectual, moral, and physical-and in the application of the sciences to agriculture and the other useful arts, and for qualifying teachers. The aid to be given by furnishing means for the pupils, by agricultural or mechanical operations, to defray or lessen the expenses of their education.
Any person may be a member of the society by paying to the treasurer, annually, one dollar. And ten dollars, paid at any one time, will constitute a person a member for life.
The money paid to the society for membership or otherwise shall be appropriated to the purchase of books, apparatus, a cabinet, aiding an institution for practical education, or for some other object for the benefit of the society.
The officers of each branch of the society shall be a president, vice-president, treasurer, recording and corresponding secretaries; five curators, and three delegates to meet delegates from other branches of the society in the same county.
The president, vice-president, treasurer, and recording secretary shall perform the duties usually implied in those offices. The corresponding secretaries shall make communications to each other for the benefit of the society, as discoveries, improvements, or other circumstances shall require.
The curators shall have charge of the library, apparatus, cabinet, and all other property of the society not appertaining to the treasury.
The delegates of the several branches of the society in any one county shall meet semi-annually, at such place as they shall choose, for the purpose of consulting upon measures for promoting the designs of the society, particularly for encouraging an institution for giving an economical and practical education, and for qualifying teachers.
The delegates from the several branches of the society in any county shall be called the board of delegates from the society for mutual education in that county. The board of delegates in each county shall appoint such officers as shall be necessary for their organization, or for doing any business coming within their province.
Each board of delegates shall appoint a representative, to meet representatives from other boards, who shall be styled the board of mutual education for a given state; and it might be advantageous to have also a general board, embracing the United States.
It shall be the duty of the general or state boards to meet annually, to appoint president and other officers, to devise and recommend such a system of education as they shall think most eligible, also to recommend such books as they shall think best fitted to answer the purposes for which they are designed, and to adopt and recommend such measures, generally, as are most likely to secure to the rising generation the best intellectual, moral, and physical education, and to diffuse the greatest quantity of useful information among the various classes of the community.
Any branch of the society will have power to adopt such by-laws and regulations as will be necessary for the management and use of the library, apparatus, cabinet, &c., and for carrying into effect any designs not inconsistent with the general object of the society.
Several institutions, essentially the same as here proposed, have already been formed in our country, and some of them are highly useful and respectable: that others may and will be formed, there is no doubt. The object of the above articles is to forward the formation of them upon a general plan, and to form a connecting link between them which will enable them to unite their efforts, and may possibly lead them to vie with each other in prosecuting their general object, which is certainly second to no one that ever enlisted the talents of the philosopher or of the statesman, or the feelings of the philanthropist.
A few weeks later, in November of that year, we find Mr. Holbrook at Millbury, in Worcester County, Mass., where he delivered a course of lectures on subjects in natural science, at the close of which he succeeded in inducing thirty or forty of his hearers, farmers and mechanics of the place, to organize themselves into a society for mutual improvement, which at his request was called "Millbury Lyceum No. 1., Branch of the American Lyceum."*
The formation of this Lyceum at Millbury was closely followed by that of several others in towns in that vicinity, and these were soon combined, in pursuance of Mr. Holbrook's general plan of a Lyceum, into the "Worcester County Lyceum." The Lyceum of Windham County, Conn., and its constituent Town Lyceums, were also shortly afterward organized; Mr. Holbrook's efforts in their case being energetically aided by Rev. Samuel J. May, then of Brooklyn, in that county.
From this time forward, Mr. Holbrook, for a long series of years, devoted all his efforts to the organization of a system of institutions, to bear the collective name of The American Lyceum; which was to consist of a State Lyceum in each State, this again of its subordinate County Lyceum, and these of the ultimate constituent bodies or Town Lyceums. The exercises of these bodies contemplated generally the instruction of their members in such departments of science as were calculated to improve their knowledge of and skill in their occupations, and this instruction was to be given by essays and discussions among the members, on plants, minerals, &c., from the neighborhood, or on proper subjects in science and art; and by lectures, either by members or by invited speakers.
During the years immediately subsequent to 1826, Mr. Holbrook made Boston his center of operations. He commenced there, about the year 1828 or 1829, the manufacture of philosophical apparatus
*This Millbury association has often been referred to as the first in America in the nature of a Lyceum." It would not however be difficult to cite a number of earlier instances of analogous attempts, such as courses of popular lectures on science, societies for mutual im. provement, &c., for which see "Memoir of Dr. Griscom," "Life of Timothy Claxton," History of Adult Education in England," "Life of Pilatre de Rosier in France," &c. It is intended to give, in a future number of this Journal, some contributions to a history of early American enterprises of this character. See note B, at the end of this article.
for common schools; in which enterprise he was much aided by Timothy Claxton.* This business is still carried on by his son, Dwight Holbrook, in connection with a corporation called the Holbrook Manufacturing Company.
One of the fruits of Mr. Holbrook's labors in the Lyceum cause during this period was the assembling of the meeting at Columbian Hall, in Boston, March 15th, 1830. The call to this meeting was issued in the name of the "State Committee of Lyceums," and its objects were stated to be "to receive reports on the progress of Lyceums, and the condition of common schools, and to acquire information as to the organization of infant schools, and the use of school and cheap scientific apparatus." The meeting was called to order by Mr. Holbrook, who stated its objects. Rev. J. Going, of Worcester, was appointed chairman; and Mr. Holbrook, chairman of the committee of arrangements. During this convention, Mr. Holbrook made a full exhibition of his school apparatus, and set forth his views as to its use and introduction. The discussions at this convention covered many important educational subjects, and one of its results was the appointment of the committee which drafted the constitution of the American Institute of Instruction, and called the convention to establish that body, which met at Boston, Aug. 19, 1830. Mr. Holbrook appears not to have been identified with this branch of the
Another valuable suggestion of this convention was the recommendation of teachers' conventions, to meet at the time of the county lyceum meetings, for the purpose of forming associations for mutual improvement; and to hear lectures on educational subjects, from lecturers employed for that purpose. Numerous meetings of this kind. were accordingly held during the following year.
Mr. Holbrook commenced, during the year 1830, an undertaking in another department of his chosen field of labor, by the publication of a series, entitled "Scientific Tracts," which were issued by him until the year 1832, with the view of furnishing useful information to the masses, on the same principle with the publications of the English Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. In that year Mr. Holbrook withdrew from the editorship of the "Tracts," and was succeeded by Dr. J. V. C. Smith.
This withdrawal was occasioned by Mr. Holbrook's desire to devote himself wholly to his labors for Lyceums, and to the interests of his weekly paper," The Family Lyceum," which was commenced 28th July, 1832. This paper was intended to be the organ of his favorite enterprise; and, until its discontinuance after its first year, diffused
See Note C.