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among teachers and families a vast amount of useful miscellaneous popular information on scientific subjects, illustrated with many respectable wood-cuts.
At about the same period, a community of views brought Mr. Holbrook into communication with S. R. Hall, then at the head of the Teachers' Seminary at Andover; and he was appointed corresponding secretary of the School Agents' Society, organized in 1831, under the influence of Mr. Hall, “ to procure and encourage travelingagents in behalf of schools and education.” This office he retained during the several years of the active operations of that society.
In February, 1831, Mr. Holbrook took an active interest in the formation of the Boston Mechanics' Lyceum, whose origin is thus given in the "Young Mechanic," for August, 1832.
The first meeting in favor of forming a Mechanics' Lyceum in this city (Boston) was called by Mr. Josiah Holbrook, February 5, 1831. Mr. Timothy Claxton presided, and Mr. W. S. Baxter acted as secretary. The evening was occupied by the discussion of this question, “Has any class of the community stronger inducements or better opportunities for mental improvement than practical mechanics ? " which was decided in the negative. The meeting adjourned to February 12th, for the discussion of another question, and to take into further consideration the subject of forming a Lyceum. At this meeting, a proposition was made to form an association to be called the “Union Lyceum," and another, to form one to be called the “Mechanics' Lyceum,” both of which were referred to the next meeting, which was voted to be held February 19th. The latter proposition prevailed at this meeting; and a committee was appointed to draft a constitution, to be reported at an adjourned meeting, February 25th.
The following persons were elected officers for the first season :-TIMOTHY CLAXTON, president; G. W. Light, secretary; JAMES COOPER, treasurer; Wa. S. DAMRELL and JOSEPH WIGIITMAN, curators.
At the first regular meeting of the Lyceum, a system of exercises was adopted, consisting of an elementary course of mechanical philosophy and geometry, interspersed with discussions of interesting questions.
The subjects of the lectures were treated upon by the members of the Lyceum, seven of them taking parts on the evenings of the lectures, and each one occupying about a quarter of an hour.
At a meeting held June 7th, (the same year,) the following subjects for lectures were adopted, for the second term; viz., architecture, political economy, botany, geology, natural history, astronomy, biography of practical men. The members were left to choose their own subjects for essays. At a subsequent meeting, it was voted that declamation should be added to the regular exercises of the lyceum, which was afterward found to increase the interest and usefulness of the society.
About the year 1834, Mr. Holbrook left Boston, and for a few years occupied himself chiefly with an effort to introduce the lyceum system into the State of Pennsylvania. This was quite successful, and a large number of town and county lyceums were organized. During the course of these labors, Mr. Holbrook conceived a plan which illustrates the comprehensiveness of his views of what his favorite system could accomplish; viz., that of a Universal Lyceum, to include national lyceums in all parts of the world. A list of officers was made out, who were invited to act, with Lord Brougham as president, and was published in a small pamphlet, the “ First Quarterly Report," together with a brief outline of the aims of the institution. Mr. Holbrook's labors in Pennsylvania were also, as his correspondence shows, of great use in promoting the cause of common schools in that State.
Mr. Holbrook appears already to have been some time contemplating the idea of Lyceum Villages; which, in one of his letters to his friend, Mr. S, W. Seton, of New York, he terms “the central wheel" of his system. During his innumerable journeys, he made some excursions in Ohio, and apparently labored with some results in that State. In 1837, having found a site, twelve miles south-west of Cleveland, Ohio, with the advantages of good water-power, and a quarry of stone suitable for grindstones, Mr. Holbrook founded there the Lyceum Village of Berea. The land occupied by this enterprise, five hundred acres, was vested in an incorporated board of trustees ; houses, shops, and a school-house were erected, and a flourishing settlement soon established. Berea was to have been the first of a series of Lyceum Villages, with which Mr. Holbrook would have dotted the country; and which were intended to be centers for the residence of all persons interested in the Lyceum enterprise, for the practical exemplification of its principles in schools, whose teachers and pupils were to spend some portion of every day in manual labor, for the education of teachers, and for the diffusion of the Lyceum system throughout the country. Unfortunately, however, the enterprise, after a few years, came to a disastrous close, and was transferred into other hands, leaving Mr. Holbrook under a heavy load of debt, which crippled all his subsequent efforts, and ended that distinctive character which Berea had at first assumed. A second Lyceum Village was also projected, and partially organized, at Westchester, N. Y.; the site being chosen with a view to ready co-operation with the efforts in progress in New York City.
We next find Mr. Holbrook established in New York City, where he was, as early as 1842, acting as central agent of his plan of School Exchanges, and where he occupied business-rooms in the building of the Trustees of the Public School Society, corner of Elm and Grand streets. This plan of exchanges formed a part of the original scheme of Lyceums, which were to exchange collections of minerals, &c., with each other, for their mutual instruction and advantage. As introduced, however, during his stay at New York, and afterward, the plan was intended to excite and maintain in the pupils of the schools of the country an interest in each other and in the study of the natural sciences, and to promote the collection of museums of natural and other objects in each school. This was to be done by means of the collection, by the pupils of each school, of minerals, plants, &c., from its own neighborhood, and by the formation of collections of drawings, specimens of penmanship, sewing, &c., to be exchanged for similar or equivalent collections from other schools. These museums were to be made the basis of lectures on the various departments of natural science. The delivery of such lectures, in a plain and familiar style, and illustrated from materials every where at hand, had long been a means efficiently employed by Mr. Holbrook in operating upon the schools which he visited.
During his stay in New York, his friend, Mr. Seton, then Agent of the Public Schools, drew up with his assistance a scheme for applying his favorite principles of education to the schools in that city. This is to be found, under the title of “ Plan of Instruction," in the “ Fortieth Report of the Trustees of the Public Schools, for 1846." Its features are, his long-advocated plans of teaching drawing, in connection with writing and map-drawing, and its further prosecution to some extent as applied to machinery and architecture, and to natural objects; the collection of natural objects, the study of them, and oral lectures on them; and the system of school exchanges, as a means of extending the interest and value of the collections. A report on the progress of the plan, in the report of the Trustees for the succeeding year, indicates that its results were regarded as very favorable, so far as it was carried into effect.
In the Spring of 1849, Mr. Holbrook went to Washington, leaving his business in New York in the hands of an agent, intending to spend a few weeks in ascertaining what influences could be gained at that city in behalf of his enterprises. The results of his labors in the schools there and in that region, and his intercourse with public officers and members of congress, were such as to give him expectations of enlisting the assistance or influence of the federal government in some way in the wider extension and former establishment of his system of instruction, and that city remained his residence and the center of his operations until his death.
The following extracts from one of his letters to Mr. Seton, dated Washington, Nov. 10, 1850, will indicate the character of the means by which Mr. Holbrook was proposing to accomplish his objects. He suggests,
First, A proposal for the New York schools, public and ward, to direct their attention for one month the simple definite object of prepa an offering, a free gist, for the president of the United States, for each member of his cabinet, and for every member of congress, making in the wholo about three hundred of their free-will offerings.
Second, That these offerings contain, in each case, a map of the State of the recipient, and a map of Palestine; if practicable, a sketch of some geological form
ation, showing some feature in the earth's structure, or some species of organic remains ; also something agricultural, some domestic animal, perhaps a particular breed of sheep, cow, or horse, some plant of the farm or garden, or some implement used by the firmer. Something of school architecture, either in buildings or fixtures, would have a specific aim and tendency. Some written extract from ancient saints or modern statesnien, or some poetry of religious or patriotic tendency. Something from Moses, David, Isaiah, St. Paul, or, still better, from Him whom St. Paul preached; from Washington, Adams, Clay, Webster, or any other preferred.
You know I am partial to drawing and writing. “Drawing before Writing," given in a sheet prepared for the specific object of “ little leaven," is already powerfully operative in leavening the whole lump. As these have been done beautifully in primaries as well as the upper schools, and done rapidly, large numbers of them might be produced. *
In addition to several of these simple specimens of ** Drawing and Writing," in the packages to the members, millions would readily be distributed by them, scattered broadcast over the whole land, certain to prove good seed in good soil.
The third proposal is, to have them for New Year's Gifts, coming from the grand central wheel in the great commercial, to be cast into the other grand central wheel in the great political, metropolis.
My fourth suggestion is, by these and other stimulants and aids, to have as large and rich an exhibition at the next New York “ Scholars' Fair ” as possible, with the special design, publicly expressed, of having that followed by a similar exhibition in Philadelphia, then in Baltimore, then Washington, Richmond, Raleigh, Charleston, New Orleans, &c., &c; taking a national circuit, which, once well started, will stop when the Hudson and Amazon stop.
Another letter to Mr. Seton, written the next day, explains the results hoped for from the means thus enumerated, and well illustrates at once the strong practical tendencies, the enthusiastic hopefulness, and the vagueness in tracing lines of future action, which were prominent characteristics in Mr. Holbrook's character and labors.
I will now give you several results, certain, as it seems to me, to arise from the elements named, if used as suggested.
First, An immediate and substantive benefit to the pupils aiding in the “New Year's Gifts” proposed. . Hardly a principle in young beings, as the element and foundation of future life, will be left in disuse. Every lesson presented to them, on whatever subject, will be more thoroughly because more practically, learned. In reading, writing, spelling, grammar, arithmetic, geography, &c., &c., there will be stronger and higher mental action, because founded on a moral bursis.
Second, Such a proposal or such exercises in New York would rouse the schools here, and in many other places, to similar action, eventually producing a returning influence upon the schools of New York.
Third, It would directly enlist the “powers that be" here, from the president down, separately and jointly, in this common cause ; leading all government functionaries, both state and national, to follow their example.
Fourth, A pacific tendency with the North and South ; as in it there is no North and South. If the occasion should be somewhat imposing, it would have a very decided, possibly a controlling, influence in settling the disturbed and convulsed waters now causing our country to reel to and fro.
Fifth, “ Cent an ounce postage," making the mail a common carrier." The immediate call for such a system, by materials in actual possession of the lawmakers, would almost of course be met by the necessities of the case. If every member of congress could receive at the same time a package of juvenile products for his own particular use, and be requested to distribute others widely among his constituents, the necessity of the case, and the popularity of the measure, acting through the country generally, would infallibly, I think, lead to a liberal post-office policy. Every one must see this one point to be of very great consideration to our whole country, in all its interests—political, commercial, scientific, social, moral, and religious.
Sixth, A national system of "Industrial Exhibitions," of the traveling order, bringing each exhibition to aid and be aided by all the rest. The specimens distributed as proposed over the country, presented in direct connection with this plan as one of the objects, would inevitably bring specimens from various places and in increased numbers to the next Scholars' Fair in the spring. Specimens thus sent in would at once furnish materials for cominencing a traveling system of exhibitions, and create a deep interest in them. If, for example, the specimens should be sent from Philadelphia, those specimens in one way or another would be so much stock in business, and be certain to create a desire to have it reciprocated in that place. So it would be especially here, and, as one of its results, produce flesh and blood upon the “ dry bones" here under the name of trustees.
Seventh, A call for district professors for the whole country, to hold meetings once a month, or oftener, consisting perhaps of delegations from the schools in a given town or district. To illustrate : suppose county superintendents of schools be elevated into county scientific professors, to give monthly lectures in each town of the county, under an arrangement for all the schools to participate, not so much in hearing lectures as in preparing materials for instructing each other, under the occasion of the lectures and the aid of the lecturers.
Eighth, Giving an occasion for the “Lot Plan''* as the foundation of self-instruction, raising up professors to carry it out through the country. I am settled in the belief that such professors can never be prepared in our colleges. [Here Mr. Holbrook refers to some geological lectures lately heard by him, and contrasts the common method and his own by saying :) My geology consists of facts, actual things, about the earth. Theirs is speculation about the mode of the earth's exist
Mine tells me what mountains are. Theirs tells, or speculates, wbether they were formed this way or that. Mine gives certain and interesting knowledge to young minds. Theirs, to a great extent, out of the reach of all minds, their own included.
But no definite and efficient co-operation seems to have been secured from any official source; and, during the years 1852 aud 1853, his correspondence shows that occasional fits of despondency, doubtless in some measure the result of excessive mental labor, were annoying him; and he began to speak of leaving his work to be carried on by other hands. In May, 1854, be made a journey to Lynchburg, Va., on business connected with his enterprise; and, having walked out alone one morning, was evidently collecting minerals, as he had been busily engaged in doing for soine weeks, from the face of a precipitous cliff, overhanging a deep creek, and lost bis footing, fell into the water, and was drowned. He was not missed for a day or two, being supposed to be visiting in the vicinity; but, on searching for him, his body was found, on the 24th of May, floating in the water. He was interred in the burying-ground of one of the churches at Lynchburg, and his funeral was attended by a large nunber of persons, who had already become interested in his enthusiastic devotion to science and education.
The American Institute of Instruction, at its annual session, at Providence, R. I., in August following, on the announcement by Mr. Gideon F. Thayer, of Boston, of the fact and circumstances of his death, passed the following resolutions.
Whercas, Since the last annual meeting of the Institute, our associate and esteemed friend, Josiah Holbrook, has been removed by death from the scene of his early labors; therefore,
This seems to have been a modification of Mr. Holbrook's scheme of a Lyceum Village.