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Resolved. That, as lovers of science, of human progress, and of man, we, the members of the American Institute of Instruction, lament the loss, to ourselves and to the world, of Josiah Holbrook, one of the original members of the Institute.
Resolved, That in the example of Mr. Holbrook the young teacher taught that energy, devotion to duty, and perseverance will accomplish every reasonable object at which the mind may aim ; that a resolute will, and fixedness of purpose to one end, ever secure eventual success.
Resolved, That our whole community owes a debt of lasting gratitude to the deceased, as having been the father of the system of Lyceums, by which a taste for science has been excited, and the young of our cities and villages have been allured from frivolous if not hurtful pleasure, and instructed in subjects which enlarge, elevate, and improve the mind and heart.
Resolved, That, as teachers and friends of common school education, we hold in grateful remembrance the life and labors of Josiah Holbrook, who was among the first to introduce into our schools the use of apparatus for the illustration of Science, and to introduce and recommend the collection of geological specimens, to excite in the young an interest in the formation of the material world.
Resolved, That we sincerely sympathize with the bereaved family of the deceased in their affliction, and trust that the remembrance of his useful life, and beneficent efforts for the universal improvement of man, will abide with them, to assuage their grief.
Resolved, That these resolutions be entered on the records of the Institute, and that a copy of them, signed by the president and recording secretary, be transmitted to the family of the deceased.
Remarks in support of the resolutions were made by Messrs. Greenleaf, of Bradford; A. Greenleaf, of Brooklyn, N. Y.; and Z. Richards, of Washington, D. C., after which the resolutions were adopted unanimously.
While thus tracing a brief outline of the main facts of Mr. Holbrook's life, we have not attempted to give any extended statement or criticism of his views or purposes, nor of the system of instrumentalities by which he sought to realize them. We need not enter into the question of his merits in respect to the origination of the various educational reforms of the last quarter of a century. None can deny him the merit of having been a most faithful and efficient laborer in promoting many of the most important of them. A view of these will be found in the following appreciative sketch, by his early friend, Prof. Wm. Russell, which we gladly insert, at the risk of some uniinportant repetitions.
RECOLLECTIONS OF JOSIAU HOLBROOK.
Among those friends of education who took an active part in endeavors for the improvement of schools, during the second quarter of the present century, none labored more strenuously or devotedly than Josiah Holbrook. Nor was he less active in the sphere of benevolent exertion for the diffusion of useful knowledge in scientific forms among adults, engaged in the various pursuits of lite, and particularly those occupied in farming.
In both these spheres, his truly disinterested and philanthropic spirit, impelled hy a zeal which habitually rose to enthusiasm, aimed at nothing short of an entire revolution in the forms and aspect of education in our schools of every grade, by introducing in them all, as the principal means of mental discipline and development, the study of natural objects, and of the common phenomena and processes of Nature, in the various departmeuts of her great "kingdom.” A large share of his attention was bestowed on ingenious contrivances, also, by which the different departments of physical and mathematical science might be successfully illustrated. As a philanthropic reformer of society, he took a deep interest in the welfare of the laboring classes, and occupied much of his time in devising measures for securing to them the benefits derived from the pursuit of knowledge in the forms of science and of art, connected with the habitual occupations of individuals and communities. In these endeavors the greater part of his life was passed; and his lamented death was caused by his zeal in such pursuits.
As an active and efficient friend of education, aiming at results strictly practical and reformatory, Mr. Holbrook devoted himself, with great earnestness, to several prominent points of great importance, in his view, to the improvement of schools. One of these primary objects of attention was the introduction of the study of botany, in simple forms, adapted to the capacities and wants of young children. When visiting schools for this purpose, his method was to take the whole school and the teacher into the nearest field, and set all hands to work, gathering, for inspection, as many different forms of leaves as could be found. These were carefully examined and compared, their resemblances and differences closely observed and minutely discussed, in a brief oral field-lecture; consisting of conversational questions and answers between the instructor and his pupils. On returning to the school-room, the children were directed to place their gathered treasures of leaves, for preservation, in their old writing-books; each of which was thenceforward to wear the dignified name of " folium," or leaf-book. A subsequent employment for rainy days and spare hours was the drawing, on the blackboard or on the slate, the simple, elementary geometrical forms which lay at the basis of the different shapes of the leaves. This last exercise was performed under the direction of the instructor, with the aid of a little manual of geometry, adapted to juvenile pupils, and, in the case of more advanced classes, by reference to a set of geometrical solids, also prepared for the express purpose.
In this truly natural method of instruction, founded on a philosophical appeal to the constitutional tendencies of thought, and feeling, and action in childhood, there was a most successful exercise and development, and a judicious and skillful training, of two prominent faculties of the young mind-observation and imitation. The physical and moral effect, too, of the inspiring change from the confinement of the school-room to the sunlight and fresh open-air, together with the invigorating bodily activity attending the field-exercise, and, again, the alternation to the quiet seclusion and thoughtful application within doors, all tended to produce the happiest effects, not only for the passing hour, but for the tendencies and habits of life.
Here, moreover, was exemplified the true economy of teaching. Recess-time was rendered a brief season of healthful recreation; conducive, also, to genuine enjoyment and mental progress. Botany was so introduced as to lead to the practice of drawing, and drawing to the study of elementary geometry, while the arrangement of the leaf-book was, at the same time, giving a silent but most effectual lesson of order and neatness in habit, and thus laying the foundation for the subsequent philosophical discipline of classification. Under such training, which combines so many subsidiary exercises in but one apparent process of culture, the pupil is advanced and developed in his natural unity of life, hcart, mind, and will, and cordially co-operates in his own education.
Another special object of attention in Mr. Holbrook's mode of procedure, was a practical course of study in elementary geology. His practice was, in introducing this branch, to " begin, continue, and end” with excursions and field-lessons, in all cases in which such a course was practicable; and many adults, in various parts of the United States, still remember with pleasure their participation in the benefits of such rambles in their school-days. In city schools, with pupils too young for the length of walk required for study in the field, his plan was always to teach with specimen in hand, and, in all cases, to encourage his classes to make collections, and contribute to the formation of school-cabinets. With a view to this result, he, for successive years, organized an extensive arrangement for the exchange of local collections of specimens; and, for the purpose of extending the moral interest of such collections, he enlarged his plan so as to embrace, in the system of school exchanges, specimens of drawing, penmanship, and needle-work by the pupils of schools in all parts of the Union. The effect of this part of Mr. Holbrook's plans was undoubtedly to "provoke unto love and good works" among the juvenile givers and receivers; although it gave rise to "skeptical doubts" in some minds as to the result of “so many irons in the fire."
An excellent feature of Mr. Holbrook's plans, and one of unquestioned benefit, was that of suggesting and procuring the introduction into schools of the illustrative apparatus which bears his name, and which his son continues to furnish to schools throughout our country. Mr. Holbrook, by bis success in attracting the attention of teachers to the importance of using visible illustrations in all forms of instruction which admit of their use, rendered an invaluaable service to the improvement of education, and contributed, in no slight degree, to the diffusion of those views which, of late years, have led to the introduction into our higher seminaries of those more complicated and costly illustrations which advanced instruction requires.
The main object of interest to Mr. Holbrook's own mind, was the establishment, throughout the United States, of popular associations for the diffusion of scientific knowledge connected with the useful arts. The plan and operation of a national system of regularly organized associations, furnished with “a central heart, conducting arteries, and returning veins," securing the circulation of a vital current of science throughout our country, was the favorite theme of his thoughts and the unceasing aim of his endeavors, during the greater part of his life. To bring his views and purposes to actual accomplishment, he traveled for successive years, from place to place, founding branches of what he fondly termed the "American Lyceum;" and many of these establishments remain as memorials of his benevolent enterprise, and still wear the designation of “lyceum," although the idea of connected ramifications was never perfectly realized.
Mr. Holbrook organized and conducted the first lyceum, so called, in his own town, in the State of Connecticut, with a class of mechanics and farmers, some of whom took part personally in the exercises of their weekly evening-class. Many towns and villages in New England owe, primarily, their weekly intellectual treat of a popular lecture to the genial spirit and persevering labors of Mr. Holbrook, the father and founder of the lyceum system. The influence which he has thus exerted on the intelligence, the tastes, and the habits of New England, will long continue, we may trust, to cause his name to be held in grateful remembrance.
To the earnest spirit and persevering endeavors of Josiah Holbrook, the city of Boston owes, in part, one of its most excellent institutions—the Lowell lec
tures, from which source, as a perennial fountain, the streams of scientific instruction annually issue, for the benefit of thousands—not only of the citizens, but of the many visitors from various portions of New England, who are attracted, in not a few instances, by the high advantages for intellectual culture and enjoyment which that noble-hearted city affords, alike to the denizen of her municipal circle and the stranger within her gates. In the winter of 1828–9, Mr. Holbrook came to the city of Boston, for the double purpose of rendering service to the cause of education, by his customary visits to the schools, and of establishing a lyceum association, with a view to the effect which such an arrangement might exert on other towns accustomed, perhaps, to follow the lead of Boston, in matters of intellectual and social relation.
The English Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge had, at the time referred to, called forth every where the sympathy and zeal of all friends of education and of popular progress. Mr. Holbrook, accordingly, having suhjected his plan to such modifications as the circumstances of a city like Boston seemed to require, and having laid his views before men of influence in the placeamong whose names were found, as ever, auspicious in such undertakings, those of Daniel Webster and Edward Everett, and others of like spirit—a public meeting, honored by the presence of such men, was held, which soon eventuated in the formation of the Boston Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, whose plan and proceedings suggested, it is well known, to the discerning mind of the late Jolin Lowell, the idea of the admirable arrangement for the course of gratuitous public lectures which bears his honored name.
Nor can we here justly pass by the Boston Lyceum, formed under the influence of those views which originated with the mind of Mr. Holbrook, although submitted to those modifications which an independent organization in a populous city naturally required.
The success which Mr. Holbrook's endeavors met in his visits to the different parts of New England, with a view to the establishment of lyceums, induced him to continue his exertions in this connection and that of visiting schools, and to extend them into the Middle States. There he found a still wider field of action in luis favorite purposes; and, in some places, the effect of his labors was to awaken an intense interest in the subject of popular education, where it had subsided or slumbered, and in some instances where the subject had been met in the spirit of unmitigated hostility. Such was the case in some portions of the State of Pennsylvania, where a vigorous movement in favor of education was in progress in certain quarters, but a bitter opposition was manifested in others.
Having secured the hearty co-operation of an influential licentiate of the Dutch Reformed Church, who recognized in their true light the purposes of Mr. Holbrook, he made an extensive tour in the interior of the state, presenting his views of practical popular education withi such success that, ere many months had elapsed, a teachers' convention was held, in the full spirit of such a gathering, and to the great delight of the people generally, in Lycoming county—pre. viously designated, in a popular phrase, as "bear” county. In this region, some of the former inveterate enemies of education were heard exclaiming, “Yes, if this is education, we want it. This will make our sons better farmers; and they will know, when they are selling their farms, whether they are selling coal, and lime, and iron, too."
Still ardently pursuing his original plan of a national association for the diffusion of science among the people, Mr. Holbrook spent the latter part of his life in the District of Columbia, where he occupied himself in preparing the way
for the consummation of his cherished purpose of establishing in Washington city the head-quarters of a national lyceum. With this view, he devoted some time to the examination of the scientific institutions of the city, and the inspection of the condition of agriculture in the vicinity. In connection with the latter subject, he prepared a series of articles on agricultural chemistry, for the “ National Intelligencer," which were read with great interest throughout the wide sphere of the circulation of that excellent paper. Occasionally he diversified his pursuits hy excursions, undertaken for the purpose of exploring the geology and ascertaining the mineralogical wealth of the adjacent regions of Virginia.
On one of these tours, when boating not far from Lynchburg, tempted by an apparently valuable specimen, imbedded in the steep, rocky bank of the creek, he climbed to obtain it, and, trusting for support to his hold of a jutting portion of rock, it unfortunately gave way; and, whether owing to fatal hurts in his fall or his inability to swim, he was drowned in the deep pool below.
In his death, the great common cause of popular education met with an irreparable loss, which, every year, is felt more deeply as his wide views and disinterested life come to be understood and more justly appreciated, and the teachings of Agassiz have led instructors to feel more deeply the great value of tho study of Nature, as the divinely-appointed school of the young mind.
Teachers, too young to have held intercourse with Mr. Holbrook, sometimes ask the question, Why was le not more successful in his purposes—why was he not more adequately supported in his noble endeavors ? The answer is easy to those who knew him--a quiet, retiring, unostentatious man, little attentive to the conventional circumstances of arbitrary social life, somewhat negligent of appearances, never caring to assert himself, strong in his conscious good purposes, enthusiastic in the contemplation of a great plan of practical utility, utterly in. different to "filthy lucre,” walking twenty miles on a stretch for the “largest liberty" of geologizing or botanizing, making all his experiments on metals with his own hands in the blacksmith's shop. On one occasion, the writer of this communication met him issuing from such a scene in the streets of Brooklyn-liis working-coat both shabby with age and badly torn; his face begrimed with smoke and soot, and his hands in the same condition; but his eye gleaming, from under its heavy, massive eyebrow, with delight at the result of his operation, and his whole soul buoyant with the amount of business then daily done at his School Exchange Office in Canal Street, New York-packages arriving daily from the furthest east, west, north, and south. As he left the ferry for his office, lie pursued his way along Broadway, utterly unconscious of the state of his outward man, but evidently in an inward "glory and a joy" as deep-felt as that of the peasant-poet in his raptures of inspiration.
The unworldly spirit of Mr. Holbrook, his shyness in society, the plain style and tenor of his daily life, and his entire absorption in his peculiar plans and purposes, all laid bim open to misapprehension; and to some, who formed their conceptions of the man from first impressions or slight acquaintance, it was matter of surprise to be informed that he possessed the advantages of liberal education, and was a respected graduate of Yale College. Had he presented himself in certain circles among us, with the prestige of an unpronounceable foreign name, and the insignia of some European scientific institution, his views and aims would probably have met with a flattering recognition. It pleased him better to be what he was—a plain, straightforward man, a practical teacher of childhood and youth, and an unpretending friend of popular progress. The