Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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SPENCER, Platt Rogers, originator of the Spencerian system of penmanship, born in East Fish-kill, Dutchess County, New York, 7 November, 1800; died in Geneva, Ashtabula County, Ohio, 16 May, 1864. His father, Caleb, a farmer and soldier of the Revolution, died in 1806, and in 1810 the family removed to Jefferson, Ashtabula County, Ohio, then a wilderness. The son was passionately fond of writing. Paper being difficult to get, he wrote on birch-bark, sand, ice, snow, the fly-leaves of his mother's Bible, and by permission of a cobbler, upon the leather in his shop. In 1815 he taught his first writing-class. From 1816 till 1821 he was a clerk and book-keeper, and from 1821 till 1824 he studied law, Latin, English literature, and penmanship, taught in a common school, and wrote up merchants' books. In 1824 he contemplated entering college with a view to preparing for the ministry, but, being a victim of inherited alcoholism aggravated by the prevalent drinking customs, he fell and his plans were changed. He then taught in New York and Ohio. In 1832 he became a total abstainer, and was, as he believed, the first public advocate in this country of that principle, for which he labored during the remainder of his life. Soon after his reformation he was elected to public office, and was county treasurer twelve years. He was instrumental in collecting the early history of Ashtabula county, and was deeply interested in American history. He early engaged actively in the anti-slavery movement and was an advocate of universal liberty. Through his work and influence as a teacher, by his system of penmanship, through his pupils, and by his public addresses and encouragement, he was instrumental in founding the business colleges of the United States and in promoting their growth and development. In the winter of 1864 Mr. Spencer delivered before the business college in Brooklyn, New York, his last lecture, and gave his last course of lessons in the business college in New York city. His first publications on penmanship were issued in 1848 under the name of " Spencer and Rice's System of Business and Ladies' Penmanship," later published under the title of "Spencerian or Semi-Angular Penmanship." His other publications on penmanship appeared from 1855 till 1863. The "New Spencerian Compendium," issued in parts, was completed in 1886.
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