Sunday, February 04, 2007

A History Lesson From Swinton's Word-Book of English Spelling (1872)

And now for some entertainment from my collection of antique school books.

"Learning to spell the English language correctly is the most difficult task of school life. Hence correct spelling is rightly regarded as a sign of culture, and bad spelling as indicating a lack of it."

Section I. First Year's Work. First Month. 16. Articles of Dress
  • bonnet
  • mantle
  • gaiters
  • apron
  • trousers
  • mantilla
  • parasol
  • pantaloons
  • pantalets
  • petticoat
  • tunic
  • wrapper
  • corset
  • cravat
  • jacket
  • necktie
  • collar
  • slipper
  • drawers
  • overcoat
Alright, I have two questions. First, is spelling really the most difficult task one learns in school? (Not for me, I LOVED spelling.) Second, since when is a parasol an article of clothing?!

All silliness aside, this list has started me thinking that perhaps there is a social studies lesson here for next fall. There are several elementary objectives that relate to describing everyday life in the present and in the past and recognizing that things change over time. This list might make for some interesting comparisons.


  1. My kids are always asking about certain items of clothing from times past that are mentioned in books - sometimes I can help, other times not. I thnk this would make a fun social studies lesson!

    I do know that researching the clothing of long ago is somewhat difficult, as worn out clothing was usually transformed into something else - rags, rugs, doll clothes, etc - and therefore few examples remain. For the colonial era, the Colonial Williamsburg site has a good bit of information (and it's the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown this year!).

  2. Hi Kris,
    I did some image searching in Google based on the list of terms and found many pictures. Thanks to all the historical reenactors out there, many companys supply these old-fashioned clothes.

    I'm thinking I will do a photo study comparing clothing of the 1800s to today. It should be fun!

    Thanks for writing.