40 Old-time Schools and School-books
other to form a book of the desired thickness. Lastly a cover of coarse brown wrapping-paper, or possibly of wall-paper, was cut out, and the whole was carefally sewed into shape. In preparation for writing, the children ruled the paper themselves with lead plummets. Some plummets were merely pieces of sheet lead, but oftener the lead was melted and run into a wooden mould and later smoothed with a jack-knife. The most popular shape was that of a tomahawk. When properly finished and sharpened and drilled with a hole at one end, the plummet was tied with a string of tow to the owner's ruler.
The handwriting of the colonial children, judging from the copy-books that have been preserved, was admirably legible and uniform — much better than that of the young people of the present. In fact, it was a chief requisite of the old schoolmasters that they should be good teachers of penmanship. The spelling mattered little, if only the " wrighting " was clear and fair; and as a logical result of this view a very large proportion of the early chirography is handsome and dignified, and easy to read.
Some particularly interesting glimpses of education in the score of years preceding the Revolution are to be found in the biography of John Trumbull, who attended one of the best schools of the period in the little town of Lebanon, Connecticut. For thirty years the master of the school was Nathan Tisdale, a man whose assiduity and fidelity became so widely known that he not only had pupils from the New England and Northern colonies, but from those of the remotest South and from the West India Islands.