The District Schools 107
they were expected to faithfully " toe the crack " — a particular crack between the floor boards chosen for the purpose of keeping them in line.
The schoolroom walls were dismally vacant except for weather-stains, and grime from the fire which had an annoying tendency to smoke. There were no maps or pictures, and even blackboards were not common until about 1820. The earliest reference I have seen to a school blackboard is in the preface to an arithmetic published in 1809, in Philadelphia. Evidently the use of such a thing as a school aid was an innovation. A footnote explained that " the Black Board should be about 3 feet square, painted or stained with ink, and hung against the wall in a convenient place for a class to assemble around it."
Seats and desks were of pine or oak, rudely fashioned by some local carpenter. Their aspect was not improved by the passing years ; for the unpainted wood became more and more browned with the umber of human contact, and every possessor of a jack-knife labored over them with much idle hacking and carving.
Ordinarily there was a narrow entry running across the front of the building that was mostly filled by a big chimney. The boys were supposed to hang their hats in the entry, but the diminutive space and few nails in the wall did not accommodate all the extra apparel, and much of it would lie on the floor to be trampled on. The fireplace which warmed the schoolroom was large and deep, and in severe weather it consumed not far from a cord of wood a week. The wood was always burned green. No