School Days, School Days, Dear Old Golden Rule Days

Reading and writing and ‘rithmetic. Taught to the tune of a hickory stick. Oh, remember the good old days when school started after Labor Day? Every year the start of school creeps earlier and earlier into the month of August or, for some, the last weeks of July!

As an educator for over twenty years and a family historian for even longer, the thought of utilizing a search for school-related information for my family tree didn’t really click. While researching for this article, I realized the numerous bits available to piece together what I would call an educational journey of our ancestors. It may not be their names in the pages of periodicals, but what a savvy researcher can extract will paint a picture of the school experience during the childhood and teenage years of their family.

Back to school haircut advertisement

School Advertisements
Shopping for school supplies marks the end of summer, and school is fast approaching. Newspapers are filled with advertisements for the necessary supplies and clothes to start the new school year. I even found one for the infamous “back to school haircut!”

Back to School
Not only are advertisements popular during the back-to-school rush, but general information about the upcoming school year is prevalent in periodicals. An issue of the Hope Star from 1965 dedicated a whole page to school news with opening days, the need for substitute teachers, and new coaches heading up athletics.

School Menus
School lunches have definitely undergone changes over the decades. From students walking home for lunch each day to home-cooked goodness by the cafeteria workers to the stringent requirements of the present day, the trends are easy to see in newspapers. Most menus were a small blurb with the days of the week followed by the menu. The Journal Tribune from 1977 included very easy-to-read menus for each of the schools in the area. Which day would you pack your lunch?

Honor Roll
Honor roll and other accomplishments are a common addition to newspapers. The Havre Daily News from 1930 published an entire page titled “Public Schools of City and County” with a listing of the schools in the area. Each school reported on a variety of things, from honor roll and perfect attendance to citizenship and class officers.

Even though the school year is only just beginning, you can just bet those Seniors are already counting down the days to commencement! Many modern newspapers have quite a bit of coverage on each year’s graduation class, but even vintage papers from the early 1900s showcased the educational accomplishments of the graduates. The Boston Daily Globe in 1901 dedicated an entire page to the graduates of the area.

high school graduates 98 - largest class in history of Bronxville Schools

In my newspaper research, I uncovered an incredible list of interesting articles related to school: the establishment of free schools in South Carolina in 1820, many help wanted ads for teachers in the 1800s and early 1900s, an advertisement from 1968 for adult education with the course offerings and their costs, and an evening school for both sexes from 1776!

Want to learn more about school in the time of your ancestors? Or maybe you want to dig deeper into the educational foundations of our country? Visit for a 7-Day Free Trial to start your search today!

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