Shop class

Shop class

The folks at the Boston City Archives wonder if you can figure out where and when this shop class was. See it larger.



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    Harvard Medical School?

    Harvard Medical School?

    Work on wood scraps first, then move on to cadavers.

    I have a handed-down-through-the-ages workbench that looks exactly like those, and a try square with the same fastener layout, also a hand-me-down.



    The "H.M.S" on the left of the blackboard makes me think it could be a shop class at the Horace Mann School in Allston. The individual directions on each table also support that maybe these students are hard of hearing. I'm thinking between 1895-1905.


    Very interesting as I am much

    Very interesting as I am much younger than those pictured, but even in my day girls were not allowed in wood or metal shops. We had to take Home Ec and sewing. And visa versa, boys were not allowed home ec or sewing classes.

    It took the threat of a

    It took the threat of a lawsuit by a middle-school classmate to finally allow girls to take shop class in my 1970s suburban NY school system. Now she, like me, knows how to use a block plane, coping saw, and treadle lathe, skills as valuable in the 1970s as they are today. I wish I'd learned how to sew a button. I bet she does too.


    Horace Mann School for the Deaf

    The Horace Mann School for the Deaf (presently existing in Union Square Allston as part of the Jackson Mann Complex) is the oldest day school for the Deaf in the United States.

    We've had affiliations with Alexander Graham Bell (he taught here very briefly) and Helen Keller (who was tutored by our first Principal, Sarah Fuller).

    The Horace Mann School was one of the first schools to offer Cooking, Woodworking and Printing, which at the time considered was very innovative. Classes were offered to both boys and girls. Prior to this, (1880) students were given the opportunity to take classes at what is now the North Bennett Street School. (also very unique).

    In 1892,(date of photo) the school resided on Newbury Street, moved to Kearsarge St. in Roxbury and then moved to it's present location in Allston.

    Sadly, the Woodshop at the Horace Mann closed about 10 years ago, (I was the teacher). We do, however, have a great Document Imaging Program, which, oddly enough, has a great partnership with the City of Boston Archives. (It's possible an HMS student scanned todays photo)


    Shop programs

    We're discontinued when everyone wanted their kid to grow up to be Yuppies. No more woodworking, printing, sheet metal, plumbing courses. Kids need to learn to be lawyers and computer technicians.
    That's why people today can't change a broken lightbulb and there are no electricians to do it.


    The Wood Shop closed...

    mainly because it was never a really viable Vocational option for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students. The students were as skilled and knowledgeable as any of their "hearing" peers, but the Unions were unwilling to hire them due to "safety concerns". Their inability to interface with clients made them a difficult hire at smaller independent wood shops, where the competition is extemely fierce. (Every carpenter in the world would rather be doing custom woodworking in a small inside opposed to building concrete forms in the bitter cold.)

    This was around 15 years ago, and computers and DeskTop were coming into prominence. The powers at be convinced me to change my direction and opened a Macintosh lab for me. This meant the end of the wood shop.


    A Tragic Loss - Taught Priceless Practical Skills

    The public junior high school I attended had excellent facilities; wood and metal shops with many types of tools and equipment. Every kid loved attending shop class, nobody ever misbehaved and the teachers had little trouble getting the class' attention.

    We learned much more than just mechanical skills, but gained other practical knowledge in mathematics, geometry, physics, chemistry, and even history. The ability to visualize a physical object in your mind, plan it on paper, and then create it in real life is priceless. The elimination of industrial arts programs in schools has been a tragedy!