Sara L. Spencer
Portrait and bio taken with permission from Michael Sullís
"Spencerian Script and Ornamental Penmanship, Volume I"
Sara Louisa Spencer was born on December 17, 1832. She was
the eldest daughter and in the 1850's became her father's teaching assistant at Jericho. She
also taught in the first Spencerian College and aided Platt Rogers Spencer in his commercial
ventures prior to his death. She was superbly skilled in penmanship and was considered the
finest female penman of her day. Quoting from Art In America (Summer, 1952):
She had taught her father's system even before her brothers, serving as her father's assistant
in Pittsburgh, teaching under his direction in Chamberlin's Commercial College in 1852, and
again, later in Cleveland; and she taught through much of her married life .... She served
in a way as her father's secretary during much of the latter part of his life, and she considered
that she thus had a particularly close and intimate understanding of his principles, and she
felt that she had important insights about the system that had been overlooked by her brothers.
Sara's opinion about there being aspects of Spencerian Script that yet needed to be explained
and taught, coupled with her dissatisfaction that the widespread credit for the continuance
of her father's work was given solely to her brothers, caused her to develop an idea to write
a new instruction manual. In this venture she enlisted the support of her younger sister,
Ellen. Sara's intention was, as expressed in Art In America, to:
... publish a modification of the Spencerian penmanship ... The new hand was to be more 'feminine'.
. and was to stimulate interest in penmanship at a time when it was suffering from the development
of the typewriter.... The plan and its motivations are expressed in the dummy for a copybook
... entitled, 'The American Anglo-Gothic Series of Copy Books. Arranged and Written by the
Daughters of PR. Spencer, Author and Master of the American Semi-Angular System of Penmanship.'
Sara and Ellen are given as the authors, and it is dedicated to their mother and their three
deceased sisters; that is, the father and all the women of the family appear by name on the
title page. Alternate names are given on succeeding pages of the dummy.- The Columbian Gothic,
The Gothic Spencerian; The American Gothic, and The Spencerian Gothic.
Sara went east in the later eighties for what she thought was to be the final working out
of the new system and completion of plans for publication, but nothing came of this .... She
felt that the brothers unjustly held back their support, which in a way did not surprise her,
but harder to bear was the feeling that Ellen did not devote herself wholeheartedly to the
venture, but in the end lightly put it aside in pursuit of her own interests. Sara's proposed
manual was never published, and, disappointed, she continued to teach on her own. In June,
1858, Sara married Junius Sloan,* an itinerant artist of some renown at the time in Ohio,
Pennsylvania and New York. For forty-two years she taught penmanship while traveling with
her husband as his life-long partner until his death in 1900. Twenty-three years later, Sara
Spencer Sloan died at the age of ninety-one.