The Zanerian College

zanerian04.jpgIn 1888, Charles Paxton Zaner founded the Zanerian College of Penmanship in Columbus, Ohio. The school’s curriculum included courses that prepared students for careers as penmen, who, at that time, wrote by hand most of the documents used by business and industry. The school also trained students to become teachers of penmanship, illustrators, engravers, and engrossers - specialists in the kind of ornamental writing used for diplomas and certificates.

In 1891, Zaner sold a share of the Zanerian to Elmer Ward Bloser, whom he met in 1883 while the two men were students at Michael’s Pen Art Hall. Bloser, who had been working as an instructor at the Spencerian Business College in Cleveland, was a superb penman, and he had accumulated the capital necessary to sustain the college in its early days (when its three instructors had only three pupils).

zaner_and_bloser01.jpgAt that time, most schools of penmanship only attempted to train penmen in the lucrative art of ornamental writing. Zaner and Bloser emphasized the importance of a good general education as well; so much so that the Zanerian was described by one student as “the only University of Penmanship and Drawing in the world.” The school’s curriculum included psychology, physiology, and English composition, and students who wished to become teachers of penmanship were also expected to study the theory of teaching and to write a 10,000-word thesis.

By 1895, the Zanerian College of Penmanship had become the Zaner-Bloser Company, an institution that offered courses in penmanship, published professional materials about handwriting and illustration, and sold handwriting supplies.

In 1904, Zaner-Bloser published The Zaner Method of Arm Movement, a landmark text that taught the simplified style of writing learned by students at the Zanerian to children in elementary schools all over the United States. This book also applied the findings of psychologists who had discovered that young children completed manual tasks more easily if allowed to use the large arm movements that were natural to them at their early stage of motor skills development.






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