Legislating Mandatory Drawing Classes in the United States

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Dr. Paul Bolin of the University of Texas at Austin presented a paper entitled “Preparing Children for the World of Work: Influences of Legislation in the Proliferation of Drawing Manuals…1860-1876” at this weekend’s conference “Home, School, Play, Work.” http://www.princeton.edu/cotsen/research-collection/academic-conferences/home-school-play-work/

Bolin pointed out that Massachusetts passed legislation making drawing a compulsory subject of study within the public school curriculum in 1870, followed by Maine in 1871, New York in 1875, and Vermont in 1878. Dr. Bolin went on to remind us that it was Warner Miller (1838-1918), NY Senator and President of the American Wood & Paper Association, who pushed the legislation forward. As a result, Miller made a fortune from the increase demand in paper. Similarly in Vermont, it was members of the Burlington stationery factories who backed the legislation and received enormous profit from the increased sales of their products.

Read an abstract: http://www.princeton.edu/cotsen/research-collection/academic-conferences/home-school-play-work/bolinabstract/index.xml

Here are a few early American drawing manuals from the graphic arts collection:

Fielding Lucas (1781-1854) Lucas’ Progressive Drawing Book … Consisting Chiefly of Original Views of American Scenery… (Baltimore: F. Lucas, jun’r [c1827]) Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize NC710 .L84q

John Hill (1770-1850), A Series of Progressive Lessons, Intended to Elucidate the Art of Flower Painting in Water Colours. New ed. (Philadelphia: Published by Desilver, Thomas & Co., 1836) Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize 2007-0154Q

John T. Bowen (ca. 1801-1856?), The United States Drawing Book: Comprising Elements of the Art of Drawing with the Lead Pencil, Chalk, or Crayon, or with Water Colours (Philadelphia: Thomas Wardle, 1839). Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize NC407 .B68q

John Gadsby Chapman (1808-1889), The American Drawing-Book: a Manual for the Amateur, and Basis of Study for the Professional Artist (New York: J.S. Redfield, 1847). Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize Hamilton 493q

The Theory of Effect: Embracing the Contrast of Light and Shade, of Colour and Harmony (Philadelphia: J.W. Moore, 1851). Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Hamilton 841

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Alas, Drawing isn't one of the 11 required subjects for high school graduation in our state (Washington). We still taught it in our homeschool and my son used one of his charcoal drawings during his full-tuition scholarship competition (he won.) All in all a very valuable skill!