“the beauty and nobility, the august mission and destiny, of human handwriting”*…
In colonial America, “the very style in which one formed letters was determined by one’s place in society,” writes historian Tamara Thornton in Handwriting in America: A Cultural History. Thanks to the rigorous teachings of professionals called “penmen,” merchants wrote strong, loopy logbooks, women’s words were intricate and shaded, and upper-class men did whatever they felt like. So different were the results, says Thornton, that “a fully literate stranger could evaluate the social significance of a letter… simply by noting what hand it had been written in.”
Understanding how colonists put pen to paper means understanding why they wanted to write in the first place…
More on the semiotics of script at “The Hidden Messages of Colonial Handwriting.”
* George Bernard Shaw,
As we consider cursive, we might recall that it was on this date in 1780 that New Englanders awoke to find a murky haze drifting over the morning sun. An early twilight descended over the next few hours, and by noon, the skies had turned as black as midnight. Night birds sang and confused chickens retired to their roosts. People were forced to light candles to see.
More on the infamous “Dark Day” of 1780 here.