Back To School: How did students ready themselves 100 years ago?


How did a student prepare for school 100 years ago?

  • Schools would supply students with textbooks
  • A simple notebook (see image above)
  • A lunch kit/box (see blue lunchbox)
  • Clothing was readied (see Salmon Point School)
  • A review on rules and expectations


Above: Supplies used for writing, including a pottery jug of writing fluid to be poured into inkwells.


Above: an image showing students of  Salmon Point School in the year 1919.

What did attendance look like?

Percentage of Average Attendance – 100 years ago

Picton and Bloomfield – 64%

Ameliasburgh and Hillier – 58%

Athol and Wellington – 56%

Hallowell and S. Marysburgh – 51%

North Marysburgh – 50%

Why did attendance look like this? There is nothing to boast about in these figures but considering that these statistics are during the days of canning factories and other attractions for young people, the results are fairly satisfactory.


Above: An image of back to school advertising dated 1935.

What rules were students expected to obey? Here’s an example of standard rules:

  • Respect your schoolmaster and accept punishment.
  • Do not call your classmates names or fight with them. Love and help one another.
  • Never make noises or disturb your neighbours as they work. Be silent during classes.
  • Do not talk unless absolutely necessary.
  • Bring firewood into the classroom for the stove whenever the teacher tells you to.
  • If the master calls your name after class, straighten the benches and tables, sweep the room, dust, and leave everything tidy.

Why Teach Music? – Exploring Musical Education


        The amount of music one hears in a single day is remarkable. A radio alarm might wake you then you might turn on the television to hear advertisement jingles, as well as themes and scoring to shows. You may listen to music in your car and idly hum along to a tune which is being played in the grocery store. The language of music surrounds us every day, so why are many of us not fluent?

        Whether the soundtrack to your life is Gord Downie and “The Hip”, or Tchaikovsky, the Beatles or Mozart, the music you connect with and that plays through influential events in your life is important to you. Why shut a door to a musical education in a child’s face?

You don’t have to take it from us, though. Let’s look at what others have to say about the value of music:

“Music is a more potent instrument than any other for education, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul.” – Plato

“I must study politics and war, that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy…in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music…” – John Adams addressed to his wife in 1780

“Music must take rank as the highest form of the fine arts- as the one which, more than any other, ministers to human welfare.” – Essays on Education, 1861

“Music is… a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy… the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks, and invents.” – Ludwig van Beethoven

      Many quotations on music focus on how music nourishes us, how it feeds our humanity and creativity. Despite being a source of entertainment we turn to as an emotional outlet, it is often pushed to the side and seen as frivolous. Do you think music is valuable to children?

“Music is a world within itself

With a language we all understand

With an equal opportunity

For all to sing…”

– Stevie Wonder, Sir Duke

Should We Be Teaching Our Children Cursive?

Cursive Handwriting – Why is it valuable?

Many people visiting our museum remark upon the cursive handwriting on our board, and wonder why we consider handwriting to be less important than it once was.

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Above: image of writing tools, including makeshift blotting papers, fountain pens, and slate pencils.

In past years, cursive was a valuable skill for taking quick notes in classes, but would also be what you used to sign legal documentation.

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Above: a document signed in cursive

As computers and laptops have become more accessible, quick notes can be taken with practiced keyboard skills. But what can cursive offer that some children may be missing out on?

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Above: An image of writing examples given by Canadian business college programs.

Cursive offers a great way for children to practice developing their hand-eye coordination, and also often offers a way to develop care for work and attention to detail.

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Above: an image of an ink bottle and fountain pen tips.

Cursive also provides a proper medium with which to sign documents that still must be signed and witnessed today, including Powers of Attorney, Wills, Financial Agreements, and Tax Returns. Cheques are frequently signed in cursive to prevent the editing of the amount written.

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Above: A book full of cursive writing exercises, dated 1924.

Studies show cursive may be a valuable tool in helping dyslexic children, and provides the incredibly valuable skill of fluency in reading letters and documents that have been written in cursive.

We’d love to hear your thoughts! Comment on our post and follow us on social media if you’re interested in more content like this.

What Makes a Book Rare?

What Makes a Book Rare?

Our archive houses a diverse collection of artifacts, some much rarer than others. What factors go into determining a rare book?

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Above: An arithmetic text signed in the year 1863, an impressive 156 years ago.

Place of Publication 

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Above: An arithmetic textbook published in Picton.

Autographed by Author

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Above: A book of “Just Mary” stories, signed by Canadian author and presenter Mary Evelyn Grannan.

Historically Significant Author 

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Above: A book written by Egerton Ryerson, a significant figure and early settler in Ontario. Ryerson was a politician and advocate for public education.

Unusual Publisher 

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Above: A book published by Eastwood, Woodwall & Co.

Interested in the artifacts QEMA has to offer? Visit our museum or archive to check out more!

QEMA Holds Reunion for Pinecrest Memorial and Queen Elizabeth Schools

Held on June 8 at the Prince Edward County Community Centre in Picton, ON, QEMA received a commendable crowd. The two county schools closed within the past two years, with histories dating back to the 50’s and 60’s. Festivities included a silent auction, dance, mini putt, a classic car show, and an adjacent craft show, and displays of nostalgic artifacts for the enjoyment of former students and family. QEMA thanks those who attended and made this great event possible!

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Above: A poster for the event, sponsored and held by the Quinte Educational Museum and Archives.


Scratches, Scribbles, and Sketches: Exploring the Graffiti of the Archives

As long as there has been surfaces we shouldn’t vandalize, there’s been graffiti. Though modern graffiti is often seen as vandalism, historical graffiti, sketches, doodles, and poems can humanize the generations we see in the black and white school photos.

The word graffiti  comes from the Italian word for “scratches”. Here are some examples of scratchings that can be spotted in our schoolhouse!


Limericks and poems found in old school books display the creativity of schoolchildren in Quinte’s past. The examples in our school books are numerous, but here are a few gems:



Doodles in school books may not indicate the most attentive student, but are a fun look at the musings of schoolchildren past. One particular ametuer artist leaves an impressive mark on their notebook:



Has this post influenced your opinion of graffiti? When does vandalism become artwork? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Are You Smarter Than a 1924 Fifth Grader?

Are you smarter than a 1924 fifth grader? Try these questions out to see!

These questions are taken from the Prince Edward County Promotion Exams, 1924, Entrance to Senior III.


Make the following words mean more than one: child, knife, cargo, piano, alley, ally.

Explain the difference between “You may go, John.” and “You can go, John.”

Correct the following:

He don’t know how to do it.

I ain’t gave none of them away.


State what part of the world each explored: Columbus, Cartier, Raleigh, La Salle, Hudson, McKenzie, Drake.

Why did the Americans declare war against the Canadians in 1812. What part did the following play: Laura Secord, Tecumseh? Name six battles fought in the war of 1812.


Name in order of size the continents of the world.

Name in order from west to east the provinces of Canada.

Name the waters through which a vessel would pass going from Sault Ste. Marie to Kingston, and five ports at which it might call.

What are the following: Andes, Magellan, Florida, New Zealand, Nile, Florida, Sahara, Danube, Thames.

Where in Ontario would the following be obtained: salt, nickel, lumber, peaches, copper?


Mental Work:

26+24+30+5-10+9-6-7= ____

How many gallons in 192 pints?

How many miles in 7040 yards?

If one dozen oranges cost 72 cents, what will 8 dozen cost?

Written Work:

What is the remainder after subtracting 6,398,987 from 40,076,895 four times?

Find the product of the sum and the difference of 69,879 and 68,945.

A man raised 640 bushels of grain. If 1/8 was barley, 1/5 was oats, and 1/10 was corn, and the remainder was wheat how many bushels of wheat did he raise?

A boy bought 8 bushels of hickory nuts at $3.00 a bushel and sold them for 15 cents a quart. What was his loss or gain?

Find the value of a pile of wood 32’ x 8’ at $12.50 a cord.

How did you do? Let us know what you think!

Movers and Quakers – West Lake Boarding School


The West Lake Quakers – 1840

Private school was a popular choice in the mid-19th century, many believing that the quality of public education could be poor. After a donation of £1000 sterling was made to The Society of Friends, a school would be built on Old Danforth Road and opened in 1841.

Through the Society of Friends’ founder George Fox’s preaching to magistrates to “tremble at the word of The Lord.”, the group would become known as the Quakers. The Friends would come to New England in the early 18th century, and would reach the Bay of Quinte and Niagara Peninsula by 1754. By the 1800s, the Quakers would establish meeting houses in Wellington, Fish Lake, Ameliasburgh, and Bloomfield.

West Lake Boarding School’s first two teachers were Mary V. Loag and Joseph H. Haines, the former responsible for the female department, and the latter for the male. Loag would receive a salary of £50 per annum, and Haines would receive £100 per annum.

In the year 1854, West Lake Boarding School would house 110 boarders, and receive 12 day students. A student would likely attend for two years in their teens, becoming educated in religion, mathematics, literature, farming and domestic skills.

The school’s decline would be a result of financial difficulties, competing quaker schools, and a rise in the quality of Egerton Ryerson’s public schools. The school would be sold in 1856, and today only the brick building which contained the girls’ quarters and dining room remains.

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Above: Segments from news concerning the school.

A New Visitor

The Victoria Schoolhouse has a new family visiting this year.  A duck, and her eggs, have camped outside our 1904 schoolhouse and interpretive centre.  We’re assuming they want to be first in line when we open for the season.  If you’re in the Ameliasburgh area, please be careful around our family.  We want to ensure they’re happy and healthy.

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School Inspection – Continued

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The Reverse of the school inspection form illustrates a list of duties for the school trustee, the teacher, and the inspector.

The Trustee’s directions are to make sure that the schoolhouse and furniture are kept in good repair, ensure that the teacher is doing his/her job and using authorized materials, and take the inspector through the school.

The teacher has to oversee the smooth daily running of the schoolhouse.  Upholding the mandates of the community and the trustee were also very important.

Finally, the inspector’s job was to ensure that the students were learning, the teacher was teaching appropriately, the schoolhouse was in good condition and that all materials required were present.  The inspector would then report back to the board on the status of his findings.