A History of American Back Hand and Backslant Handwriting and Penmanship

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A History of American Backhand and Backslant Handwriting and Penmanship

AUTHOR'S NOTE

This preliminary rough draft article is an attempt to create some history of American backhand writing. While backhand can be found at many points in writing history, for different eras there are separate influences that can be defined and can be used to understand how the leftward or reversed angle came to be. Too, there are specific writing styles that are backhand that have their own separate histories.

As of the writing of this, I am unaware of any articles or histories of American backhand. If you know of some, please do send them along to me so that I can learn from them and incorporate them into this article. Likewise, if you have access to backhand material, please consider sharing that so that I might add it as well.

BACKHAND: DEFINED, VALIDATED, ASSESSED IN EDUCATION

“Backhand” or “back hand” is, in the simplest sense, any writing that is angled to the left. It may tilt only a few degrees to the left of vertical, or it may be very leftward slanting.

“There has always been backhand writing and it is difficult to see any valid objection to it,” according to The American School Board Journal, Vol. XXI, No. 6, New York - Chicago, December 1900, page 15, “Vertical Writing: Its Development and Present Status. [1]

As Albert Willistine Clark states in his 1909 Public School Penmanship: a Handbook for Teachers, "Backhand writing is scientifically correct for the left-handed person." [2]

In his 1912 "A scale for measuring the quality of handwriting of school children," Leonard Porter Ayres defines backhand as follows: '"Back hand' was defined [for his testing purposes] as being any writing in which the characteristic slant of letters was to the left of vertical." [3] Of the writing he examined, he noted that 1.7% of his samples from elementary students in 40 cities across the United States were backhand. [4]

Ayres finds the speed of reading backhand to be 168 words per minute, which is slightly slower than the reading of other writing. [5]In addition, the writing speed is 10.1 words per minute, as compared to the average speed of all slants being 11.49 words a minute. [6]

A 1949 sample from Provincetown, Massachusetts indicates "supervised instruction" in backhand. [7]

THE EARLY PRINTED HISTORY OF BACKHAND INSTRUCTION

Here is an example by Italy's Giovanni Antonio Tagliente [8] in 1539. [9]

In 1815, a reverse angle typeface appears on the receipt printed for Davis & Brown, Boston. [10] Of additional interest, this is the same typeface that appears in Bazeley's book in 1821.

In 1821, American Charles William Bazeley published his second edition of Elements of penmanship: simplified and illustrated. It includes backhand script, illustrated with an example of letterpress type, but it does suggest how one should write. He uses the term "reversed hand" and says of it the following, on page 35 of his book: "The reversed hand contributes to an agreeable variety, in cards of compliment, invitations, and exhibitions of fanciful and ornamental penmanship. It may be written by changing the position of the arm, or by reversing the position of the paper, from what is customary when writing the text hand." (Although it has not yet been examined, yet, the 1811 first edition may or may not have this typeface as well.)

THE EARLY HISTORY OF BACKHAND FOR LEFT-HANDED WRITERS AND CIVIL WAR VETERANS

In some cases, backhand was considered the preferred writing angle for left-handed writers. This is probably most poignantly clear as evidenced by the left-handed writing of Civil War soldiers who lost their right arms. Here is a backhand from a soldier in 1866. [11] For comparison, here is rightward slanting penmanship from J S Pendergrast in 1865 [12] and Burrit Stiles in 1867. [13]

THE CHOICE OF PEN OR NIB?

As early as 1877 in the United States, one finds "points" that are advertised for writing backhand. [14] This example, from The Publishers Weekly, Volume 12 shows two different points. R. Esterbook & Co.'s No. 280 "the J pen" is advertised as "A Medium Broad Stub, for Lawyers' Use, and Backhand Writing. Very easy action." The second is No. 284, the "Blackstone Pen," which is "A Broad, Stub Point Point, for Lawyers' Use, and Backhand Writing."

In 1907 the Illustrated Catalogue and Price Current of Des Moines Drug Company, page 643, displays the Esterbrook No. 239 "Chancellor, gray, medium stub, for backhand writing." [15]

EARLY WRITING STYLES IN BACKHAND

In 1879 Spencer's sons published New Spencerian Compendium with examples assumed to be named after different penmen: "Hayes back hand," "Cottingham back hand," and "Abbott back hand." [16] [17] They are also noted as being in the Zanerian Script Alphabet. [18] The Spencerian System of Penmanship copybook, copyright in 1888 and revised in 1894 also includes a Spencerian back hand. [19]

SLANT AND PAPER ANGLE

The Spencerian System of Penmanship, copyright 1894 by Platt Rogers Spencer’s sons indicates that to write in a normally with a rightward slant, a person rotates the paper to the required angle to the left, and their writing would therefore be angled to the right. To write with a leftward slant, a person would rotate their paper to the required angle to the right, and their writing would therefore be angled to the left.[20]

As the chart also shows, a person wanting to write absolutely vertically would keep their paper aligned straight in order to write absolutely vertically, with no angle. It is understood that each of these three writing angles can be perfected by anyone.

This is not to say that all writing teachers or penmen would express these views, but such are the directions in this chart, at least.

In 1904, Charles Paxton Zaner offers this advice to those choosing to write a backhand, non-script lettering: "Hold paper parallel to desk. Use a fine, flexible pen. Holder should point above elbow. Hand may rest on side. Practice the principles before the letters, letting figures until last. Use fingers in connection with arm. Be sure at first rather than speedy. Increase shades gradually. Watch spacing." [21]

BACKHAND, REGARDLESS OF HANDEDNESS?

Backhand writing exists in documents of many kinds. Sometimes it is created by both left-handed and right-handed writers. As to whether or not it is created by left-handed writers or right-handed writers may not be discoverable after the fact among writers whose identities and full backgrounds are not known. Here are some examples worthy of consideration.

MIXED WRITING AND BACKHAND WRITING BEFORE 1893

There are examples with a leftward slant that were written before 1893 that cannot be therefore classified as part of the vertical writing movement.

These fall along some continuum of backhand. In some cases, the letters vary slightly from left to right (and could be called mixed writing), but some letters are so leftward that one has to see them in a backhand category. And then, there are also samples where the angle is noticeably to the left.

1539
As a source of comparison in this section, here is an example by Italy's Giovanni Antonio Tagliente in 1539. [22]

American examples are below.


1793
Letter from Henry Knox to James Wilkinson. First American West: The Ohio River Valley, 1750-1820. May 17, 1793. Philadelphia. [23] [24] [25]

Boston Merchants to Thomas Jefferson, August 27, 1793. The Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress: Series 1: General Correspondence. 1651 to 1827. [26] [27]


1796
George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence: James McHenry to George Washington, November 28, 1796. George Washington Papers: Series 4, General Correspondence, 1697 to 1799. George Washington Papers. Manuscript Division. [28]


1798
Abraham Gochenhour, Ciphering text (mathematics and business accounting) February 7, 1798. [29] Here, the backhand word "Examples" is used as a title for the page.

1741-1799
Unknown to George Washington, Plan for Attack on Boston. George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 4. General Correspondence. 1697-1799. [30] [31] [32] [33]

1816
Robert Butler to Andrew Jackson, April 7, 1816. Andrew Jackson Papers: Series 1, General Correspondence and Related Items, 1775 to 1885. Andrew Jackson Papers. Manuscript Division. [34] [35] See images 1-3.

1817
Robert Butler to Samuel Houston, January 21, 1817, Nashville. Andrew Jackson Papers: Series 1, General Correspondence and Related Items, 1775 to 1885. Andrew Jackson Papers. [36] [37]

Richard Martin Sands to William King, March 15, 1817. Andrew Jackson Papers: Series 1, General Correspondence and Related Items, 1775 to 1885. Andrew Jackson Papers. Manuscript Division. [38] [39]

1821
Clark Harden et al [Treasury Department], May 21, 1821, Andrew Jackson Papers: Series 1, General Correspondence and Related Items, 1775 to 1885. Andrew Jackson Papers.[40] [41]

Robert Butler to Andrew Jackson, September 19, 1821, Wood Lawn, Image 1-4. Andrew Jackson Papers: Series 1, General Correspondence and Related Items, 1775 to 1885. Andrew Jackson Papers. [42] [43] See also 1816, 1817.

1823
George Ticknor to Thomas Jefferson, December 25, 1823. Boston. Image 1-6. The Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress: Series 1: General Correspondence. 1651 to 1827. [44]

1827
John Tyler Papers: Series 1, General Correspondence, 1710-1861; 1710-1855, June 9. John Tyler Papers: Series 1, General Correspondence, 1710 to 1861. John Tyler Papers. Manuscript Division. Image 165 of 904, downloads as number 176. Note the last page, in which the date alone, 1827, is in backhand. [45] [46]

Henry Banks to James Madison, October 27, 1827. [47] This writing is mixed to some degree, but enough of these strokes are leftward slanting that this letter bears inclusion.

1828
L. J. M. to Andrew Jackson, September 26, 1828, Series: Series 1, General Correspondence and Related Items, 1775-1885. [48] [49] Here, the issue has more to do with hand and paper position, but it is worth adding to the list.

Andrew Jackson to Andrew Jackson Donelson, September 28, 1829. Andrew Jackson Papers: Series 1, General Correspondence and Related Items, 1775 to 1885. [50] [51] This example, while not backhand script, is leftward slanting type.

1833
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Outre-Mer: A Pilgrimage Beyond the Sea. Autograph manuscript, [1833][52]

1835
Elizabeth Gluick wrote this on her own book at the Female Seminary in Jamaica, Long Island, New York on July 24, 1835. [53]

Robert Butler to Andrew Jackson, December 4, 1835, Image 1-4. Andrew Jackson Papers: Series 1, General Correspondence and Related Items, 1775 to 1885. Andrew Jackson Papers. [54] [55]

1840
Deborah Higgins, letter to the Spirit of the Times paper. [56]


1840 [ca., estimated, possibly from the same book [57]]
This single page appears to be from a book by Chauncey Bascom that is engraved by H. Morse. The page was found with the material of Abiah Holbrook. [58] Backhand script: Line 32: "The record of Illustrious Actions is most safely deposited in the Universal Remembrance of mankind." Line 33: "Writing is the soul of commerce, the Messenger of thought, Picture of the past and Regulator of the future."

The page that follows has no author and is undated. The fact that the page is here is not meant to indicate its date. There can be no definitive accounting for its origin, but the use of the words "Amherst" and "Concord" suggest it is from the northeast of the United States. It page was found with the material of Abiah Holbrook, as was the item above, so the placement here is to parallel the printed work that appears above. [59] The lines that are backhand are "Sincerity is recommended by all men as a noble virtue, yet few are found to approbate it in life and conversation." and "Virtuous communities have much influence on the conduct of Rulers--Virtuous Rulers still more influence on the conduct of a people--and their influence would effect much good." This last sentence is close to one in a book by Noah Worcester[60]

1841
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, born in Portland, Maine writes this letter from Cambridge, Massachusetts on [61] See also his writing in 1847.

1842
Shakers. Mt. Lebanon Bishopric (N.Y.). Words on a Card Sent from Holy Mother Wisdom to Isaac N. Youngs. Shaker manuscript collection. Manuscripts and Archives Division. Shelf locator: MssCol 2731. Image ID 5773458. Written August 8, 1842. [62]

1844
John J. McCahen to Andrew Jackson, May 1, 1844. Andrew Jackson Papers: Series 1, General Correspondence and Related Items, 1775 to 1885. Andrew Jackson Papers. [63] [64]

1846
Charles James Sprague writes this letter on March 9, 1846. [65] See also his writing in 1865.

1847
Caroline Gilman writes this letter to on September 8, 1847 from Charleston, South Carolina. The writing is mixed, being both leftward and rightward slanting, the direction changing from left to right across the page. It may suggest that she is writing with her left hand and anchors it the middle of the page to cause the shift in slant. [66] This letter states that Carol Howard Gilman was educated in the vicinity of Boston until the age of 10. [67] Of some interest is this rightward slanting letter from 1838. [68]

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow writes this letter on February 10, 1847 [69]

1849
James Waddel Alexander writes this letter on February 2, 1849. [70] This letter on March 14, 1849. [71] Another, he writes on June 30, 1849. [72]

This poem, "The Flowers," by Elizabeth Clementine Kinney, of Newark, New Jersey, it is presumed, was written in 1849.[73] Her letter may be of the same date? [74]

1850
December 26, 1850, Image 2 of Salmon P. Chase Papers: Family Correspondence, 1821-1872; Ludlow, James D. [75][76] Also see his letter from 1855.

From the writing book of James J. Ridgeway, 1850. Possibly of No. 2 Union Street, West Newburyport, Massachusetts. [77] Here, one can see "Penmanship" in a backhanded slant and other attempted angles and scripts.

George Ticknor, of Boston, writes this letter on March 16, 1850. [78] See also his writing in 1851.

1851
George Ticknor, of Boston, writes this letter on March 31, 1851. [79]

1855
March 21, 1855, Image 3 of Salmon P. Chase Papers: Family Correspondence, 1821-1872; Ludlow, James D. [80][81] Also see his letter from 1850.

1856
[attributed to] Eloise E. Payne, of Brookline, MA on September 8, 1856. [82] and October 11, 1856 [83] Notice also the letter from S. J. Tilden is of the same writing style. [84] Compare those three letters to these that follow in the same set [85][86][87][88] [89] The conclusion that seems the most likely is that the initial set of three letters are copies made by a clerk in the New York City office of S. J. Tilden.

1857
M. L. Martin, [90] presumed to be born in upstate New York, and presumed to be writing from Green Bay, WI, on July 8, 1857. [91]

1858
Assumed to be Andrew G. Weeks or Warren B. Potter. February 26, 1858. Weeks & Potter, Druggists, 154 Washington Street, Boston. Receipt to Institution for the Blind, Perkins. [92]

Unknown writer, 1858 in Boston. [93] Among the possibly useful details about this is that the writer seems to be an older gentleman who was once part of the esteemed Boston Latin School. While he was most likely trained to write with a right slant, his style is mixed (left and right slanting). Although the writing is an undistinguishable style of mixed hand, it does seem that the writer is trying to write in a leftward angle in many of the letters.

Charles L. Wilson to Abraham Lincoln, Monday, May 31, 1858, Chicago, (Senate). Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [94] [95] See also his letter in 1861.

T.O.H.P. Burnham, Bookseller, Boston, October 22, 1858. Receipt. [96]

1859
Laura Bridgman's Journal, January 6, 1859 - . This is a handwritten collection of journal entries and dreams created by Laura Bridgman. [97]

Norman B. Judd to Abraham Lincoln, Thursday, March 24, 1859. [Chicago, Illinois] Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [98]

Norman B. Judd to Abraham Lincoln, Thursday, October 20, 1859. [Chicago, Illinois] Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [99] [100]

Richard Irving, (not born in the United States), but living in New York City for a number of years, writes this on December 5, 1859 [101]

Norman B. Judd to Abraham Lincoln, Monday, December 12, 1859 (two same date). Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [102] [103]

1860
Samuel Latham Mitchill Barlow, (S. L. M. Barlow), born in Granville, Massachusetts, and a resident of New York wrote this letter in June 1860. [104]

E. B. Swayne of Owego, Tioga County, New York wrote this on October 10, 1860. [105]

1861
H. H. Fowler to Abraham Lincoln, Monday, February 04, 1861 (Opposes cabinet appointment for Colfax). Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [106] [107]

A. B. Dickinson to Mary Todd Lincoln, Wednesday, May 08, 1861 (Sends beef). Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [108]

Charles L. Wilson to John G. Nicolay, Friday, July 05, 1861, New York, (Introduction). Series 2. General Correspondence. 1858-1864. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [109] See also his letter in 1858.

New York City Union Defense Committee, Tuesday, July 23, 1861 (Resolutions). Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [110] [111]

1862
This is a letter from Tilton C. Reynolds to Juliana Smith Reynolds, January 15, 1862. [112]

The District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862, April 16, 1862. [113] Here, one can see the backhand used for emphasis only, in the words "and be it further enacted."

Record Group 109: War Department Collection of Confederate Records, 1825 - 1927 Series: Record Books of Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Offices of the Confederate Government, 1874 - 1899 File Unit: Ordnance Department: Letters and Telegrams Received, Superintendent of Laboratories, June 1862 - May 1863. National Archives Identifier: 12012442, Local Identifier: Chapter IV, Volume 5. July 5, 1862. Image 6 and Image 7. [114]

Thomas Edison wrote this on August 10, 1862.[115]

Edwin M. Stanton to Abraham Lincoln, Thursday, August 14, 1862 (Introduction). Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [116] See also his letter in 1863.

Morton McMichael and John W. Forney to Abraham Lincoln, Wednesday, October 08, 1862 (Telegram concerning affairs in Philadelphia), Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916., The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [117]

1863
This letter is a copy, presumably written by a secretary or clerk assigned to Lincoln. [118] [119] [120] Item is from The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. Abraham Lincoln to David Hunter, Wednesday, April 01, 1863 (Recruitment of black soldiers).

This letter is from Abraham Lincoln, written on April 14, 1863. [121] [122] [123] From The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. Abraham Lincoln to David Hunter and Samuel F. Dupont, Tuesday, April 14, 1863 (Operations against Charleston).

Edwin M. Stanton to Abraham Lincoln, Saturday, May 16, 1863 (Meeting with John M. Read). Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [124] [125]

Edward M. Norton to Abraham Lincoln, Friday, May 22, 1863, Wheeling, Virginia, (Introduces his son and nephew). Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [126]

Letter from Thomas Ewing to Edward Bates, Monday, June 01, 1863, from The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress Series 2. General Correspondence. 1858-1864. [127]

Michael Hahn, Monday, June 29, 1863 (Appointment as prize commissioner and oath of loyalty; attested by E.H. Durell and Alfred Shaw). New Orleans, Louisiana. Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [128] [129]

Edwin M. Stanton to Abraham Lincoln, Sunday, July 19, 1863 (Prison depot). Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [130] [131] See also his letter in 1862.

Thomas T. Davis to Abraham Lincoln, Tuesday, November 17, 1863, Syracuse, New York (Terminus for Pacific Railroad). Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [132] [133]

Charles C. Fulton to Abraham Lincoln, Tuesday, December 15, 1863, Baltimore, Maryland, (Opposes promotion of Donn Piatt). Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [134] [135]

1864
Percy H. Wyndham to Abraham Lincoln, Monday, February 08, 1864 (Complains about removal from command). Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [136] [137]

Nathaniel P. Banks to Abraham Lincoln, Friday, February 12, 1864, New Orleans, Louisiana, (Political affairs in Louisiana). Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [138] [139]

Moses F. Odell to Abraham Lincoln, Friday, June 10, 1864 (Introduction). Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [140]

Mrs. L. Deane to Abraham Lincoln, Thursday, July 21, 1864, Washington, D.C., (Requests interview). Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [141] [142]

Isaac Murphy to Abraham Lincoln, Saturday, August 06, 1864, Little Rock, Arkansas, (Affairs in Arkansas). Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [143]

George F. Edmunds to Abraham Lincoln, Thursday, October 06, 1864, Burlington, Vermont, (Politics). Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [144]

Edward Bates to Abraham Lincoln, Friday, October 14, 1864 (Case of W. W. Handlin). Attorney General's Office. Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [145] [146]

[Edward Bates], Monday, November 21, 1864 (Memorandum on Vacancies in Judicial Offices in the States and Territories). Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [147] [148]

Kentucky Unionists to Abraham Lincoln, Monday, November 21, 1864 (Petition requesting release of Richard Jacob). Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [149] [150]

J. Bates Dickson to Abraham Lincoln, Wednesday, December 28, 1864 (Telegram concerning case of Richard Jacob). Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916.The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [151] [152] [153] [154]

1865
Alvin P. Hovey to Abraham Lincoln, Wednesday, January 11, 1865, Indianapolis, Indiana, (Reply to Lincoln's telegram concerning case of Andrew Humphreys). Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [155] [156]

Ulysses S. Grant to William Hoffman, Tuesday, February 07, 1865 (Telegram concerning prisoner exchange). Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [157] [158]

Pierce B. Hawkins to Abraham Lincoln, Saturday, February 11, 1865 (Telegram concerning case of W. E. Waller). Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. [159]

The New York writer of this telegram on May 25, 1865 appears to use the backhand for effect. [160]

Charles James Sprague writes this letter on August 17, 1865. [161]

1866
S. G. [?] Rolfe, July 1866, National Fair Building, Page 14 of Clara Barton Papers: Subject File, 1861-1952; Civil War; Office of Correspondence with the Friends of the Missing Men of the U.S. Army; Miscellany, 1864-1888, undated. [162] This is a receipt.

Brady & Co., National Photograph Gallery, 352 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. , July 12, 1866. Page 14 of Clara Barton Papers: Subject File, 1861-1952; Civil War; Office of Correspondence with the Friends of the Missing Men of the U.S. Army; Miscellany, 1864-1888, undated. [163] This is a receipt.

Erastus Brooks, of New York City, wrote this on October 2, 1866. [164] See also his writing in 1868.

Charles H. Winfield, of Goshen, New York, wrote this letter on October 15, 1866. [165] See also his writing in 1874.

Gideon J. Tucker, of the Surrogates Office, County of New York, writes this letter on October 4, 1866. [166]

1867
Laura Bridgman, Holy Home, version 1 (p. 1 of 4), [167]Holy Home, version 1 (pp. 2 & 3 of 4), [168] Holy Home, version 1 (p. 4 of 4), [169] Holy Home, version 2 (p. 1 of 4), [170] Holy Home, version 2 (pp. 2 & 3 of 4), [171], Holy Home, version 2 (p. 4 of 4).. [172] This devotional poem by Laura Bridgman was originally composed in 1867 and revised several times.

Written by Sylvanus B. Putnam, May 26, 1867, Manchester, New Hampshire, Images 37-43 of Wm. Oland Bourne Papers: Left-hand Penmanship contest; Soldier and sailor contributions; Series II ($500 in prizes, awarded in 1867 ); Entries 41-50. [173] [174]

Written by George C. Bucknam, No. 5 Hancock St., Charlestown, Massachusetts, on June 19, 1867. Images 70- 78 of Wm. Oland Bourne Papers: Left-hand Penmanship contest; Soldier and sailor contributions; Series II ($500 in prizes, awarded in 1867 ); Entries 41-50. [175] [176][177]

E. D. Hilts, Stone Mills, New York, on June 22, 1867, Image 101-102 of Wm. Oland Bourne Papers: Left-hand Penmanship contest; Soldier and sailor contributions; Series II ($500 in prizes, awarded in 1867 ); Entries 41-50, [178] [179] [180]

J. K. Byers, June 19, 1867 - July 26, 1868, Madison Barracks, Sackets Harbor, New York; Fort Porter, Buffalo, New York, Images 46-51 of Wm. Oland Bourne Papers: Left-hand Penmanship contest; Soldier and sailor contributions; Series II ($500 in prizes, awarded in 1867 ); Entries 41-50. [181] [182][183]

Robert D. Champion, New York, on June 22, 1867, Images 80-88 of Wm. Oland Bourne Papers: Left-hand Penmanship contest; Soldier and sailor contributions; Series II ($500 in prizes, awarded in 1867 ); Entries 41-50. [184] [185] [186]

A. J. Harrison, Cadiz, Harrison County, Ohio. Images 31-35 of Wm. Oland Bourne Papers: Left-hand Penmanship contest; Soldier and sailor contributions; Series II ($500 in prizes, awarded in 1867 ); Entries 41-50. [187]

1868
Erastus Brooks, of New York City, wrote this on November 13, 1868. [188] See also his writing in 1866.

Dr. George L. Miller, of Oneida, New York, writes a letter introducing himself on December 15, 1871 [189] See also his writing from 1876 and 1879.

1869
Edward J. Phelps, of Burlington writes this letter on December 8, 1869. [190] He also wrote this in 1869. [191]

1870
Edward J. Phelps, of Burlington writes this letter on March 12, 1870. [192]

1871
Assignment of Cases, December Term 1871, Salmon P. Chase Papers: Legal File, 1755-1872; Supreme Court. [193] See additional items in his papers.

George L. Miller, of Omaha, Nebraska writes this letter on December 15, 1871. [194]

1872
John I. Davenport, of New York City, writes this on March 18, 1872. [195]

Elbridge Gerry, counsel to the A.S.P.C.A in New York City, wrote this letter on May 13, 1872. [196] His other writing from 1875 shows a more vertical slant. [197] [198]

Albert Stickney of New York writes this in November 1872 [199]

1874
Charles H. Winfield, of Goshen, New York, wrote this letter on May 2, 1874. [200] See also his writing in 1866.

Jacob S. Gould, writes from Rochester, New York on September 5, 1874[201] and June 16, 1874 [202]

George F. Mulkin, Deputy Secretary of State, New York. September 29, 1874. Albany, New York. [203] Collection and title: Samuel J. Tilden papers. Series I. Correspondence. I. F. Gubernatorial, 1874 - 1876. Proposed legislation. New Brighton dock bill. Image ID: 3980734

This letter is attributed to Nelson K. Hopkins, the state comptroller for New York State in Albany, on November 26, 1874. [204] Among the most interesting details is that the letter looks as if it is written by a clerk or secretary and then signed by Nelson K. Hopkins.

1875
Edward Murphy, Jr., Mayor's Office, Troy, New York, February 14, 1875 to Samuel Tilden. [205] [206] Collection and title: Samuel J. Tilden papers. Series I. Correspondence. I. F. Gubernatorial, 1874 - 1876. Proposed legislation. Police and Police justices bill. Image ID: 3980969, 3980970.

[Secretary or clerk of] President, New York Produce Exchange. March 17, 1875. [207] Collection and title: Tilden, Samuel J. (Samuel Jones), 1814-1886. Series I. Correspondence. I. F. Gubernatorial, 1874 - 1876. Proposed legislation. Hay bailing bill. See also 1877.

S. H. Sweet, of New York, writes this on March 21, 1875 [208]

M. Williams, of New York, March 22, 1875, letter about the Greenwich Elevated Railroad, to Governor Samuel J. Tilden. [209] [210]Samuel J. Tilden papers. Series I. Correspondence. I. F. Gubernatorial, 1874 - 1876. Proposed legislation. Greenwich Elevated Railroad. Image ID: 3980588, 3980589.

George W. Clinton, of Buffalo, New York, writes this letter on March 23, 1875. [211]

Edwards Pierrepont, born in New Haven Connecticut, [212] and living in New York City writes this letter on July 6, 1875. [213]. He was trained as a lawyer but also served as Attorney General and in a number of other positions. [214] See also his writing from 1876, 1879, and 1885.

1876
R. S. Larremore, judge, Court of Common Appeals, City and County of New York, wrote this letter on January 5, 1867. [215]. While this is mostly vertical in angle, some backhand letters make it worthy of inclusion in this list.

George Hoadley, an attorney in Cincinnati, Ohio writes this on October 24, 1876. [216]

Edwards Pierrepont, born in New Haven Connecticut, [217] and living in New York City writes this letter on November 11, 1876. [218]. He was trained as a lawyer but also served as Attorney General and in a number of other positions. [219] See also his writing from 1875, 1879, and 1885.

Dr. George L. Miller, of Oneida, New York, writes a letter on May 30, 1876. [220] See also his writing from 1871 and 1879.

1877
This letter was likely written by the clerk or secretary of S. H. Grant, of the New York Produce Exchange. [221] See also 1875.

1879
Dr. George L. Miller, of Oneida, New York, writes a letter on May 22, 1879. [222] See also his writing from 1871 and 1876.

Jedediah Hotchkiss Papers: General Correspondence, 1846-1899; Letterbooks; 1879, July 30-1882, Sept. 14. July 31- onward. Jedediah Hotchkiss Papers: General Correspondence, 1846 to 1899. Jedediah Hotchkiss Papers. [223] [224] Notice that the first several pages are rightward leaning, and then the slant shifts to the left. Look at the entire book to see the changes.

W H Flickinger has his worked published in Penmans' Art Journal on September 1879.[225]

Edwards Pierrepont, born in New Haven Connecticut, [226] and living in New York City writes this letter on November 19, 1879. [227]. He was trained as a lawyer but also served as Attorney General and in a number of other positions. [228] See also his writing from 1875, 1876, and 1885.

In their 1879 New Spencerian Compendium are examples which one might assume are named after different penmen: Hayes back hand, Cottingham back hand, and Abbott back hand. [229] [230]

1880
H. B. Payne, of Cleveland, Ohio write this letter of introduction on January 23, 1880. [231]

R. M. Bishop, of Cincinnati, Ohio writes this letter of introduction on February 7, 1880. [232]

Thomas A. Edison, Incandescent electric lamp, No. 242897, patented June 14, 1881. See the word "attest" at bottom, and on the left margin, "Thomas A. Edison, Incandescent Electric Lamp." December 28, 1880. [233]

Declaration of Mining Statistics for the Tenth Census of the United States. Department of the Interior, United States Geological Survey, Division of Mining Geology, Staunton, Virginia, 1880. Image 96 of Jedediah Hotchkiss Papers: General Correspondence, 1846-1899; Letterbooks; 1880-1882 (census enumerator's book). [234] [235] Here, the lettering and backhand are used for titles and for emphasis.

1882 (before 1882)
In some situations, a writer or artist will use backhand out of some visual necessity or to show their skill. Here, one can see the engraver's name, H. Hopkins, on the bottom left of the likeness of Alvin R. Dunton. [236]

1883
Here, in a formal letter written on behalf of Charles Amis Cutter, the librarian of the Boston Athenaeum, one can see what might be classified as a round hand, but this has a leftward rather than vertical angle, as most round hands do. Could it be a backhanded round hand? Perhaps. [237]

Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, born in Mobile, Alabama, who lived also in Newport, Rhode Island, Paris, and New York, wrote this letter on March 29, 1883. [238]

Harriet Hubbard Ayer, December 22, 1883. New York. Samuel J. Tilden papers. Series I. Correspondence. I. B. General, 1830 - 1919, n.d. [ https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/a31716ce-ed36-2279-e040-e00a18064397]

1884
Richard Jones Tylden writes this letter on November 20, 1884 [239]

1885
Edwards Pierrepont, born in New Haven Connecticut, [240] and living in New York City writes this letter on February 3, 1885. [241]. He was trained as a lawyer but also served as Attorney General and in a number of other positions. [242] See also his writing from 1876 and 1879.

W.I. Fletcher wrote this in 1885 while at Amherst College. [243]. This is perhaps some very diluted version of a round hand, as the o’s and a’s and a few other letters have a tight roundness to them. But some of the letters are angled substantially to the left, and the document has some backhand letters and a leftward slant in a fairly large number of characters.

Here is a letter from A.G. Bracket, Fort Davis, Texas, May 20, 1885 [244]

1886
Letter from Henry S. Redfield to Frank L. Radcliffe, August 16, 1886. Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers, 1834 to 1974. Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers at the Library of Congress. [245]

1887 Library handwriting
This is the earliest form of library handwriting that I have located to date. While it can also be categorized as a vertical style and a back hand, it is most properly described as library hand, or library handwriting. Its first set of specific letterforms, put forth by Melvil Dewey in March of 1887 come after the writing of this card. [246] [247]

1887
Here is another formal letter, a hurried and somewhat sloppy style that is written by James C. Piling, the chief clerk at the Department of the Interior, United States Geological Survey in Washington, DC. He is writing to Frederick Saunders at the Astor Library in New York City. [248] This letter does not seem much like a round hand. At best, it is a badly deteriorated form of round hand, though that seems unlikely. Therefore, it seems to be more of a sloppy backhand.

1888
R. Warner wrote this letter in Boston on April 10, 1888 to Henry David Thoreau. [249]

1889
Here is a letter from Anna Callender Brackett, written in New York City on February 17, 1889 [250]

The Sherman Anti-Trust Act, December 2, 1889. Pages 1-2. [251] [252] These pages show that backhand is used for titles and for emphasis on the first and second pages. Looking at The District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862 will show some similarities.

This letter, from James David Smillie, living in New York to Charles Henry Hart dates December 29, 1889. Here, the style is smooth and careful, with a looping script and sometime connected script that hearkens to "railway hand." Nonetheless, it is a style that is unidentified. [253]

1890
F.M. Bird, of South Bethlehem, PA wrote this letter on February 1, 1890 [254]

1891
This letter from H.H. Campbell, of Steelton PA is dated June 4, 1891. [255]

1893 Library handwriting
While library handwriting is a back hand, and also a vertical style by one way of reasoning, it is best defined as library handwriting, and that is its narrowest description.

Here is a letter written in library handwriting from Zella Allen Dixson to Melvil Dewey on February 16, 1893.[256] The first set of letterforms for library handwriting were published by Melvil Dewey in 1887.

Here is a letter written in library handwriting from Mary L. Titcomb to Melvil Dewey on May 9, 1893. [257][258]

DIFFERENTIATING BACKHAND FROM VERTICAL WRITING

In order to differentiate backhand from “vertical writing,” one must first understand the dates and history of the movement of the “vertical writing” style.

The first outlier in this movement is library handwriting, formally introduced in Library Notes, Volume 1, No. 4 by Melvil Dewey in March 1887. [259] While Dewey perhaps did not at its inception see library handwriting as belong to the vertical style, it is a fair classification of it. This argument might be further supported by the fact that the alphabet of Newlands [260] and Row [261]in Natural System of Vertical Writing is cited by Melvil Dewey as early as 1903 as a model for library handwriting. [262][263]

The broader vertical writing movement began in the United States in 1893 and was taught in schools, according to Charles Paxton Zaner from 1894 - 1904 (this is broadly true, although it persisted in some schools for another decade or more). Proponents of it such a C H Ames of Boston continued to support it even as it was in some decline nationally. [264]The evidence that the vertical writing movement still exerted influence beyond 1904 can be seen in a study by Edward L. Thorndike. Like Ayres, he created A Scale for Handwriting of Children in Grades 5 to 8 in 1910, and one can see that vertical writing samples are among the styles. [265] Particular forms of vertical writing persisted in very isolated locations and among very specific groups. Here is a sample from a school assignment by Nan Barchowsky in 1939. [266] Her writing style is Calvert handwriting, developed by Virgil Hillyer. [267]

This entire class of vertical writing already mentioned attempted to be vertical, but in many cases, a slight leftward slant was preferred.

The California Vertical System was developed by I. D. Rodgers and Belle Duncan. [23] [24] In California, the rule for their own variation of vertical writing was angled in the opposite direction, in that it was supposed to have a very slight rightward slant. This reasoning is almost certainly the result of its late adoption, at a time when the vertical style was losing favor and there was a trend to the right angle, such as with the medial style, for example, copyright in 1901. [268] A mention of the change toward a rightward slant is nearly universal, and here it is stated in 1905: “Vertical system in use from four six years in all cities and most country schools. A growing tendency to adopt a form of which has a full open letter with a slight slant to right hand all loops and curves possible left off. Los Angeles San Francisco and Oakland systems adopted as above described in 1903." [26]

In returning to the topic of the leftward slanting vertical hand, one can its demise has a a separate outcome. It is a commonly held view that this leftward slant often progresses over time and becomes more slanted. It becomes less readable and often a much more difficult style to write. To quote Harry Houston, supervisor of penmanship, in his report made in New Haven, Connecticut in 1900, "In many places where the vertical system has been displaced by one of the new systems,[269] the vast majority of the students were writing a backhand." [270]

This span of time when vertical writing exists is therefore the beginning of a leftward slope in a large percentage of student, and later adult, writing. For those who did not return to a rightward sloping system or who did not preserve their careful penmanship, a deteriorating and sloppy backhand was often a common result.

However, it is also important to understand that this progressively more leftward leaning vertical writing is its own form of writing, quite separate from the other kinds of backhand.

All backhand is not the same. And all backhand does not have the same genesis.

LIBRARY HANDWRITING OR BACKHAND?

There are some writing samples that are, and are not, both “library handwriting” and “backhand.” This particular subset of writing is found in libraries and might more appropriately might be called “backhand handwriting in libraries,” for it is not any official style endorsed by the library associations. Yet as the writers are themselves librarians, it was certainly approved for use in their own libraries.

One example of this, from a card catalog, is written by Sarah Bliss. Because its style ignores the conventions of Melvil Dewey’s library handwriting and also likely predates the vertical writing movement, it is safest to class this as a late 19th century backhand. [271]

Another is this sample from a library card catalog, dating from approximately 1909. [272] This second sample poses a more complex problem because it was written after the era of vertical writing, and this handwriting may be some imitation of that, though badly deteriorating in angle and style. Because it exists in a card catalog, one might be tempted to classify it as library handwriting; however, since its letterforms do not resemble the models endorsed by Melvil Dewey or others, it must be placed in the category of a backhand.

Here is the writing of another librarian, Mary Elizabeth Wood. As a graduate of the Pratt Institute library program [273] she certainly received the requisite training in handwriting of all librarians at the time, especially considering the program was begun by the head of the first graduating class of Melvil Dewey's library school at Columbia. Here, then, is her writing while she is in her 60's. It is not age alone that accounts for this, but the lack of adherence to the original training and perhaps the overall changes in the styles of all writing over the decades. [274] [275] One can see that it does not look like library handwriting. Only a few letters bear some very slight resemblance; therefore, one might consider it to be a former library handwriting. Perhaps it is best described as belonging to the set of writing that is "backhand handwriting in libraries" with several library handwriting letterforms added in.

A GENERAL RETURN TO RIGHTWARD SLANT AFTER 1904

It is mostly correct to assert that the writing style of the general public after 1904 returned to a rightward slant, though it was a lesser slant than had been before. One sees the medial writing style, copyright in 1901, [276], the Practical Writing from Spencer's sons [277]

BACKHAND & VERTICAL WRITING STYLES 1894-1904 This category was created to separate out backhand and vertical during the vertical writing movement. This is a somewhat artificial historical timespan, but it is based upon the assertion by Charles Paxton Zaner that the vertical movement spanned this time. [278] He is very nearly correct. In the U.S., it is 1893 that books are in print by E.O. Vaile from Chicago and later B. Harison in New York, [279] but these are very few and poorly circulated. By 1894 many copybooks in the vertical style are published, circulated, and used in U.S. schools. As for the end date of 1904, this is much less true. The movement begins to fade earlier than that in some cities or states, yet in others, it persists for more than a decade later. However, for this article on backhand, it is easiest in a broad survey to set these two dates as markers. The individual examples may be examined later for further discussion.

1895
Lloyd M Kelchner, a master penman, writes these samples, including a "back-hand" in Des Moines, Iowa, on Feb 27, 1895.[280] For more information on L. M. Kelchner see link. [281][282]

1899 SHADED BASE SCRIPT
C C Canan, a master penman, wrote this in September 1899. [283] See link for more information on him. [284] Notice the similarity of this and the Abbott Back Hand shown in the Spencer's sons 1879 New Spencerian Compendium.

Here is a letter from Philip Paulding Brant from December 20, 1899. [285]

Elizabeth C. Cardozo of New York City writes this on October 9, 1899. [286]

1900 (roughly estimated)
This sample is from Charles Paxton Zaner, estimated to be roughly from 1900. [287]

1902 SHADED BASE SCRIPT
J. A. Elston, president of Elston Correspondence School of Canton, Missouri wrote this in November of 1902. [288] Notice the similarity of this and the Abbott Back Hand shown in the Spencer's sons 1879 New Spencerian Compendium.

Letter from Anagnos to Macy, Nov. 13, 1902. [Copy of letter from Michael Anagnos, Director of the Perkins Institution, to John Albert Macy.] [289] [290]

Letter from Anagnos to Macy, Nov. 19, 1902. [Copy of letter from Michael Anagnos, Director of the Perkins Institution, to John Albert Macy.] [291] link title

1903 BACKHAND, BACKSLANT
C C Canan, a master penman, wrote this in September 1899. [292] See link for more information on him. [293]

This letter written by Richard M Bradley of Boston is dated July 21, 1903. [294]

1903 (estimated)THREE DIMENSIONAL COMMERCIAL BACKHAND LETTERING
N. C. Brewster lived and worked in upstate New York and taught commercial work, among other things. [295]

1903 (estimated)
J W Swank wrote this. [296]

1904
P. W. Costello, the city controller of Scranton, PA wrote this letter on August 25, 1904 to Horace Grant Healey. [297]

F. C. Tomlinson wrote this on March 15, 1904. [298]

BACKHAND WRITING STYLES AFTER 1904
It is worth revisiting some previous statements and material. As Columbia professor Edward L. Thorndike discovered in his A Scale for Handwriting of Children in Grades 5 to 8 in 1910, vertical writing samples are among those taught. But with what books? Could it be that the old books from the years 1894 to 1904 were still in use? It seems to be the case based upon the vertical writing found in schools. Is it possible that students who were successful with it were allowed to continue to write in this style? Perhaps . [299]

Some reckoning and review of what actually is a style after 1904 is in order. Most of this writing can be put into several categories:

  • Undefined styles of backhand
  • Vertical writing styles (that are not library handwriting)
  • Library handwriting
  • Shaded base script
  • Backhand lettering and special styles by penmen
  • Backhand of an extreme slant, or backslant
  • Backhand of an extreme slant, or backslant, with special letterforms used by the general public
  • Backhand of an extreme slant, or backslant, with special letterforms, used by master penman

For the time being, these below are organized in date order.

1905
SHADED BASE SCRIPT S. E. Leslie of Poughkeepsie, New York, wrote this in November 1905. [300] Notice the similarity of this and the Abbott Back Hand shown in the Spencer's sons 1879 New Spencerian Compendium.

1905
John Gallagher of Chicora, Pennsylvania wrote this on November 13, 1905. [301]

1905 BACKHAND OF AN EXTREME ANGLE, OR BACKSLANT, WITH SPECIAL LETTERFORMS, USED BY MASTER PENMEN
For the talented penman, Francis B. Courtney, who added his own flair to it, this is a style that he certainly used to show off his prowess and skill. One must also think it was sometimes used as a way to joyfully torment the reader, as often seemed to be the goal of Courtney. Here is an envelope from 1905 addressed to “Horace G. Healy Editor, Penman's Art Journal” [302] One might note that in the state name "New York" the letter style is wider and the letters themselves are also separated more. This would seem to be the easier to read for the first postal clerk whose job it is to send the mail to the proper state.

This example from Francis B. Courtney is an example of his most difficult to read material. While this has no date, it may be best to place it here among the other work of Courtney. The first four words are "This style of writing." [303] Any reader of this article who would like to provide a transcription of the full text is invited to do so.

1906
General Correspondence: Fordyce, Arnold, 1906-1908, undated. January 4, 1906. Part of Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright Papers, 1809 to 1979: General Correspondence. [304] [305] It appears that the backhand is only used for the address.

1907
Alfred H. Bill of Faribault Minnesota wrote this on April 8, 1907 [306]

Letter from Alexander Graham Bell to Mabel Hubbard Bell, June 9, 1907, images 1-10, Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers, 1834 to 1974.: Family Papers, Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers at the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, American Memory. "Douglas is acting as my amanuensis so I can comfortably smoke my pipe and dictate to you at the same time." [307]

E Mathews, of Eyota, Minnesota wrote this on September 3, 1907 [308]

1909 (estimated) F. A. Curtis was a penman from Hartford, CT. [309] Judging from a mention in the Penman's Art Journal of capitals, this is estimated at 1909.

"1911" Certificate for Electricity Sept.16, 1911. Electricity for Keystone Academy. Keystone Academy. [310]

1911 BACKHAND OF AN EXTREME ANGLE, OR BACKSLANT
George L. Woodward, most certainly not a penman, wrote this in 1911. This is of course hard to read for those of us from a different time period, and one would suspect that there was some challenge in it for the reader of the that time. Woodward used the writing to communicate, and one would hope for him and the reader that it was indeed clear because this letter details his wishes for a newspaper subscription. [311]

1911, (estimated) BACKHAND OF AN EXTREME ANGLE, OR BACKSLANT, WITH SPECIAL LETTERFORMS
More challenging than Courtney's work or the writing of George Woodward is a postcard, estimated to be no earlier than 1906 and probably a date closer to 1911. Although unsigned, the writer appears to be the sibling of Miss Allison Walker in Missouri. [312] This writing has some peculiarities that are in addition to the severe slant. After only a short time working to decipher this, one will see that this an insufferable postcard to read due to the combined effects of the letterform style, heavy shading, thin lines, the proportions of the letters, somewhat small size of writing, and some aging since its first being penned. It is a marvel that such a script was used in everyday writing. Here, one might at first think that it is meant for privacy, but the address and the postcard message are in the same style. The only explanation for such secret writing would require some stretch of the imagination to believe that "sis" is here used as a term from one lesbian to another. This sort of psychologizing is mostly unwelcome in this attempt to understand writing style, but because of the extreme slant and difficulty, and because the person to whom it was supposed to be sent may herself have been the postmaster, it does seem to be an idea that should not be discounted immediately.

See backslant defined here. [313] [314]

Consider the precursors to this writing, as noted earlier in this article, by looking at some writing from 1869 and 1870, itself also of a substantial left angle. Edward J. Phelps, of Burlington writes this letter on December 8, 1869. [315] He also wrote this in 1869, [316] and this on March 12, 1870. [317]

1912
Rachel Lyman Field [318] was born in 1894 and spent her early years in Stockbridge, Massachusetts before becoming a famous author in her later life. It is very possible that she grew up learning vertical handwriting and then later used this base style to develop her own variation. Here is her letter to the naturalist John Muir from March 6, 1912. [319]

From Florance Brothers?, Paterson, New Jersey to Walter Snyder, of Midland Park New Jersey [320]

1913
Letter from Clyde W. Stuart (from Beverly, Massachusetts) to Alexander Graham Bell, 1913. Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers, 1834 to 1974.: Subject File. Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers at the Library of Congress. Manuscript Division. American Memory. [321] [322]

Katharine M. Brennan, from Milton, Massachusetts wrote this on November 20, 1913 [323]

1914
This is a receipt written by Ward Melville on January 1, 1914.[324]

E. H. Bierstadt of New York City wrote this letter on January 27, 1914 [325]

This is a letter written by Harriet W. Bray, from Matawan, New Jersey, on February 7, 1914 [326]

1914 SHADED BASE PENMANSHIP
Here is a style that is described as "shaded base penmanship." [327]. While it predates 1904, it is here seen in usage in public in 1914. This sample in an article about penmen in government that features Ben G. Davis, chief clerk of the Department of State, who notes that "most people like my writing because it is so easy to read." [328] The article further states that "One of the advantages of Mr. Davis' writing over much fine script is that he writes rapidly." Notice the similarity of this and the Abbott Back Hand shown in the Spencer's sons 1879 New Spencerian Compendium.

1914 Letter from J. A. D. McCurdy to Mauro, Cameron, Lewis & Massie, November 18, 1914. Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers, 1834 to 1974.: Subject File . Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers at the Library of Congress. Manuscript Division. American Memory. [329] [330]

1917
General Correspondence: McPherson, Logan G., 1917, Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright Papers, 1809 to 1979: General Correspondence, Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright Papers, 1809 to 1979, Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers at the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, American Memory. Image 1 of 5, [331] [332]

1918?
Letter from American Colony (John D. Whiting) to Edward F. Loud. American Colony in Jerusalem Collection. American Colony in Jerusalem, 1870 to 2006. Manuscript Division. American Memory. Pages 1-5. [333] [334]

1926
Letter from Mildred Keller Tyson to Nella Braddy Henney, February 16, 1926. Montgomery, Alabama. [335] [336] [337] See also her letter from 1933.

1930
General Correspondence: Jones, Ernest L., 1930-1945. [Page 1] April 16, 1930. Part of Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright Papers, 1809 to 1979: General Correspondence. [338] [339]

1933
Letter from Mildred Keller Tyson to Nella Braddy Henney, April 4, 1933. Montgomery, Alabama. [340] [341] [342] [343] See also her letter from 1926.

1939
In this letter from 1939 from the artist Georgia O'Keefe to Cady Wells, one sees a style that is both a bit vertical and backhand. [344] What is striking about it is that it does have a style of its own. Without falling into the opinions of graphology, let us just say that it looks like an artist's handwriting. From a more analytical point, it might be worth noting that because Georgia O'Keefe was born in 1887, it is very possible that she was taught in the the vertical handwriting style which was from 1894-1904. It is possible too that she appropriated the backward slant and some of the letterforms and created a style of her own, one that she found pleasing.

1939 CALVERT STYLE
As already noted, there are particular forms of vertical writing that persisted in very isolated locations and among very specific groups. Calvert School was such as place, and its writing up to this day bears some markers of the original Calvert style developed by Virgil Hillyer. Here is a sample from a school assignment by Nan Barchowsky in 1939. [345] [346]

1940(extremely rough estimate)
This anonymous chain letter has mostly mixed writing, though the second page has some writing that is more leftward slanting. The angle of the line itself is also very erratic, and this accounts for the greatest variation in slant. While by no means a good example of backhand, it does serve the purpose of illustrating some of these issues.[347][348]

1949
Anonymous, grade 12. [349] A survey of handwriting of thirty-six (36) school systems and fifty-six (56) different occupations in the towns and cities of Massachusetts. By Paul Francis Whitten. Published 1949. Boston University. School of Education. See source on Archive.org [350] Of note about this is that the student has checked the box for "Supervised instruction," which indicates that the student was instructed to write this way in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

1959
Miles Davis wrote liner notes to "Kind of Blue in 1959 [351]

2013
Amos Wolff (who is right handed) wrotes this in December of 2013. [352]

2014 MIRROR WRITING
This is an excerpt of Edgar Allan Poe written by Tina Stison in 2014 [353]

Mirror writing is an entirely different style of writing, but it deserves a place among leftward slanting writing.

Mirror writing, as it is called in medical cases, is a reversed writing caused by an assortment of medical conditions. It has even been called left-handed handwriting. [354] [355] [356]

For the purposes of this article, mirror writing it is a style of writing that is reversed intentionally for the purposes of art or expression.