A History of American Back Hand and Backslant Handwriting and Penmanship
A History of American Backhand and Backslant Handwriting and Penmanship
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. 
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." 
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."  Of the writing he examined, he noted that 1.7% of his samples from elementary students in 40 cities across the United States were back hand. 
Ayres finds the speed of reading backhand to be 168 words per minute, which is slightly slower than the reading of other writing. 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. 
A 1949 sample from Provincetown, Massachusetts indicates "supervised instruction" in backhand. 
THE EARLY PRINTED HISTORY OF BACKHAND INSTRUCTION
I have yet to properly explore the earliest uses of backhand in writing examples, writing instruction, and in printed matter. In particular, I have done very little investigation regarding sources outside of the United States. However, it is worth noting that a sample of backhand, or reverse angle writing appears very early in Italy. Italy's Giovanni Antonio Tagliente provides this sample at the end of his book.  in 1539. 
In the United States, I have not been successful in my attempts to locate any 18th century examples that anchor backhand as a normal angle of writing, or as one that has a clear purpose. The earliest examples in my list below are from the 1790's, yet these are do not point clearly to a specific use.
However, in the 1810's, a leftward slanting italic typeface appears. It can be found on an 1815 receipt printed for Davis & Brown, Boston.  Of additional interest, this is the same typeface that appears in Philadelphia's Charles William Bazeley's book in 1821, Elements of penmanship: simplified and illustrated. In Bazeley's second edition, the angle is used with purpose. (Bazeley's 1811 first edition is a book of an entirely different kind, and it bears no resemblance to the second edition.)
In the second edition, Bazeley 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." By suggesting that this typeface be used as a writing script, Bazeley is in effect promoting it both as a new writing style and also as the first reversed angle writing script of which I am aware an author endorses in the United States. It may be worth noting that this typeface, while among the earliest (or earliest?) of script faces in the United States, is by no means designed as one with the consistencies needed for fluid motion of the pen. A number of the letters have a terminus rather than a join at the end of the letter, in the way that a proper cursive script does. One can see that the capital letters curl back towards themselves, more as decorative elements rather than as joins. The lower case letter "s" suffers in the same way, unjoined to any letter that might follow it. Yet, as a coincidence, or not, the great struggle in Boston that follows more than a half century later of Payson, Dunton, and Scribner centers in part on the letter "s," and its similar terminal end.
LEFTWARD LEANING TYPEFACES
This section of my study is woefully incomplete, but rather than omit items that I have found, I am simply going to slowly add to this list.
1883, C. E. Heyer, Lakeside Script, Lakeside Script No. 2 [which is a leftward sloping shaded base typeface], Patent #D0013560 dated 30.01.1883 
1884, John K. Rogers, Bewick , for Boston, Patent #D0015081 dated 17.06.1884 
1897, Designed by Lauschke & Schmol for BBS, »Pisa, Pisa No.5, Patent #D0026917 dated 13.04.1897 
"LEFTWARD SLANTING TYPE IN REGULAR USE IN BANKING"
While the type in Boston mentioned above is the earliest that I can locate, other leftward sloping type appears later, much of it being used on checks and currency. One can assume this is to foil forgers. I have collected many dozens of such examples that I have not posted, but one that appears in the text below is from 1829, as an example of this. 
MODERN TERMS FOR LEFTWARD SLANTING TYPE, BRIEFLY NOTED Today, one can find several terms for leftward leaning typefaces: "backslant,"  "contra-italic,"   "reverse italic", and Linotype's Kursivschrift™ has dedicated leftward sloping faces  as does Roemisch™ , and "sarcastic" 
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.  For comparison, here is rightward slanting penmanship from J S Pendergrast in 1865  and Burrit Stiles in 1867. 
THE CHOICE OF PEN OR NIB?
As early as 1877 in the United States, one finds "points" that are advertised for writing backhand.  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." 
EARLY WRITING STYLES IN BACKHAND
In the 1887, Ivison, Blakeman, and Company published New Spencerian Compendium by P. R. Spencer's sons with examples assumed to be named after different penmen. These samples are engraved by A. McLees and copyright 1882 by Ivison, Blakeman and Taylor & Co.: "Hayes back hand," "Cottingham back hand," and "Abbott back hand."  
The Abbott back hand, copyright in 1882, should be noted as being the first shaded base script I have found. Notice that it also precedes the C. E. Heyer patented type of 1883. 
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.
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." 
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.
(This sample is more problematic, and to my eye, this is a backhanded round hand. It's reversed slope is great enough to be more than a slight error. As to why it is sloped to the left, I cannot say. But I do not think that it should be understood to be a left handed writer, necessarily.) 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.  
(This is a round hand, meant to be vertical, with slightly reversed or rightward sloping angle, and in this sense, not a back hand, in any true sense.)
(This sample shows poor writing habits or poor circumstances--lighting, writing surface, etc., but it is not a truly backhanded sample.) Henry Banks to James Madison, October 27, 1827.  This writing is mixed to some degree, but enough of these strokes are leftward slanting that this letter bears inclusion.
(This is a reversed angle type. Notice that it comes more than a dozen years after the reversed angle type from Boston. The leftward slope of type seems to be somewhat of a trend in banking at this date, and so it may have been used to eliminate forgery. Also, type and printing companies from large cities such as Boston, New York, and Philadelphia often won contracts to print checks for the government, so the "Office of Bank U. States" checks were possibly printed by a firm that had such type already available.) Andrew Jackson to Andrew Jackson Donelson, September 28, 1829. Andrew Jackson Papers: Series 1, General Correspondence and Related Items, 1775 to 1885.   This example, while not backhand script, is leftward slanting type.
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.  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
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow writes this letter on February 10, 1847 
From the writing book of James J. Ridgeway, 1850. Possibly of No. 2 Union Street, West Newburyport, Massachusetts.  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.  See also his writing in 1851.
Unknown writer, 1858 in Boston.  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.   See also his letter in 1861.
T.O.H.P. Burnham, Bookseller, Boston, October 22, 1858. Receipt. 
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. 
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 
E. B. Swayne of Owego, Tioga County, New York wrote this on October 10, 1860. 
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. 
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.  See also his letter in 1858.
The District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862, April 16, 1862.  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. 
Thomas Edison wrote this on August 10, 1862.
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.  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. 
This letter is from Abraham Lincoln, written on April 14, 1863.    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.  
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. 
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. 
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.  
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.   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.  
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.  
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.  
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. 
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.  
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. 
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. 
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.  
[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.  
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.  
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.    
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.  
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. 
The New York writer of this telegram on May 25, 1865 appears to use the backhand for effect. 
Charles James Sprague writes this letter on August 17, 1865. 
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.  This is a receipt.
Erastus Brooks, of New York City, wrote this on October 2, 1866.  See also his writing in 1868.
Charles H. Winfield, of Goshen, New York, wrote this letter on October 15, 1866.  See also his writing in 1874.
Gideon J. Tucker, of the Surrogates Office, County of New York, writes this letter on October 4, 1866. 
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.  
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.  
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,   
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.  
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.   
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. 
Dr. George L. Miller, of Oneida, New York, writes a letter introducing himself on December 15, 1871  See also his writing from 1876 and 1879.
George L. Miller, of Omaha, Nebraska writes this letter on December 15, 1871. 
Albert Stickney of New York writes this in November 1872 
George F. Mulkin, Deputy Secretary of State, New York. September 29, 1874. Albany, New York.  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.  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.
[Secretary or clerk of] President, New York Produce Exchange. March 17, 1875.  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 
M. Williams, of New York, March 22, 1875, letter about the Greenwich Elevated Railroad, to Governor Samuel J. Tilden.  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. 
Edwards Pierrepont, born in New Haven Connecticut,  and living in New York City writes this letter on July 6, 1875. . He was trained as a lawyer but also served as Attorney General and in a number of other positions.  See also his writing from 1876, 1879, and 1885.
George Hoadley, an attorney in Cincinnati, Ohio writes this on October 24, 1876. 
Edwards Pierrepont, born in New Haven Connecticut,  and living in New York City writes this letter on November 11, 1876. . He was trained as a lawyer but also served as Attorney General and in a number of other positions.  See also his writing from 1875, 1879, and 1885.
Dr. George L. Miller, of Oneida, New York, writes a letter on May 30, 1876.  See also his writing from 1871 and 1879.
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.   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.
Edwards Pierrepont, born in New Haven Connecticut,  and living in New York City writes this letter on November 19, 1879. . He was trained as a lawyer but also served as Attorney General and in a number of other positions.  See also his writing from 1875, 1876, and 1885.
R. M. Bishop, of Cincinnati, Ohio writes this letter of introduction on February 7, 1880. 
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. 
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).   Here, the lettering and backhand are used for titles and for emphasis.
1882 (before 1882)
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. 
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]
This information that follows about a backhanded shaded base typeface is from a previous section of the article, but it is added here for the sake of the chronology. 1883, C. E. Heyer, Lakeside Script, Lakeside Script No. 2  This information I have gathered from the work of Jane W. Robert and Stephen O. Saxe and their A Database of American Typeface Design Patents 1842-1899 []
This information that follows is from a previous section of the article, but it is added here for the sake of the chronology. John K. Rogers, Bewick , Patent #D0015081 dated 17.06.1884  This information I have gathered from the work of Jane W. Robert and Stephen O. Saxe and their A Database of American Typeface Design Patents 1842-1899 []
W.I. Fletcher wrote this in 1885 while at Amherst College. . 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 
1887 Library handwriting
The Sherman Anti-Trust Act, December 2, 1889. Pages 1-2.   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. 
1893 Library handwriting
Here is a letter written in library handwriting from Zella Allen Dixson to Melvil Dewey on February 16, 1893. The first set of letterforms for library handwriting were published by Melvil Dewey in 1887.
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.  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  and Row in Natural System of Vertical Writing is cited by Melvil Dewey as early as 1903 as a model for library handwriting. 
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. 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.  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.  Her writing style is Calvert handwriting, developed by Virgil Hillyer. 
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.   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.  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." 
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, the vast majority of the students were writing a backhand." 
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. 
Another is this sample from a library card catalog, dating from approximately 1909.  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  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.   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, , the Practical Writing from Spencer's sons 
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.  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,  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.
1897 1897, Designed by Lauschke & Schmol for BBS, »Pisa, Pisa No.5, Patent #D0026917 dated 13.04.1897  This information I have gathered from the work of Jane W. Robert and Stephen O. Saxe and their A Database of American Typeface Design Patents 1842-1899 []
1899 SHADED BASE SCRIPT
Here is a letter from Philip Paulding Brant from December 20, 1899. 
Elizabeth C. Cardozo of New York City writes this on October 9, 1899. 
1900 (roughly estimated)
1902 SHADED BASE SCRIPT
This letter written by Richard M Bradley of Boston is dated July 21, 1903. 
1903 (estimated)THREE DIMENSIONAL COMMERCIAL BACKHAND LETTERING
F. C. Tomlinson wrote this on March 15, 1904. 
BACKHAND WRITING STYLES AFTER 1904
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:
For the time being, these below are organized in date order.
1905 BACKHAND OF AN EXTREME ANGLE, OR BACKSLANT, WITH SPECIAL LETTERFORMS, USED BY MASTER PENMEN
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."  Any reader of this article who would like to provide a transcription of the full text is invited to do so.
Alfred H. Bill of Faribault Minnesota wrote this on April 8, 1907 
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." 
E Mathews, of Eyota, Minnesota wrote this on September 3, 1907 
1909 (estimated) F. A. Curtis was a penman from Hartford, CT.  Judging from a mention in the Penman's Art Journal of capitals, this is estimated at 1909.
Certificate for Electricity Sept.16, 1911. Electricity for Keystone Academy. Keystone Academy. 
1911 BACKHAND OF AN EXTREME ANGLE, OR BACKSLANT
1911, (estimated) BACKHAND OF AN EXTREME ANGLE, OR BACKSLANT, WITH SPECIAL LETTERFORMS
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.  He also wrote this in 1869,  and this on March 12, 1870. 
From Florance Brothers?, Paterson, New Jersey to Walter Snyder, of Midland Park New Jersey 
Katharine M. Brennan, from Milton, Massachusetts wrote this on November 20, 1913 
E. H. Bierstadt of New York City wrote this letter on January 27, 1914 
This is a letter written by Harriet W. Bray, from Matawan, New Jersey, on February 7, 1914 
1914 SHADED BASE PENMANSHIP
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.  
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,  
1939 CALVERT STYLE
1940(extremely rough estimate)
2014 MIRROR WRITING
Mirror writing is an entirely different style of writing, but it deserves a place among leftward slanting writing.
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.