Platt Rogers Spencer

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Platt Rogers Spencer
Platt rogers spencer.jpg
Born (1800-11-07)November 7, 1800
East Fishkill, New York, United States
Died May 16, 1864(1864-05-16) (aged 63)
Geneva, Ohio, United States
Known for Originator of Spencerian penmanship

Platt Rogers Spencer (also Platt R. Spencer) (November 7, 1800 – May 16, 1864) was the originator of Spencerian penmanship, a popular system of cursive handwriting.

Early life[edit]

Spencer was born in East Fishkill, New York, on November 7, 1800. His father, Caleb, died in 1806, and the family moved to Jefferson, Ohio, in 1810, which was, at that time, unsettled. Platt was passionately fond of writing and, because paper was difficult to obtain at the time, Spencer wrote on birch tree bark, sand, ice, snow, the fly-leaves of his mother's Bible and, by permission of a cobbler, the leather in his shop.


In 1815, he taught his first writing class and, from 1816 to 1821, he was a clerk and a book keeper and, from 1821 to 1824, he studied in law, Latin, English literature and penmanship, taught in a common school and wrote up merchants' books. In 1824, he contemplated entering college with a view to preparing for the ministry, but, due to his alcoholism (further aggravated by the prevalent drinking customs), he did not and his plans were changed.

Spencer Log Seminary in Jericho, New York

Spencer then taught in New York and Ohio, and, in 1832, he became a total abstainer, and was, as he believed, the first public advocate in the United States of that principle, for which he labored for the remainder of his life. Soon after his reformation, he was elected to public office, and was county treasurer for twelve years. He was instrumental in collecting the early history of Ashtabula County, and was deeply interested in American history. He engaged actively in anti-slavery movements and was an advocate of universal liberty.

Through his work and influence as a teacher, by his system of penmanship, through his pupils and by his public addresses and encouragement, he was instrumental in founding the business colleges of the United States and in promoting their growth and development. Bryant & Stratton Colleges were founded in over 50 cities in the United States by students of Spencer, and Spencer was involved with the institution. In the winter of 1863, Spencer delivered his final lecture before the business college in Brooklyn, New York, and gave his last course of lessons in the business college in New York City.[1] Spencer opened schools in Geneva, Ohio, Cleveland, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.[2]


His first publications on penmanship were issued in 1848 under the title Spencer and Rice's System of Business and Ladies' Penmanship, working closely with Victor M. Rice, which was later published under the title Spencerian or Semi-Angular Penmanship. His other publications on penmanship appeared from 1855 to 1863. The New Spencerian Compendium, which was issued in parts, was completed in 1886.


The Platt Rogers Spencer Papers are located at the Newberry Library in Chicago and the Spencer Archival Room of the Geneva Branch of the Ashtabula County District Library System contains biographical materials on the entire Spencer family.

Spencer also had the honor of having an elementary school named after him. In 1937, the East Geneva Rural School in Geneva changed its name to Platt R. Spencer School, and has served students in grades kindergarten through sixth since 1961.

On August 24, 2012, the city of Geneva, Ohio, unveiled the Spencerian Monument at the re-dedication ceremony for the Ashtabula County Western Area Courthouse.[3][4]

See also[edit]

Platt Rogers Spencer signature.png


  1. ^ Burns Florey, Kitty (2008). Script and Scribble. Hoboken: Melville House. p. 71. ISBN 1-933633-67-0. 
  2. ^ Platt R. Spencer - Ohio History Central
  3. ^ Netzel, Margie (2012-08-16). "Geneva courthouse construction and street projects continue". Star Beacon. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  4. ^ Blair, Michael Allen (producer) (2012-08-29). "Geneva honors Platt Rogers Spencer, the father of American handwriting (video)". The News-Herald. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 

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