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Zanerian College of Penmanship
Founded by Master Penman Charles Paxton Zaner, the company’s history can be traced back to 1888 when it was known as the Zanerian College of Penmanship. Zaner was able to streamline the Spencerian handwriting method—which was widely used in the 19th century—by adapting a handwriting approach that was more practicable for modern business documents and personal communication. Zaner’s enthusiasm about this utilitarian art inspired him to open a school that would prepare students for successful careers in the penmanship industry.
In 1891, Zaner sold shares of the Zanerian College of Penmanship to another skilled penman, Elmer Ward Bloser (forming the partnership that later created the Zaner-Bloser Company). While most penmanship schools at the time focused on training students for careers in ornamental writing, the Zanerian College emphasized the importance of an eclectic education by teaching psychology, physiology, and English composition.
The Zaner-Bloser Company begins
In 1895, the Zanerian College of Penmanship became known as the Zaner-Bloser Company, which continued to offer penmanship courses and began publishing professional materials about handwriting and illustration and selling handwriting supplies. The Zaner & Bloser Company published The Zaner Method of Arm Movement Writing in 1904, making the simplified Zanerian writing style more readily accessible to children in elementary schools all over the United States.
Charles Paxton Zaner
Charles Paxton Zaner, born near Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania in 1864, began showing a fondness for handwriting early in his youth. In 1882, he enrolled in G. W. Michael's Pen Art Hall in Oberlin, Ohio. After graduation, Zaner worked as a penman at two different business colleges before deciding to open his own school in 1888—the Zanerian College of Penmanship.
In 1889, fellow Master Penman Lloyd Kelchner became a partner with Zaner and two years later, Elmer Ward Bloser—another skilled penman—joined the partnership. That same year, Kelchner left the business arrangement, leading Zaner and Bloser to become equal partners in what had then become the Zaner-Bloser Company.
Zaner built a reputation for himself as a Master Penman. He maximized his exposure and recognition in the industry with monthly magazines that included countless lessons in penmanship and pen art, for which he enlisted the help of other industry experts. This, as well as numerous other endeavors, established Zaner as a pivotal figure in what is called the "Golden Age of Ornamental Penmanship".
Elmer Ward Bloser
Elmer Ward Bloser was born in 1865 and raised on his parents’ farm in Pennsylvania. His interest in writing was apparent even as a child, when he sold writing inks and supplies to neighborhood children. In 1883, Bloser began attending G.W. Michael’s Pen Art Hall, where his writing acumen eventually earned him a position as penmanship instructor.
Bloser’s penmanship career advanced with such success that he was considered one of the finest in the industry. In 1891, he purchased shares of the Zanerian College of Penmanship, which later became the Zaner-Bloser Company. After Charles Paxton Zaner's untimely death in 1918, Bloser purchased the company’s remaining shares and continued to manage Zaner-Bloser’s successful operation until his own death in 1929.