Atwood Bond Meservey & The New Hampton Commercial College

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Meservey turned to business courses at a time when the need to teach students how to thrive in business was at hand. He also adopted the premier writing style of one-year student, Austin Norman Palmer and the Palmer Method.

Atwood Bond Meservey made the New Hampton Literary Institution his life’s work. He held the longest tenure at the institution for his time, remaining there for thirty-five years (1862-1898). This does not include the time spent as a student in the classical course (1855-1857) and the Theological School (1857-1860). He held positions as a teacher in the natural sciences and mathematics, as well as becoming Principal. When he was called to the principalship, he was familiar with the general conditions of the school, fully realizing the importance of its mission and the difficulties that needed to be overcome to provide for innovation thus creating continuous growth of the school.

One of his first successes came in the form of a Commercial College started in 1866. Meservey understood that in order to meet the increasing demand for business education, that they needed to provide students with the tools to accomplish the demand. Here young men and women were able to obtain knowledge of single and double-entry bookkeeping. He created a department and space for student-run businesses. For instance, the ground floor of Commercial Hall was exclusively built to house a wholesale warehouse, divided into 25 wholesale and 25 retail stores. The merchandise comprised of a variety of  items for the students to purchase and/or sell. Included with the warehouses was a bank, with a circulation of $100,000. In their third term, each student received capital consisting of real estate, merchandise, cash, and bank stock. After successful business transactions and completing the third term students who qualified (with books that were in the black) received a diploma or a certificate.

Up to this point, Meservey’s students were using ornamental penmanship in their business courses. This beautiful yet time-consuming writing style was elegant but not practical. One student, Austin Norman Palmer, must have recognized this and when he arrived at the Institution to finish his formal education, he left an indelible impression on Meservey. The year Palmer spent at the Institution sparked an idea for the need of a quicker business style of writing. However, it was not until 1880 that this idea would come to fruition after taking a job at the Iowa Railroad Land Company where he developed what he called “muscular movement” writing. This turned him back to teaching, resigning his position at a business office to work for the Cedar Rapids Business College. Years later the Institution would adopt the Palmer Method at the same time that millions of other Americans were learning this new, easier way to transcribe.  Ornamental Penmanship Specimens Brochure

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