New Hampton History: New Hampton Business School, The Commercial College

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The following article is shared as part of our history series as shared by Gordon-Nash Library Director Jerrica Blackey P’19.

In the mid-1800s New Hampton School had a very prominent business school with renowned penman founder, Austen Norman Palmer, of the Palmer Method in attendance. At a time when the school recognized that students were matriculating into business without the skills needed to succeed, the New Hampton Literary Institution as it was known then, developed a premier college in the fall of 1866. Known as the Commercial College students studied bookkeeping, commission business, joint commission business, jobbing, freight and express business, plan and ornamental penmanship, telegraphy, and commercial law. In a catalog of the time, “The trustees claim that there is no other Commercial College in the United States so thorough, so practical, so nearly resembling actual business. They challenge comparison with the oldest and the best.”

As part of Randall Hall, the third floor became a banking room which included a merchandise emporium, a savings bank and a national bank. The Commercial College could admit up to 150 students annually. Austen N. Palmer as a student recognized the importance of writing quickly and the ornamental penmanship with its beautiful whisps and detail was not practical.

After moving out west, in 1894 he published Palmer’s Guide to Business Writing, describing a uniform system of cursive writing with rhythmic motions. The 46-page pamphlet, reproducing many examples, was issued by Palmer’s Western Penman Publishing Co. The school quickly took notice and offered classes using his style.

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