Monday, January 16, 2012

A protractor (and more) inside a 1938 arithmetic textbook

One of the neat things about the old copy of 1938's "Modern-School Arithmetic Advanced Book (New Edition)"1 that I came across is that it still contains the dark-blue cardboard protractor that was originally attached to the inside back cover of the textbook.

A small cardboard tab had been glued to the inside back cover, and the student removed the protractor at the perforated mark. The tab contained the following statement from World Book Company, the textbook's publisher:
"Fold back on perforation and then cut along perforation with a knife.2 When not in use, the protractor should be inserted in the flap of the stub.

"An extra protractor will be sent by the publishers on receipt of five cents in stamps and a self-addressed envelope bearing a 1½-cent stamp."
The textbook, intended for seventh-graders, beings with some interesting graphics that give us some insight into the time period.

The above graphic, for example, indicates that -- in the farm community that was surveyed -- 20% of homes had bathtubs, 30% had running water, 40% had electric light and 50% had telephones. (Assuming those numbers weren't just made up for the sake of the textbook, which is entirely possible.)

Here's another neatly illustrated graphic about student activities:

You have to love seeing 60% of the seventh-grade students in the Book Club (even if that's a made-up figure, too)!

Finally, browsing through the book brought a big and unexpected surprise. In a section of word problems titled "Preserving Our Forest," I came across this photograph:

What are the odds of a York Countian finding a York County photo within a 1930s arithmetic textbook?3

I wonder where this "young red pine forest in York County" was located? Perhaps if the original U.S. Forest Service photo still exists, it contains more specific information about where it was taken.

AFTERNOON UPDATE: A reader who got here from Twitter (@pstirk) says the above photo is from what is now William H. Kain County Park, looking toward Lake Redman and what is now Interstate 83. It was apparently trumpeted as one of the first reforesting successes. Very cool!

Note to readers
I've created a new subcategory called School Days on Papergreat, so that you can easily find all of the previous and future posts related to education, textbooks, schoolchildren and the like. I realized that I have a bunch of posts on this topic, and some of you might enjoy browsing through just those posts and the memories they bring back.

1. According to the inscription on the first page, this book once belonged to Mary Ellen Spitler of Greenville Grade School.
2. You don't see many textbooks these days that ask students to wield a knife.
3. My wife, a college math major, would have a somewhat stern answer to this question. Perhaps I should not have brought it up.

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