Monday, June 3, 2013

Creator: Professor G.A. Gaskell

George Arthur Gaskell
April 21, 1844, Penn Yan, New York – Mid-April 1885, Jersey City, New Jersey

Portrait from Gaskell's Compendium of Forms (1882)

1860 U.S. Federal Census
Name: George A Gaskell
Age in 1860: 16
Birth Year: abt 1844
Birthplace: New York
Home in 1860: Richmond, Ashtabula, Ohio
Gender: Male
Post Office: Richmond Center
Value of real estate: 
Household Members:
Name / Age
Benjamin Gaskell, 38, Merchant
Mercy Gaskell, 35
George A Gaskell, 16
Silas E Gaskell, 13
Julius S Gaskell, 9
Laura T Gaskell, 5

Daily State Gazette
(Trenton, New Jersey)
March 17, 1866
A change has been made in the resident principalship of the Trenton Business College. Professor G.A. Gaskell, an accomplished instructor, has now this institution, Profess Chamberlain having removed to another sphere of action. We commend this college as the means of furnishing improved facilities of acquiring a first rate business education. 

The Newark Daily Advertiser
(New Jersey)
October 18, 1866
Newark Business College

The Newark Daily Advertiser
November 14, 1866
Newark Business College

1870 U.S. Federal Census
Name: George A Gaskell
Age in 1870: 28
Birth Year: abt 1842
Birthplace: Ohio [sic]
Home in 1870: Jersey City Ward 1, Hudson, New Jersey
Race: White
Gender: Male
Post Office: Jersey
Value of real estate: 
Household Members:
Name / Age
Robert C Morton, 41 [Gaskell’s father-in-law]
Eomamin Morton, 29
Robert G Morton, 2
George A Gaskell, 28, Professor Penmanship
Sarah O Gaskell, 23

Jersey Journal
(Jersey City, New Jersey)
May 16, 1870
Prof. George A. Gaskell.

Moore’s Rural New Yorker
November 30, 1872
Bryant & Stratton College, Manchester, N.H.

February 13, 1873
A Beautiful Handwriting.
There are but few of our readers who would not like to acquire a rapid and beautiful handwriting, for there is no one accomplishment so highly prized as this. The business colleges of the country have afforded the beat instruction in this branch and have succeeded in producing the most accomplished penmen. The best penman in America to-day is Prof. Gaskell, Pres’t of the Bryant & Stratton College of Manchester, N.H. There are few lovers of the beautiful art of penmanship who have not heard of this wonderful penman and many have seen specimens of his skill His large specimens have attracted great attention in New York city and throughout the country where they have been placed on exhibition.

He is now engaged day and night sending out copies of self-instruction, which he writes himself expressly for applicants, so that any one can learn to write at the home fireside. These contain full printed instruction, and are put up in large heavy envelopes and sent by mail prepaid for $1.00 per package. They are all numbered and so fully explained that no one can fail to learn rapidly from them. They have been ordered by thousands—not by poor writers alone, bat by the leading teachers of penmanship throughout the United States and Canada. Our readers would do well to write for a package, as nothing so complete, beautiful and useful for self-instruction will ever again be offered them.

Farmer’s Cabinet
(Amherst, New Hampshire)
March 26, 1873
A new compendium of Penmanship, comprised in a complete series of copy slips, has just been published by Prof. Gaskell, President of the Bryant & Stratton College, Manchester, N.H., who has long been known as the “Prince of American Penman,” and since the death of Father Spencer there has been no one to dispute this title. This Compendium is having a large sale throughout the country; as nothing so complete, beautiful and useful for self instruction has ever before been offered. It is sent by mail to any address for $1. Address Prof. G.A. Gaskell, Manchester, N.H.

Argus and Patriot
(Montpelier, Vermont)
April 19, 1873
Some time since an article appeared in the Argus and Patriot concerning Prof. G.A. Gaskell, of Manchester, N.H., who has advertised in various Vermont newspapers to send on receipt of $1.00 a series of self-instructing lessons, copies, etc., in penmanship.... 

Painesville Telegraph
January 20, 1876
Gaskell’s Compendium.

Gaskell’s Complete Compendium of Elegant Writing
George A. Gaskell, 1879

The Youth’s Companion
May 1 and June 5, 1879
advertisements for Gaskell’s Compendium

Dodge City Times
September 13, 1879
Self-Teaching Penmanship advertisement appeared in many newspapers.

Inter Ocean
(Chicago, Illinois)
September 4, 1879

Inter Ocean
September 18, 1879
No one accomplishment among business men is more highly prized than a neat and graceful handwriting. It is always a sure foundation for advancement with the young and aspiring clerk. But, unfortunately, the facilities for acquiring a really systematic handwriting are few and mostly expensive. The majority of young men in business cannot afford to give up their situations for a season to attend a business college. Mr. Gaskell, principal of one of the leading commercial schools of this country, has issued a system for self-teaching which is meeting with much favor from the best classes. The improvement of some that have used it is shown by photographic copies of handwriting on another page. The improved style of these young men is what we would consider the beau ideal of excellence in handwriting. It is free, bold, and yet plain. One of these young writers is now a teacher of penmanship in a business college in Brooklyn, N.Y.; another in Kentucky, and a third is in a first-class position in a railroad office in Detroit.

The above we clip from the Cincinnati Times. The improvement made in handwriting by this system is simply wonderful, an illustration of which is shown on the first page of the Inter Ocean of Sept. 4. It will pay examination.

1880 U.S. Federal Census
Name: George A. Gaskell
Age: 36
Birth Year: abt 1844
Birthplace: New York
Home in 1880: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey
Race: White
Gender: Male
Relation to Head of House: Son-in-law
Marital Status: Married
Spouse's Name: Sarah O. Gaskell
Father's Birthplace: New York
Mother's Birthplace: New York
Occupation: Teacher in School
Household Members:
Name / Age
Mary Scott 61
Joseph Scott 40
Robert Scott 31
Mary A. Scott 23
George A. Gaskell 36
Sarah O. Gaskell 32
Matilda Anderson 23

Gaskell’s Compendium of Forms Educational Social Legal and
Commercial, Embracing a Complete Self-Teaching Course in
Penmanship and Bookkeeping, and Aid to English Composition
Fairbanks, Palmer & Co., 1882

selected plates from Gaskell's Compendium of Forms (1883)

The Penman’s Hand-Book for Penmen and Students
G.A. Gaskell, 1883

Gaskell’s Guide to Writing, Pen-Flourishing,
Lettering, Business Letter-Writing, Etc.
The Office of “The Penman’s Gazette,” 1884

From the book, a Gaskell profile, selected plates,
and a page about his business college.

Jersey Journal
August 12, 1884

The Western Penman
May 1903
Some Reminiscences of a Queer Genius
and a Couple of Promising Youngsters
by Charles T. Cragin
memories of Gaskell, William E. Dennis,
and Austin N. Palmer

December 1922
The Golden Era of Ornamental Penmanship
by Horace G. Healey
Gaskell was born at Penn Yan, New York, April 21, 1844, and died in Jersey City the latter part of April, 1885. He surely crowded a great deal of life into his forty-one years.

When Gaskell was six years of age his father removed the family to Richmond Center, Ashtabula Co., Ohio. His father was a physician, interested in the manufacture and sale of patent medicines. He also manufactured an ink which was widely used in that section of the country. When Gaskell was in his early teens he went to Geneva and spent a short time with the elder Spencer. [Platt Rogers Spencer.] Then, at the age of sixteen, he entered the academy at Dundee, New York, where he pursued a course in the literary branches, at the same time teaching penmanship in that institution. After remaining there something like two years, he set out to see the world, and organized penmanship classes in several states. In 1864, at the age of twenty, he came to New York, and engaged with the Bryant & Stratton school in Newark, New Jersey. He taught a few months in Trenton, and then returned to Newark. In 1871 he went to Manchester, New Hampshire, where he had bought the Bryant & Stratton Business College on credit. He was there for several years, and then returned to New Jersey, conducting a business school in Jersey City. His school work from 1873 until the time of his death was entirely subordinated to the interests of his famous Compendium.

This was the pioneer publication of its kind. It consisted of a pamphlet of instructions, a large chart, and twenty plates of rather crudely [photo]engraved copies. More than two hundred and fifty thousand of these Compendiums were sold in ten years, at $1.00 per set. The source of the attractiveness of this Compendium lay in the fact that it was the photolithographic product of actual pen work. Prior to this time, and even much later, the usual penmanship book represented the skill of the engraver more than that of the writer. The very crudeness of the copies, therefore, made a strong appeal to the uninitiated, and thousands of country boys who purchased it were led, through it, to the very apex of penmanship attainment.

Gaskell was always a splendid writer. Make no mistake about that. No off-hand penman of his day could excel him. Coupled with his artistic genius was an equally strong talent for business. He knew how to reach the common people, and as a successful advertiser he took first rank. He spent thousands of dollars annually in the largest and best magazines, frequently using entire pages.

He also published several journals, most of them advertising his schools and publications, but the Penman's Gazette, which he published for about ten years, was a highly successful penmanship periodical.

Personally, he was a very attractive man, somewhat reserved and shy. Although he was constantly surrounded by fellow workers, yet no one could ever claim to be very intimate with him. He was tall, always well-dressed, and gave one the impression of refinement. In common with many others of that day, he was an unfortunate victim of the habit which the Eighteenth Amendment [prohibition of alcoholic beverages] is designed to prevent. One morning in April, 1885, some boys found his lifeless body among the marshes outside the city limits of Jersey City, and the world was poorer from that day, because George A. Gaskell had passed on. He left a widow, but no children.

His business, which had been built up entirely on his own personality and genius, was continued for a short time, but now his name is but a memory. A roll call of his former students at Manchester, and later at Jersey City, would include the names of many of the best known penmen of this country.

December 1936
G.A. Gaskell: A Pioneer Penman
by H.O. Keesling
G.A. Gaskell was one of America’s most skillful penmen. He was one of the best known penmen because of his national advertising. At the time the above flourish was made in 1880 he was in his prime. He conducted the Bryant and Stratton Business College in Manchester, N.H., where quite a number of America’s prominent penmen received some of their early inspiration. Notably among these penmen were L. Madarasz and W.E. Dennis. Gaskell advertised the work of these and other young penmen in magazines throughout the country and was one of the first to promote the “before and after” type of advertising. One of Mr. Gaskell’s former associates, L.G. Wilberton, M.D., now of Winona, Minn., writes as follows:

“About the year 1882-83 I accepted a position in the Bryant & Stratton College, Manchester, N.H., and remained with them a year as a teacher of Bookkeeping and other subjects. At that time Prof. G. A. Gaskell was president of that college. He was in the height of his penmanship skill.

Prof. Gaskell was still a young man and of excellent personal appearance. He would be classed as a handsome man, about six feet tall. His bearing, was erect and pleasing manners. He was a natural orator and speaker as well as a teacher of first rank. He excelled in teaching others. Penmanship was his favorite subject, and he did much to advance the study of good writing; in fact he became a national figure in the penmanship profession. He evolved a style of writing that was purely his own. He was a real artist and master in describing how each letter should be made, carefully showing the right and wrong way in forming letters and figures. The students soon became interested to learn how to write well. The results were that his students became excellent penmen and teachers.

Shortly after I left Manchester, Prof. Gaskell died. My opinion of him stands high and I am sorry he died so young.”

William E. Henning, Paul Melzer
Oak Knoll Press, 2002
Gaskell biography

Jersey Journal
April 18, 1885
Found Drowned
Is It Prof. Gaskell.
This afternoon a crowd of boys saw a body sticking in the mud in one of the creeks near the line of Brunswick street, between Eighth and Ninth streets. Edward Lyons, one of the boys, gave an alarm, and the body was drawn to solid ground. The police sent it to Speer’s morgue. Policemen and others who knew Prof. George A. Gaskell, of Gaskell’s business college, on Newark avenue, identified the body as that of that gentleman. The body was dressed in a full suit, including overcoat. A high silk was found near him. On the body were found a gold watch, chain and charm, a bundle of letters, and upon the little finger of the left hand a gold ring.

New-York Daily Tribune
April 19, 1885
Drowning of Professor Gaskell.
Professor George A. Gaskell, principal of Gaskell’s Business College, Nos. 23 and 25 Newark-ave., Jersey City, was found drowned yesterday in Mill Creek, between Eighth and Ninth sts. The water is very shallow at that point and it is supposed that Mr. Gaskell stumbled and, falling on his face, was smothered. He lived at 234 Fourth-st. He left the house on Friday night after supper and it is supposed that he missed his way and in wandering over the meadows fell into the creek. His body was discovered by two boys. His watch, chain and money were in his pockets, so that there is no suspicion that he was the victim of violence. The body was taken home by his friends. Professor Gaskell was noted as a fine penman and business instructor, and his business college has been successful.

New York Herald
April 19, 1885
Found Suffocated in the Mud. 
Professor George A. Gaskell, proprietor of the Jersey City Business College, was found dead yesterday in the mud, in the meadows, at the head of Ninth street, Jersey City. There were no marks of violence on the body, and his jewelry, money and papers were intact. Professor Gaskell had an unfortunate habit of indulging in protracted sprees at mooing intervals, and it is thought that he was under the influence of liquor when he wandered into the meadows, fell into a ditch and was suffocated in the mud. He left his home at No. 234 Fourth street on Tuesday morning, and his wife did not again see him alive. On Friday evening Frederick Luther saw him standing near the spot where his body was found. Professor Gaskell was the author of several text books on penmanship and bookkeeping. He was forty-two years old, and leaves a wife and several children.

Daily Patriot 
(Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) 
April 20, 1885 
George A. Gaskell, principal of Gaskell’s business college, Newark, N.J., was found dead Saturday [April 18] morning, with his head and shoulders buried in the soft mud in a swamp, on Pavonia avenue, that city. His personal effects were untouched. His business was prosperous, and it is supposed that he accidentally fell over the street embankment. He had been away from home since Monday morning.

The Sabbath Recorder
(New York, New York)
April 30, 1885
Prof. Gaskell, one of the proprietors of the famous Gaskell Business School College, is reported to have been found dead by the way side one morning not long ago, the result of a habit of intemperance.

The New York Times
May 10, 1885
Not So Poor as She Thought.
When Prof. Gaskell was found dead in the mud at the upper end of Jersey City three weeks ago his wife assumed that he had left little property. He has been complaining before his death of being cramped for money to settle some bills, and when after his death Mrs. Gaskell discovered a deposit of $750 to his credit in the Hudson County Bank, she took it for granted that that was about all he had left, and applied for letters of administration. Because of the smallness of the estate the court decided that $1,500 was a large enough bond to require her to furnish, and she gave it. Yesterday she went into the Orphans’ Court to say that on examining her husband’s desk she was surprised to find bank books showing over $20,000 to his credit in banks in Boston, New-York, and Brooklyn. Two brothers of Prof. Gaskell appeared in court at the same time, accompanied by Assemblyman Corbin, their counsel. The widow was allowed to continue her administration of the estate, but the amount of her bond was increased to $30,000. She will be entitled to one-third of the estate. The brothers will divide the rest.

Further Reading
The International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers, Teachers of Handwriting
The Golden Age of Ornamental Penmanship

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(Next post on Monday: The Year of the Ransom)


  1. Great page! Sad ending though... :-(

  2. If you set out to make me think today; mission accomplished! I really like your writing style and how you express your ideas. Thank you.
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