The Weinberg Memorial Library at The University of Scranton is the new home for The Zaner-Bloser, Inc. / Sonya Bloser Monroe Collection, documenting the history of the Zaner-Bloser company and more broadly the history of American penmanship in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The company was founded in 1888 by Charles P. Zaner as the Zanerian School of Penmanship. Elmer W. Bloser purchased a share of the company in 1891 and in 1895 the school changed its name to the Zaner-Bloser Company. Zaner-Bloser, a subsidiary of Highlights for Children since 1972, continues to be a leader in the field of penmanship instruction. Originally, the school prepared students for careers as penmen. Penmen often worked in business, preparing ledgers, writing correspondence and creating documents before the invention of the typewriter. Zaner-Bloser also taught students to become teachers of penmanship, illustrators, engravers, and engrossers. Engrossers employ the type of ornamental writing used for diplomas and certificates.
The company began publishing its own penmanship manuals. As the company history states: "In 1904, Zaner-Bloser published The Zaner Method of Arm Movement, a landmark text that taught the simplified style of writing learned by students at the Zanerian to children in elementary schools all over the United States. This book also applied the findings of psychologists who had discovered that young children completed manual tasks more easily if allowed to use the large arm movements that were natural to them at their early stage of motor skills development."
The collection came to The University as a result of a 2009 Hope Horn Gallery exhibit about Scranton-based engrosser P.W. Costello, curated by Thomas Costello and Darlene Miller Lanning. P.W. Costello was an acclaimed penman whose work was published in Zaner-Bloser publications. The company was looking for a home for its historical collections and expressed interest in The University.
The collection has numerous components from professional journals published for the practitioners of handwriting instruction and engrossing to rare hand writing manuals to instructional material for children and photographs of children learning to write. There is also a substantial collection of primarily American handwriting instruction books mostly from the 19th and 20th centuries, but a few reaching back to the 17th century.
A highlight of the Zaner-Bloser Collection is the Horace Healey Collection of original engrossing. Healey, editor of The Penman's Art Journal and later editor of The Business Educator, collected the original art and penmanship samples used in the journals. The Healey Collection was digitized before its arrival in Scranton by the International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers, and Teachers of Handwriting (IAMPETH) (Read master penman Michael Sull's "Legendary Penman Collection Surfaces: IAMPETH granted permission to scan artwork" for the story of the Healey Collection.)
The collection also contains more than twenty scrapbooks containing examples of ornamental penmanship done by renowned master penmen. Samples from this material will be digitized and made available in the near future. After preservation and security concerns are addressed, the scrapbooks will also be made available for research.
The collection also contains framed penmanship samples, photographs, a small amount of Zaner-Bloser company correspondence and mockups for some Zaner-Bloser publications. Among the ephemera and artifacts in the collection are original pens including those used by Platt Rogers Spencer, Zaner, Bloser, Madarasz, and other prominent penmen.
Because of the size of the collection, as well as preservation and security concerns, the collection is not fully available to researchers. Please contact Special Collections for more details.
Special Collections is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and appointments are recommended. Evening and weekend hours are possible with advanced arrangement. For more information please contact Michael Knies at Michael.Knies@Scranton.edu or at 570-941-6341.