Big week in the Wise house as it was the first time all four kids were in school at the same time! The COVID delay was the longest for our oldest, but 4th grade made it happen this week, to the joy of Olivia.
Feature photo this week is one that I was excited to post as soon as I was done restoring it. It’s so full of interestingness. There were several recent photos that I worked on with groups of children standing in rows in front of school buildings, but none were quite like this one. Here, it’s as if we’ve entered the classroom over 100 years ago and interrupted instruction to see things direct and in-progress.
There are 26 children, a nearly even balance of boys and girls — most are quite visible, but a few are fairly obscured by heads of others. They are still and posed, arms outstretched, hands clasped upon each desk in front. There seems to be a range of ages represented.
While working on it, the nearest boy, 3rd from the right, in the white shirt — stood out as the likely DeVoe-looking relative and the back helps us by identifying Jack DeVoe, my maternal great uncle, older brother to my maternal grandfather Don DeVoe. I would guess he’s around 7 to 8 years old, and as he was born December of 1909, I’m estimating this date as around 1917. We knew the DeVoe family was in Wadsworth, OH around this time, and the 1910 and 1920 census of the family both confirm that, so I started with the suspicion that this was a school in Wadsworth.
A fun website with info about schools in Medina county is here. I started there and found some other sources like this one — which narrowed down the probable location/school. I have another photo of Jack from 4th grade which is labeled as “Wadsworth O’ Centz School”. I’ve come to suspect that means the “ol'” Centralized school, which would be the one here, that had a role as the Mennonite College for a time, and fits with the dates mentioned in the (same as above) reference here.
Looking to get some more confirmation, and to see if I could get this photo out to people who might be able to identify ancestors here — I sent this image to the Wadsworth Historical Society and had a nice response from the president who was interested and told me they didn’t have this in their archives (!). He suspected it was either Centralized school, or “Old Central School downtown” — similar names. He wants to research it further with his next trip to the history museum there.
Let’s take a look around at other details:
By dates, this would be around World War I time — so interesting to see a map of Europe on the wall here. I imagine the publisher/source of this exact map could be found/dated as some point.
I love this — there’s a bird in a cage hanging from the lamp/chandelier!! It looks precariously tied by string to the bottom. But that bird is perched and looking comfy, no doubt an attention-distracting curiosity for the kids to occasionally stare up at and watch. Was it chirpy or no?
When I noticed the flag reversal, I wondered if the photo was reversed, but the clock face and chalkboard writing nixed that, they simply had the flag up backwards — odd. Here you see the current time is around 8:45am, so an early morning view into the classroom. You can even see the world “Regulator” on the clock — looks fairly similar to several examples on the internet, like here.
I liked this detail of a wall poster proclaiming an anti-cigarette message to children — And you have to like the James Dean-esque dude hanging out right next to it. I’m surprised to see anti-smoking messaging at a time in history when I had assumed that it wasn’t promoted at all.
Here is a closer view of the chalkboard and you find music notes/script and lyrics to a song I can’t quite identify. You can make out words like “the tree tops secrets now are telling, all the little birds are busy building, Spring is very near, just another day or two of sun shine”. You’ll also notice a classic image of George Washington, in the 1851 Emanuel Leutze painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware”, more info here.
Restore work here was fairly complicated as the original had much fading/streaking and dust/crack defects. I think it helped improve my photoshop skills. There were some interesting realizations — like I thought the seatbacks in the near-row had some whitish smudging only to realize, no — that’s the reflection of the backs/arms of those children — the wood must have been shiny/varnished.
Nevertheless the photo is a nice quality/resolution vs. many of the other images from the era, and this is one of the gems in the collection for sure.
- Can you find the song that the lyrics represent?
- Can you find the version/publisher of the Europe map represented?
- Can you find more about the anti-smoking ad on the wall?
- Were birds in cages in classrooms common around this time?
- Can we confirm with other evidence that this was the Centralized school in Wadsworth?
- Can any other children be identified? — fairly clear views of several, I bet would ultimately be a good share/find for their descendants who are interested.