J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

“The Shool Book of David Kingsley of Rehoboth”

Last month the Cotsen Children’s Library at Princeton highlighted the work of a boy from Massachusetts by showing pages from a school copybook in its collection.

The library’s blog said:
It was made by a David Kingsley of Rehoboth, Bristol County, Massachusetts between 1797 and 1799. Much of the contents consist of proverbs, precepts, and sets of words copied out doggedly line after line after line after line. David signed every single page, one, two, three, or four times, usually in different places, perhaps at his teacher’s bidding.
Indeed, copying out maxims was the way children learned handwriting that would be useful in business. Signing one’s name was also a good skill, but I think schoolboys did that so often because they had so little property they could claim.

David Kingsley’s name doesn’t appear in the published vital records of Rehoboth. I suspect the reason is because his family were Baptists. His father, also named David (1737-1830), was clerk and deacon of the meeting over in Swansea, as was his father before him.

The David Kingsley who’s the right generation for this copybook died on 31 Dec 1866, and his gravestone says he was aged 83. That would mean he was born in 1783 and thus between fourteen and sixteen when he wrote in that copybook. (Some online sources say he was born in 1782, but I don’t see the authority for that.)

Like his father, that David Kingsley became a long-lived deacon at the Baptist church. He also married three times, in 1804, 1823, and 1833. One of his sons was also a deacon. I can’t find out what profession Kingsley followed.

The library thought the page spread above is the only one in the book that reflects David’s own interests as opposed to his school assignments:
Snaking down the left-hand margin is “David Kingsley made this house.” David’s source of inspiration came from somewhere other than the facing text on the comparisons of measures and a practice word problem. Nor does the copy below it have anything about houses: “Wonce more the year is now begun David Kingsley This Second day of January 1799 the Shool Book of David Kinglsey of Rehoboth February 11 day 1799.” . Perhaps it was supposed to be the home of the “gallant female sailor” the subject of the ballad written on the back of the leaf…
No, it’s definitely David’s own house. He put the start of his name on each door, one letter per triangular section.

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