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Palmer Method

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Palmer Method

Sample writing from The Palmer Method of Business Writing

The Palmer Method of penmanship instruction was developed and promoted by Austin Palmer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was largely created as a simplified style of the "Spencerian Method", which had been the major standardized system of handwriting since the 1840s.[1] The Palmer Method soon became the most popular handwriting system in the United States.[2]

Under the method, students were taught to adopt a uniform system of cursive writing with rhythmic motions.


  • History 1
  • References 2
  • Bibliography 3
  • External links 4
  • Further reading 5


Alphabet and numerals from The Palmer Method of Business Writing

The method developed around 1888 and was introduced in his book Palmer's Guide to Business Writing (1894). Palmer's method involved "muscle motion" in which the more proximal muscles of the arm were used for movement, rather than allowing the fingers to move in writing. In spite of opposition from the major publishers, this textbook enjoyed great success: in 1912, 1 million copies were sold throughout the country. The method won awards, including the Gold Medal at the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, in 1915, and the Gold Medal at the Sesquicentennial Exposition in Philadelphia, in 1926.[3]

Proponents of the Palmer Method emphasized its plainness and speed, that it was much faster than the laborious Spencerian Method, and that it allowed the writer to effectively compete with the typewriter.[4] To educators, the method's advocates emphasized regimentation, and that the method would thus be useful in schools to increase discipline and character, and could even reform delinquents.[5]

The Palmer Method began to fall out of popularity in the 1950s and was eventually supplanted by the Zaner-Bloser method, which sought to teach children manuscript before teaching them cursive, in order to provide them with a means of written expression as soon as possible, and thus develop writing skills.[6] The D'Nealian method, introduced in 1978, sought to address problems raised by the Zaner-Bloser method, returning to a more cursive style. The Palmer company stopped publishing in the 1980s.[7]


  1. ^ Tyler, Robin DVC (2010-04-12), [from Palmer Method of Penmanship] , NYU Dead Media Archive, retrieved 12 April 2010 .
  2. ^ Apps-Bodilly, Susan (2013). One room schools : stories from the days of 1 room, 1 teacher, 8 grades. Wisconsin Historical Society. p. 61.  
  3. ^ Vitolo, Joseph M. "AN Palmer (1860–1927)". The Penmen Archives. Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  4. ^ Trubek, Anne (2009-12-17), Handwriting Is History, Pacific Standard, archived from the original on 2012-06-10, retrieved 17 December 2009 .
  5. ^ Smith, Tracy (23 January 2011), "Is penmanship being written off?", CBS News  .
  6. ^ Alston, Jean; Taylor, Jane (1987), [from Handwriting: Theory, Research and Practice] , New York .
  7. ^ Makala, Jeffrey. "Born to Please, Art of Handwriting Instruction, Spencerian and Palmer methods". University Libraries’ Rare Books and Special Collections. University of South Carolina. Retrieved 24 January 2015. 


  • Gard, Caroll (1937). Writing Past and Present. New York: A. N. Palmer Company. 
  • Thornton, Tamara Plakins (1996). Handwriting in America. New Haven: Yale University Press.  

External links

  • Palmer, A.N. (1894). Palmer's Guide to Business Writing (PDF) (Original ed.). Library of Congress. 
  • Palmer, A.N. (1935). The Palmer Method of Business Writing (PDF) (1935 ed.). 
  • Palmer, A.N. (1935). The Palmer Method of Business Writing (Scanned images of the 1935 ed.). 
  • Palmer, A.N. (1949). Método Palmer de Caligrafía Comercial (in Spanish) (Scanned images of the 1949 ed.). 
  • Sull, Mike. "A. N. Palmer (1860-1927)". Excerpt from Spencerian Script and Ornamental Penmanship. Volume I. 

Further reading

  • Florey, Kitty Burns (January 20, 2009). Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting (First ed.). Melville House.  
  • The Palmer Method of Business Writing: A Series of Self-teaching Lessons in Rapid, Plain, Unshaded, Coarse-pen, Muscular Movement Writing for the Home Learner, Where an Easy and Legible Hand-writing is Sought.  "The object of this website is to teach rapid, easily-executed, business writing. It has not been written to exploit any one’s skill as a pen artist. It aims to be of use to those who are ambitious to become good, practical business writers. The lessons it contains are not experimental, but have been the means of guiding millions of boys and girls, young men and women to a good business style of writing."
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