Stories of American Life and Adventure - Edward Eggleston

An Old Philadelphia School

There was a schoolmaster in Philadelphia before the Revolution who did not like to beat his pupils as other masters of that time did. When a boy behaved badly, he would take his switch and stick it into the back of the boy's coat collar so that the switch should rise above his head in the air. He would then stand the boy up on a bench in sight of the school, in order to punish him by making him ashamed.

This schoolmaster's name was Dove. If any boy was not at school in time, the master would send a committee of five or six of the scholars to fetch him. One of this committee carried a lighted lantern, while another had a bell in his hand. The tardy scholar had to march down the street in broad daylight with a lantern to show him the way, and a boy ringing the school bell to let him know that it was time for him to be there.

[Illustration] from American Life and Adventure by Edward Eggleston


One morning Mr. Dove slept too late, or forgot himself. The boys made up a committee to bring the teacher to school. They took the lantern and the bell with them. Mr. Dove said they were quite right. He took his place in the procession, and the people saw Schoolmaster Dove taken to school late with a lantern and a bell.

The larger schoolboys of that time were very fond of foot races. They would take off their coats and tie handkerchiefs about their heads before starting. The short breeches they wore were fastened at the knee by bands. When they were going to run a race, they would loosen these bands, and pull off their shoes and stockings. Some of the boys ran barefoot in this way, but others wore Indian moccasins. The race course was round a block; that is, about three quarters of a mile. Crowds would gather to see the boys run, and the people rushed from one side of the block to the other to see which was leading in the race.