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Horace mann
Horace Mann

    In the State-House grounds at Boston, alongside the statue of Massachusetts' most celebrated statesman and orator, has been placed that of the subject of this sketch, to whose unselfish devotion to the cause of education the old Bay State is more deeply indebted for her efficient system of public instruction, and especially for her normal training establishments, than to any other of her citizens. During the lifetime of the educator, his renown bore no comparison to that of the brilliant statesman, and it was left for a later generation to see the results of his labors, and fully appreciate them. Horace Mann was born at Franklin, Mass., May 4, 1796. He said of himself that he did not remember the time when he began to work. In common with the other members of the family, he toiled from early youth, even beyond his strength, to obtain the necessaries of life.
    School books he obtained by braiding straw when winter brought a partial suspension of work on the farm. In spite of these repressing circumstances, he was possessed of an ardent desire for a more complete education, but not until his twentieth year did he find time or opportunity to commence his preparations for college. These were finished in the space of six months and he entered the Sophomore Class at Brown University, Providence, in September, 1816.
    After graduating in 1819, with a constitution permanently enfeebled by his close application to study, he began to read law, but soon accepted a position as tutor in the institution which he had just left. Two years later he entered Litchfield law school, and, in 1823, was admitted to the bar, and opened a law office in Dedham, Mass., in which town he made his home for the next ten years. He prospered in his profession, married, and became a widower.


     He became a member of the school committee, and after 1827 he represented the town in the Legislature. In 1833, he removed to Boston, where he was soon elected to the State Senate, and he was re-chosen three years in succession. Every legislative measure for the improvement of the intellectual and moral status of the community found an earnest champion in Mr. Mann.
    He was one of the most prominent advocates of that renowned expedient of the early temperance reformers, the fifteen gallon law; while he secured the passage of the bill to establish the first lunatic hospital in Massachusetts, against the nearly unanimous opposition or indifference of his colleagues. But nearest his heart lay the cause of education. His mind was constantly active with plans for improving the public schools, and extending their sphere of usefulness. Many of his schemes seemed visionary to his contemporaries, but have since been put into successful operation. In 1836 and 1837 Mr. Mann was president of the Massachusetts Senate, and his prospects for further political advancement were bright; but, to the astonishment of those politicians who could not comprehend such self-abnegation, he was soon to assume voluntarily a much humbler and less remunerative station, but one in which he would be enabled to carry out his ideas in regard to school improvements. In 1837, the Legislature authorized the appointment of a State Board of Education, and of this board Mr. Mann became a member. A secretary was to be appointed, whose arduous duty it should be to collect information concerning the condition of the schools of the Commonwealth, and to make investigation and report upon the most approved and successful methods of instruction. It was proposed to Mr. Mann to accept this office, and after due deliberation he decided to do so. In order to perform his duties in the most thorough manner possible, he determined to devote his entire time to it, and so withdrew from every other public office which he held. He also relinquished his legal practice, which had been quite successful, and the source of a good income. It is said that during his fourteen years' experience in the courts, he gained four fifths of his cases, as he conscientiously declined serving any clients whose suits he considered to be unjust. He had been selected, in 1835, to edit the revised Statutes of the State.
    For the next eleven years, Horace Mann faithfully and laboriously performed the task assigned to him. It was necessary for him to be almost continually travelling from one part of the State to another, delivering lectures, holding conventions of teachers, and gathering materials for his annual reports, twelve of which were published, replete with valuable information, and which exerted an influence for good in the educational field, far beyond the limits of the community for which they were originally intended. Besides working fifteen hours daily during nearly all this period, he devoted both his salary, and also a considerable portion of his private means to the cause in which he was engaged. It seems strange that such a man should meet with opposition, yet so it was. Incompetent teachers and scheming politicians nearly succeeded, at one time, in having his office abolished. It is to be regretted that he exposed himself needlessly to much hostile criticism by his own persistent opposition to the religious convictions of the vast majority of the inhabitants of the Commonwealth.
    In 1838 the Board of Education had placed at their disposal, partly by private munificence and partly by legislative grant, the sum of twenty thousand dollars for the purpose of establishing training schools. Three of these institutions were opened under the direction of Mr. Mann, one at Lexington, in 1839, since removed to Framingham, and one in the same year at Barre, since removed to Westfield. In the following year the school at Bridgewater was opened. In addition to his other duties Mr. Mann assumed the editorship of the Common School Journal, of which ten volumes were issued. He was also the author of a number of books, chiefly of a controversial nature.
    After his second marriage in 1843, he spent several months in Europe, not resting however, but working as diligently as ever to obtain all possible information as to the methods of instruction in vogue in England and upon the Continent. The results of this tour of observation were embodied in his seventh annual report, which was widely circulated, and justly acquired great celebrity as an educational document.
    Mr. Mann's strong anti-slavery sentiments induced him, in 1848, once more to enter the arena of politics. The death of sturdy old John Quincy Adams caused a vacancy in the Congressional representation of Massachusetts, and Mr. Mann was chosen to succeed the venerable statesman and ex-president. He was afterward elected for the full term of the thirty-first Congress; but continued to discharge the duties of Secretary of the Board of Education until the close of the year 1848. He entered the National House of Representatives at a time when sectional animosity was very bitter. The South was making its desperate struggle to secure the introduction of slavery into the territories, and many scenes of disgraceful violence occurred during the excited debates; but Mr. Mann remained on good terms even with the most violent of the fire-eaters. He was deeply moved by Mr. Webster's famous change of front on the 7th of March, 1850, and predicted that the great defender would lose, in consequence of his treason, as Mr. Mann termed it, two friends at the North where he gained one at the South, a prediction which was quickly verified. His abhorrence of Mr. Webster's unfortunate political action was freely expressed, and made him many enemies among the Massachusetts Whigs, so that he failed to receive the nomination of that party for reelection in 1850. He then accepted the Free Soil nomination, and was once more elected.  Mr. Mann was the Free Soil candidate for governor of Massachusetts in 1852, but was defeated. In the same year he accepted the presidency of Antioch College, at Yellow Springs, Ohio, then a recently founded institution. In September, 1853, he left his native State, which still honors him as her foremost educator, and went to his new home in the West, where, for the six remaining years of his life, he devoted his energies to the management of an inadequately endowed college, guiding it through the most critical period of its affairs. He died August 2, 1859, a few weeks after the graduation of his third class.  [Source: Biographical Sketches of Preeminent Americans, Volume 2; By Frederick G. Harrison; Publ. 1892; Transcribed by Andrea Stawski Pack.]

 


Frederick L. Olmsted

Olmsted, Frederick Law, landscape architect and founder of the profession, was born in Hartford, Conn., April 26, 1822. He was a descendant of James Olmsted, who came from Essex, England, to Boston. Massachusetts Bay Colony, on ship Lyon, and settled in Newtowne (Cambridge), in September, 1632. He removed to the Hartford Colony in 1636, where with his brother, Richard Olmsted was an original proprietor of the colony. His father John Olmsted son of Benjamin and Contest (Pitkin) Olmsted married Charlotte Hull, daughter of Samuel and Abigal (Doolittle) Hull. When Frederick Law Olmsted had obtained his secondary school training in the schools of Hartford at the age of eighteen, he shipped as a seaman on a vessel trading with China and India, and on retiring from the merchant marine service in 1845.  He took a two years course of study in agricultural science and engineering at Yale College. In 1846 he removed to central New York to engage in practical farming in that section, as a farm laborer.  He soon after became the owner and manager of a farm on Staten Island, N. Y. In 1850 and 1851 he made a pedestrian tour through Great Britain and the Continent, to observe the condition of Agriculture and to note the progress made in farming; he made a horse hack trip through the south western states of the United States in 1852-1853.

He studied the parks and gardens of France, Italy and Germany in 1856, his traveling companion being Calvert Vaux, of New York, their aim being to perfect plans to he submitted in competition for Central Hark, N. Y.; their plans were accepted and they were employed to superintend their execution during 1857-61. This work became the first great monument to Mr. Olmsted's skill as a landscape architect. He was married June 13, 1859, to Mary Cleveland, daughter of Dr. Henry and Sarah (Jones) Perkins, of Oswego, N. Y. During the Civil War, as secretary of the United States Sanitary Commission, he directed its great work in preserving the health of the soldiers in the field, camp and hospital. He directed the survey of the Yosemite Park reservation, California, being chairman of the commission appointed by the government for that purpose, 1864-66. He laid out and superintended the construction of Prospect Park. Brooklyn, N. Y. in collaboration with Calvert Vaux in 1866. This work was followed by the Riverside and Morningside Parks. New York; several parks and parkways in Chicago, Buffalo, Bridgeport, Rochester, Trenton, Wilmington, Del.; the terrace and grounds of the National Capitol at Washington. He laid out the parks and parkway system of Boston, and the landscape beauty of the town of Brookline led to his making it his home. He was one of the founders of the Union League Club of New York City in 1863. He received the honorary degree of A. M., from Harvard in 1864, and from Amherst in 1867, and the honorary degree of L.L. D. from Harvard and from Yale in 1893. He wrote: "Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England" (1852); "A Journey to the Slave States, with Remarks on their Economy" (1856); "A Journey through Texas, or a Saddle Trip on the South Western Frontier, with a Statistical Appendix" (1857); "A Journey in the Back Country" (1860); and "The Cotton Kingdom (2 vols., 1861), which was a condensed edition of the preceding four books. Mr. Olmsted was succeeded in his profession by his stepson and nephew. John C. Olmsted, and by his son Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., born July 24, 1870, the well known landscape architect of Brookline. Mr. Olmsted died while a patient in hospital at Waverly, Mass. August 28, 1903. [Source: A History of Brookline, Massachusetts 1630-1926; By John William Denehy; Publ. 1906; Pg. 126; Transcribed by Andrea Stawski Pack.]


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