Samuel Read Hall
Samuel Read Hall, American educator and clergyman, was born in Croydon, NH on October 27, 1795. He was the youngest of eleven children. When he was less than a year old, his family moved to the then wilderness of Guildhall, Vermont. He was educated at home and never attended college. In 1818 he studied for the ministry in Meriden, NH. After teaching in Rumford, Maine, and Fitchburg, Mass., he was licensed to preach in 1823. His first church was in Concord, VT.
Concord was a frontier settlement in 1823 with a population of about 800. As neither church nor the nine school districts were flourishing…. Hall accepted the position on the condition that he be allowed to open a school to teach the teachers. His annual salary was $300. He was ordained and within the week he had established Concord Academy, the first training school for teachers to be recognized in the United States.
Hall’s Lectures on School Keeping, published in 1829, was the first American instructional book for teachers and was so influential it went through ten printings. He wrote several textbooks for both teachers and children. He taught geography by focusing on the child’s interest and perspective, and then extending it to a larger scope.
He also helped to organize (1830) the American Institute of Instruction, the oldest educational association in the United States. Hall became principal of the new teachers’ seminary at Phillips Academy (1830-37) in Andover Mass., of Holmes-Plymouth Academy (1837-40) in Plymouth NH, and of Craftsbury Academy, Craftsbury VT to which he added a teachers’ training department (1840-46).
For his services to the educational world, Dartmouth conferred upon him an honorary degree of Master of Arts. in 1839, and the University of Vermont in 1865 the honorary degree of LL.D., Doctorate of Law.
He also served as pastor in Craftsbury from 1840-1854. He moved to Brownington in 1856. From 1854 to 1867 he served as pastor in Brownington VT and from 1872-1874 as pastor in Granby, VT. He died in Brownington on June 24, 1877.
When he came to Orleans County, he was already a leading citizen of the area. He had influenced education in the United States for generations by establishing the first school for educating teachers, writing the first American book on how to teach, organizing some of the earliest education associations and introducing new methods of teaching history and geography. He was probably the first teacher to require student compositions, and perhaps the earliest to use blackboards in the classroom.
His famous Lectures on School-Keeping (1829) was republished in 1929, with a biography of Hall and a bibliography of his works by A. D. Wright and G. E. Gardner.
He was also ahead of his time in his recommendation that geography and history begin by having students study their immediate surroundings and expand outward from town to state to nation and world. In his Lectures, Hall emphasized the “practical method” of teaching history. He suggested that the teachers first familiarize themselves with the history of the town. The next step was to introduce youngsters to as many locally significant places or objects as possible.
This had the advantage, he observed, of improving student health by walking in the fresh air. It led to a “happy state of mind,” enhanced their curiosity and made them more receptive to instruction. Hall explained that
“the interesting details of humble adventure, the narrative of domestic life, the tale of the early settlers,– all of which have a poetic charm for the young,– will suit the same purpose, will enkindle curiosity, secure attention, and convert the study of history from a task or a book-dream, into a pleasing reality.”*
* Hall, Samuel Read, Lectures on School Keeping, 1829
DR. CURRIER’S LETTER ON THE ORIGIN OF THE BLACK-BOARD.
Newport, Vt., Nov. 15, 1870.
A few days since, Rev. S. R. Hall, LL.D., of Brownington, stopped at my house, and during the visit, which was a very welcome one, as all his acquaintances testify, he gave me an outline of the history of the origin of the black-board now so commonly used in this county.
He first used it in Rumford, Me., in 1816, to illustrate arithmetic; the first one was a large sheet of dark paper which could be marked upon and erased easily. At first the inhabitants of the district ridiculed his novel method of demonstration, but he persisted in its use and to the entire satisfaction of all concerned. His object was to enable the scholar to have confidence enough in himself to demonstrate examples to others and thus become better qualified for teaching. He afterwards used this method of illustration in several other towns of Maine which made him successful and popular as a teacher.
In 1822, at Concord, he had the plastering painted black and used in the same manner as black-boards are now used. About this time this method was adopted in a large number of the schools of this County, using boards as well as painting the plastering. Here you have the history of the black-board.
He also invented the eraser, made of a small piece of board of convenient size and tacking on a piece of sheepskin tanned with the wool on. This, I believe, is now equally as good as any invention of more recent date. Here let me state that Dr. Hall was the originator of normal schools, but beyond this statement, I can give you no facts. Dr. Hall has spent much of his time in geology and mineralogy, although by no means neglecting his theological duties, for I think he deserves the D. D. quite as much as he merits the LL. D. He will now ramble over our ragged hills in quest of some rare specimen of rock, even to tiring out of some of the youngest of us who delight in the same sciences, but probably shall never arrive to his ripe age and enjoy it to ecstacies [sic] as he now does. He says it is great satisfaction to him to sit down and look over his cabinet, and fully believes he is 15 years younger than he would have been had he not these pleasures.
Yours very truly,
J. M. CURRIER.
Vermont Historical Gazetteer, Orleans County Papers. 1878.