Lewiston School Department records
Scope and Content Note
The collection contains the early administrative, registrarial and financial records of the Lewiston School Department. The bulk of the records date from the late nineteenth to early twentieth century and document such important developments as the establishment of one of the earliest public Kindergarten classes in the country and the progressive policy begun in the 1870s of providing all textbooks and supplies to students at no cost.
The collection also contains annual reports beginning in 1851 which document curricular and policy changes, the development of individual schools, and attendance, standards and outcomes. The annual reports as well as a large series of census data provide important information about the number of school-aged children living in each district of the city. The populations are typically surveyed by ethnic and racial background, providing detailed demographic information about the city's population. The census was conducted annually from the late nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century in order to ensure the city received an accurately proportioned amount of state funding to support its educational work.
- 1851-1984, undated
- Lewiston (Me.). School Department (Organization)
Access to some materials may be restricted. For more information, consult the Director of Archives and Special Collections.
The collection is the physical property of Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library. Bates College holds literary rights only for material created by College personnel working on official behalf of the College, or for material which was given to the College with such rights specifically assigned. For all other material, literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining permission from rights holders for publication or other purposes that exceed fair use.
The origin of the Lewiston public school system dates to April 1795 when at the first town meeting it was voted to raise $60 for schools. The first public school building was constructed later that year. Like most such buildings constructed prior to 1850 in Lewiston, it was a modest, wood-frame structure with minimal furnishings. In 1850, the system began to assume its more modern form. A two-story school house was built in the center of town and a high school was established. In the 1860s, the city moved toward having a system of graded schools, with a specific number of grades in each school and schools in each grade, and with students classified by these grades. In 1864, the town abandoned its previous method of dividing schools and revenues by district and adopted a city-wide system. By so doing, resources were more equitably divided and the rural schools were improved significantly. The rural schools remained an integral part of the school system until the city began closing them in the 1930s.
In 1871, the school board elected a superintendent for the first time, and the office has been maintained since that time. Under the leadership of the first school superintendent, Thomas Tash, the Lewiston School Department initiated several important and progressive educational policies. In 1872, it became the first school department in New England to supply each pupil with all textbooks and school supplies free of charge. This policy continued throughout the nineteenth century, allowing students to attend schools completely without cost.
In March 1874, Lewiston became most likely the second city in the United States to offer public Kindergarten, establishing two schools for children ages 4 through 6 and instructing them in the Froebelian "gift" system. In establishing these schools and their course of instruction, Superintendent Tash used those in St. Louis, the first in the country and established in 1873, as a model. Superintendent Tash explained this development as follows: "The immense waste of school life between three and six years is fearful; especially so when coupled with the public indifference toward it. The neglect at this age necessitates a much larger outlay afterwards to secure results greatly inferior to what might be secured by proper attention to early education. An effort is in progress to utilize this period usually wasted by establishing Kindergarten Schools for young children."
According to Superintendent Tash's report from the school year ending 1874, the Lewiston school system was composed of the following classes in addition to the two Kindergarten schools: "three Primary grades, two Intermediate, four grades in the Grammar School and four in the High School, making in all thirteen grades, and occupying thirteen years. The average age on entering the Third Class Primary Schools is five years ten months, and those who continue in school would finish the Grammar School course at fifteen years of age, and graduate at the High School at nineteen."
During the 1872-1873 school year, the department also established a Normal Practice School, which would remain in operation throughout the nineteenth century. The school was established in response to the need of finding suitable teachers for the primary schools, and was dedicated to training young women, mostly graduates of the high school, in the theory and practice of teaching. While at the Normal School, students participated in teaching, gaining practical experience under the tutelage of a professional teacher. Most of the graduates of the Normal school went to work in the Lewiston public school system, although some worked for Auburn and other surrounding towns.
In 1902, Jordan High School opened between Wood and Nichols Streets. The school was named for Lyman G. Jordan who had been the principal of the high school, previously located on Main Street, for fifteen years prior to joining the faculty of Bates College in 1889 as a professor of biology and chemistry. The building became a junior high in 1931 when the high school moved to the corner of Central and Campus Avenues. The high school moved again in 1973 to its present location on East Avenue and a regional vocational training school was begun; the Central Avenue building became the junior high school and remains so as of 2011.
35.5 Linear Feet
Language of Materials
The collection contains the early administrative, registrarial and financial records of the Lewiston School Department. The bulk of the records date from the late nineteenth to early twentieth century and document such important developments as the establishment of one of the earliest public Kindergarten classes in the country and the progressive policy begun in the 1870s of providing all textbooks and supplies to students at no cost. The collection contains annual reports beginning in 1851 which document curricular and policy changes, the development of individual schools, and attendance, standards and outcomes.
Organization and Arrangement
The collection is organized into eight series: I. Annual reports; II. Minutes; III. Administrative records; IV. Financial records; V. Census data; VI. Student portfolio; VII. Registrarial records; and VIII. Transcripts.
Acquisition and Custody Information
On long-term loan from the Lewiston School Department. Transferred to the Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library on December 14, 2010. Accession No.: 2010-183.
Processed by Kat Stefko, January 2011
- Guide to the Lewiston School Department records, 1851-1984, n.d.
- Edited Full Draft
- Kat Stefko
- Language of description
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- Language of description note
- Description is in: English
- Edition statement