|Moulthrop Movable School Chair|
Samuel Moulthrop was born in Michigan around 1847, but moved with his family to Elba, New York, as a child. He began teaching in the schools of Genesee County in 1867, and remained there until 1875. During this period, “Moulthrop developed a passion for thinking about the school as space and learning environment. He also tested his theories about the relationship of calisthenics to a child’s ability to concentrate and remain in good health.” In 1876, Moulthrop moved to Rochester and became principal of the Western House of Refuge (later the New York State Industrial School). His final position was as principal of Washington Grammar School Number 26 in Rochester; in addition to his teaching career, Moulthrop was also active with the Y.M.C.A and other youth organizations.
|Pamphlet distributed by Langslow,|
Fowler Co., 1909
“Why are children restless in school?” asked a 1909 pamphlet. “Principally because of the uncomfortableness of the seats and desks. The mental development of the child is conditioned by its physical well-being. Yet most of our children spend the years of their school lives in seats ill adapted to bodily comfort.” The back of the seat was at the wrong angle, and children rarely had desks that fit their height properly—either their legs were dangling or they had to slouch. But now the Moulthrop Movable School Chair had arrived, bringing about “the emancipation of the pupil from the rigid iron framed school seat. It has accomplished the natural evolution from the old-fashioned severely criticized school seat to the Modern, Comfortable, Sanitary, Movable and Adjustable School Chair.” Originally offered in four different sizes, by 1913 the chair was available in eight sizes, with seat heights ranging from 10 to 17 inches, and could support up to 200 pounds.
|CCRS elementary school classroom with desks |
moved to allow room for recreation, 1919
|The old-fashioned and immobile desk|
It’s no surprise, then, that William H. Miner chose the Moulthrop desk to furnish the new Chazy Central Rural School when it opened in 1916. No doubt Langslow Fowler’s claims of the chair’s “efficiency” appealed to him, but it was also a way to clearly demonstrate the difference between the old one-room schoolhouse and the new, modern consolidated school.
Thanks to the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation at Rush Rhees Library, University of Rochester, for providing copies of the Moulthrop Chair pamphlets.