Pennsylvania was one of the leading states in establishing public education (1). By 1850 over 10,000 elementary schools were established as a result from the Free School Act of 1834 (2). The opportunity for free education enables fuller participation in the American dream. For the first time children did not come from financially privileged families were also given educational opportunities that could expand their horizons. Children were not the only ones who were gained new opportunities from the new public one room school houses. Becoming teachers at these one room school houses was one of the few employment options for women to work outside of the home (3). One room school houses were essential in rural Pennsylvania, where there were not many private school options. Pennsylvanians have seen the value of free public education since the early 19th century, and through time the state has invested in educational improvements.
This exhibit is home to a handful of documents, objects and photographs that are from one room school houses in York County from the late 19th century thru the early 20th century. Many of the artifacts chosen for this collection were chosen to capture the ordinary everyday life of the people involved with the one room school houses, whether that be the students, teachers or members of boards of education and administration. One can get a better sense of the foundations of public education in Pennsylvania.
1. Randall M. Miller and William Pencak, Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002. Page 379.
2. Ibid page 176
3. Ibid page 249
Northern York Historical Society