Willard’s Chronographer

I just discovered another interesting spatial visualization of time, this one from a U.S. history text used in elementary schools in the mid 19th century., Emma Willard’s Abridge History of the United States (New York: A.S. Barntreechronographer.pnges & Co), 1852.

Like I noted in my post on Hillyer’s “Staircase of Time” Willard treats her diagram of time as a obvious solution for ALL students to use to imagine and remember historical developments. Accompanying the book was a large, painted “chronographer” which was hung in front of the class. With a pointing rod four feet in length, the teacher was to point to the specific moments of time when she was speaking of them.

“The Chronographer” includes time from the 16th through 19th centuries on an arc, with “branches” of American history reaching up and out towards the arc.

Willard also gives directions for how teachers might use this diagram, which she calls “the chronographer” in class. “Whenever the teacher is using the pointer, to teach the chronographer, the pupil must give his eyes, his eyes, and his mind; and then the chronographer will, by a mysterious process of the mind, be formed within, and become a part of the mind of every attentive scholars – where he may, ever after, have the plan, and read the principal dates of his country’s chronology.” (xiii)

Willard pet peeve seems to be that some people treat the year 100 as part of the 2nd century. She is clear that the year 1900 is the last year of the 19th century, not the first year of the 20th century.

At any rate, Willard believes that, in addition to the visual heuristic, students will learn through recitation and repetition. When they have drawn and considered “the chronograph” long enough, all of American history will easy come together in their minds. It will then be easy to remember when events occurred, and how they were related to each other.

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