As a seller of fine writing paper, naturally, I am also interested in handwriting and penmanship.
Some would say that the 1800s and early 1900s were the "Golden Age of Handwriting". Indeed, most of that period preceded the typewriter, and thus most correspondence was handwritten; there was also no shortage of handwriting schools to teach the masses how to accomplish the task neatly and efficiently. It's as if every clerk was expected to have, by today's standards, outstanding penmanship. How times have changed!
The most famous writing method of that period was known as "Spencerian". Spencerian writing is known for its flourishes and fanciful appearance (the Coca Cola logo is a prime example). A similar method known as "Palmer" followed Spencerian and was more subdued in that it lacked Spencerian's ornate look. Today, both methods are generically known as "cursive" writing, as opposed to printing or italic writing, and were considered practical, rapid ways to write, since one never lifts the pen off the paper except between words.
If you knew anyone that went to school around that period (say anytime before the 1950s) chances are that they wrote in the cursive style, and still do. Since then, there has been a fall-off in cursive instruction in schools, but it has by no means disappeared - the school district in my neighborhood still teaches it from the 3rd grade, although I doubt they spend as much time on it nowadays as they did a hundred years ago.
Anyway, I wanted to share a few cursive handwriting samples that are more than a hundred years old. Notice that nice penmanship wasn't just restricted to letters - it was common on invoices and receipts as well.
Also note that some of the samples used "lined" paper. The lines are typically spaced about 9mm apart, leaving plenty of room between sentences to minimize the crowding of ascenders and descenders. Some of the modern papers from my shop (e.g. Cream Writing or L. Writing) have 10mm spacing. It is this spacing that generally separates correspondence paper from, say, note-taking paper, which usually has 6-7mm lines.
Please enjoy the pictures, and thanks for looking.
County Clerk 1915 - no lines, classic laid paper
City Clerk 1889 - 9mm lines
County Treasurer 1896, 9mm lines, laid paper
Receipt for bon bons sample
Clerk of Court Sample - note the transition to "Y1K"
Flex pen receipt sample