What Does Their Penmanship Reveal About Our Victorian Friends?

Eleanor Rose

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 26, 2016
Messages
5,706
Location
central NC
FrederickDouglass-768x189.jpg

Frederick Douglass (letter from 1857).
Many folks believe there is a connection between handwriting and personality. For example, a thoughtful soul might write more neatly. A shy person might write in a smaller script. Older hands might tremble more. A hothead might write messily and an egotist might write rather large.

I thought it might be fun to look at the handwriting of some famous folks from the 19th century. I’ll start us off with a couple examples, but I need for others to contribute some as well. Let’s see if we think there is a connection between the handwriting of some of our famous Victorians and the personalities we have come to know.

The handwriting above is that of Frederick Douglass. I am most impressed with his penmanship. I think it reflects a man who cares, someone who takes pride in his work.

The check below was completed by my favorite general, James Longstreet. This makes me a little sad. The general died two years later at the age of 82. His health was failing and I do sense a tremble in his hand.

james-longstreet-signed-check-12608.jpg
 
Last edited:

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Zella

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 23, 2018
Messages
2,617
This is fun, Ellie, and I love your examples!

Always liked looking at examples of Forrest's handwriting. Less for psychological reasons and more because he and I have something in common--lefties writing as righties. :smile:

NB Forrest autograph.jpg

https://www.icollector.com/Nathan-Bedford-Forrest-Signature-Card_i6157931


Richard Brooke Garnett's penmanship reminds me of what you say about Frederick Douglass's writing. His penmanship is so pretty and precise. :giggle: Wish mine was that nice.
Garnett autograph.png

Screencap of pre-war document I have saved
 
Last edited:

Zella

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 23, 2018
Messages
2,617
My 15 year old grandson just mentioned yesterday that he does not do cursive! Ye gads!
Kids can’t read cursive!!!
Regards
David
In my area, they stopped teaching cursive for a long time, so a lot of the teens don't write it or read it, but they have added it back in recent years, so the younger kids know it. I don't write much in cursive, but I am glad I can both write it and read it!
 

lelliott19

Captain
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
Messages
5,823
Here's a handwriting sample for my favorite General. :D

In case you can't read the signature, it's William Tatum Wofford, signed in haste (as usual) "Wm T Wofford"
Come to think of it, it seems that General Wofford's handwriting reflects his somewhat unbridled spirit?
1562125596928.png
 
Last edited:
Joined
Aug 25, 2013
Messages
8,579
Location
Hannover, Germany
The check below was completed by my favorite general, James Longstreet. This makes me a little sad. The general died two years later at the age of 82. His health was failing and I do sense a tremble in his hand.

And it probably still was his left hand, as after his wounding he never fully regained control of his right arm. No matter how long a righthanded person exercises writing with the left (and vice versa) it will probably always look a little awkward. There are a few people who are ambidextrous though, they have no "favorite" hand for doing things.

But I'm shocked that students today are no longer taught to write cursive. Ours here also learn a very simplified way of writing cursive. Thus, the beauty of handwriting will vanish, just for being lazy. Here it is said that the back swings in cursive are unfavorable for mental development! My Dad (born 1914) always signed in Sütterlin still, which really is complicated, but very beautiful.
As a German, let me add the Signature of Carl Schurz, Union General.
The "z" at the end is what remained of the old Sütterlin "z", which resembled a cursive "g"
Snip-it_1562134028025.jpg
 
Joined
Aug 25, 2013
Messages
8,579
Location
Hannover, Germany
Okay - here's the test - which one had the best signature (to avoid in any prejudice on my part, they are done alphabetically based on last names) - - -

View attachment 314327


View attachment 314328
To reveal my total ignorance: I did recognize Robert E. Lee's signature, but... um ... who is the other one? Grant? Grant??? Grant!!!
The "U" from "Ulysses" is almost recognizable, and maybe the "a" and the "t" from Grant - but the rest??? What is the initial? Certainly no "S", but also not "H" as his real name was Hiram Ulysses....
But no, I will not draw any conclusions here...
 

NH Civil War Gal

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 5, 2017
Messages
3,172
I can't seem to make this larger, but I found Chamerlain and I'm going to find some others. Very interesting thread, Ellie!

14901320666601596398886.jpg





Joshua L. Chamberlain (1828-1914), Major General, USA (ME). Participated at the battles of Antietam, Fredericksburg (WIA), Chancellorsville, Gettysburg (WIA and MOH), the Virginia Overland campaign (WIA), and Appomattox.
 

Deleted User CS

Retired User
Joined
Mar 18, 2015
Messages
2,734
Ellie. This is a very interesting topic for discussion. In my line of work, my penmanship is very important to my clients, so I get a lot of practice. Over the course of my research the last four years and having examined thousands of different letters and historical documents I have witnessed a lot of different types of penmanship. The most impressive that I have found to date is that of Mary Todd Lincoln. She has a remarkable and very distinctive and delicate penmanship especially for a woman in her position. David.
 
Joined
Aug 25, 2013
Messages
8,579
Location
Hannover, Germany
Ellie. This is a very interesting topic for discussion. In my line of work, my penmanship is very important to my clients, so I get a lot of practice. Over the course of my research the last four years and having examined thousands of different letters and historical documents I have witnessed a lot of different types of penmanship. The most impressive that I have found to date is that of Mary Todd Lincoln. She has a remarkable and very distinctive and delicate penmanship especially for a woman in her position. David.
Here is the signature of Mary Todd Lincoln:
1562170146756.png

a remarkable and very distinctive and delicate penmanship especially for a woman in her position.
Not quite sure what you meant by that ... I suppose you meant that because as a First Lady she probably had to sign a lot of documents so that one would expect her signature to be less readable. Otherwise I admit that I think her "Mary" is more elaborate than her "Lincoln" that reminds me of a kid's handwriting. But again, I will not draw conclusions from that.
 


Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top