Bama Grammar

S. Barton’s Easy Lessons in English Grammar, for Young Beginners and A New System of English Grammar were both published in Alabama, and their contents are designed to appeal to residents, including state-specific references in their grammatical examples.


IMG_8548  IMG_8549

S. Barton. A New System of English Grammar. Montgomery: Teachers’ Exchange, 1855.


IMG_8542  IMG_8543

S. Barton. Easy Lessons in English Grammar, for Young Beginners. Montgomery: Teachers’ Exchange, 1860.


Once the University of Alabama introduced a composition course, one of the professors who taught it was Benjamin Meek of the English Department. The Student’s Guide to Composition and Reading is his composition syllabus, which includes such material as essay topics, assigned reading, common words and phrases to avoid, and assorted bits of writing advice based upon the motto, “Good usage is the Supreme Court of Language.”

IMG_8545  IMG_8547

Benjamin Meek. The Student’s Guide to Composition and Reading. Tuscaloosa: Charles Fitts, 1894.


In 1909 the staff and students at the Thomaston Grammar School published The Grammar School Echo, a newsletter designed to show off their students’ achievements in English composition.

IMG_8515  IMG_8517

Thomaston District School. The Grammar School Echo. Thomaston, Alabama, April, 1909.

The publication announces proudly that it is “Not entered in the Post-office at Thomaston, Ala., as second-class matter, because there is nothing second-class about it.” The short pieces of poetry and prose in The Grammar School Echo show what students in early 20th-century Alabama did to cultivate their writing skills, explaining, “It has already been said that reading makes a ready man, writing an exact man. Therefore, to bring into existence, or to improve the powers of expressing more exactly one’s thoughts, we have commenced the publication of a paper for the benefit of our pupils.” The remark about the benefits of reading and writing are adapted from “Of Studies,” an essay by the 17th-century writer Francis Bacon: “Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.” The composition studies at Thomaston Grammar School were designed to make its students into full and exact citizens.


All images are from the W. S. Hoole Special Collections Library and are not eligible for duplication, publication or sharing online without permission of the W. S. Hoole Special Collections Library. Please contact us at or call 205.348.0500 with any questions. Thank you.

Leave a Reply