Fifth-grade class in Bellefontaine, Ohio (1906)

Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.
George Washington

On February 21, 1906, an unknown photographer created this time capsule of the inside of a fifth-grade classroom.  The photo is mounted on a card, on the back of which is a note: “Leighton’s First School, Bellefontaine, O.”  The writer first wrote “Fountain City, Ind.,” but crossed it out.

Bellefontaine class 2


At upper left on the chalk board on the left side of the room is the following: “Fifth Grade, East Building, Feb. 21, 1906.”  Below and to the right, on the same board, are three math problems with names of students in neat script next to them: Harold Huston, Cornelia Fulton, and Zolabelle.

On the right side of the room is another chalk board with the following:

       Great Men of February
George Washington Feb. 22, 1732.
Abraham Lincoln Feb. 12, 1809.
Henry W. Longfellow Feb. 27, 1807.
James Russell Lowell Feb. 22, 1819.

Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.
George Washington

With malice toward none with charity for all.
Abraham Lincoln

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime.
H. W. Longfellow

The Holy Supper is kept indeed
In whatso we share with another’s need.
James R. Lowell

I’ve added high-resolution scans at the end of the post, but here are some detail images of the kids and their teachers:

Bellefontaine class 3c

Bellefontaine class 4c

Bellefontaine class 5c

Bellefontaine class 6c

Was the little girl in the sailor’s outfit trying to tell us something by pointing to her forehead?

Feel free to click on either half of the photo below to see it in greater detail:



OK everyone, time for recess!  Hope you’ve enjoyed this quick trip to Ohio.  Come back and visit anytime.

Bellefontaine class 9b



19 thoughts on “Fifth-grade class in Bellefontaine, Ohio (1906)

Add yours

    1. I wonder how unusual it was in smaller towns like Bellefontaine? There’s another mixed-race classroom photo on the blog, from the town of Thomaston, Maine (see the African-American tag). Educational segregation in the North may have been more of an urban phenomenon.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Love your question about the little girl in the sailor dress. It could be fun to give a thought to each child…those facial expressions 😊. I remember reading somewhere that there weren’t many smiles in old photography because it took so long to get everything set up. Enjoyed this 🌷

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Photographs of children are one of my favorite genres! They change so quickly…. When you see a photo of a child, you know the child was only like that for a short time. As far as smiles go, it was certainly true that people rarely smiled in the early days, for the reason you mentioned. Smiles start to appear toward the end of the 19th century, when equipment was much faster, but they were still relatively rare. Which is to say, people could have smiled more than they did. I think the formality of studios was a deterrent. It was only in the 20th century that smiling became commonplace, as far as I can tell.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Lovely photo, Brad. As well as the kids, I love those desks and the way they’d have been able to read the titles of the books through the sides. Can you make out any of the book titles in your largest scan, or are they not legible?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Jadi! I just tried to leave a comment on your new post, but each time I tried, I got a dialog box telling me I was about to download a WP file. Weird! Just a glitch, probably. I looked for a way to contact you about it but didn’t see one on your blog.


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