U.S. School Clothes: Individual Schools--The 1890s


Figure 1.--This fascinating school portrait shows the teacher and children in front of sod schoolhouse. We know that The shool was loated in Woods County, Oklahoma Territory and the photograph taken about 1895. National Archives 48-RST-7B-97.

School portraits in the 1890s became very common photogrphy improved and became incerasingly affordable. The idea of an annual school portrait wa clearing becoming an excepted tradition. We see class portraits from all over the country, includuing one-room schools on the rapidly shrinking western frontier. We see boys commonly wearing suits to school, even in country schools, although there boys in warm weather commonly just wore blouses and knee pants. Many boys wore straight-leg knee pants. Knickers were not very common, but we see them at some private schools. The type of pants did vary. We see boys at some schools wearing long pants. We are not entirely sure why there were such variations. Age of course was a factor. Boyys and girls commonly wore long stockings. Black long stokings were especially common. Many younger boys wore blouses with large collars, sometimes ruffled Fauntleroy collars. We also see sailor suits, especially in urban schools. Girls wore dresses, often with pinafores. Many children came to school barefoot, especially in rural areas.

Lawrenceville School (1890s)

The Lawrenceville School is a famous eastern prep school in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, with quite a long tradition behind it. The school was founded in 1810 as the Maidenhead Academy and after various vicissitudes refounded in 1883 with its present name. HBC does mot yet have a page on the school, but we do have a page on a TV seies based on the school. "The Lawrenceville Stories" (1986). Earlier a film, "The Happy Years" (1950) was made with Dean Stockwell.

Unidentified Catholic School (1890s)

Unfortunately we don't know much about this school. All we know for sure is that it was a Catholic school, commonly called a parochial school in the United States. There is no location or date available. We think it may be a California school, but we are not at all positive. The only hint from the photograph as to location is the wood plank construction of the school. Dating is a little easier because we can estimate it from the children's clothes. The boys wearing Fauntleroy outfits with ruffled collars is a good indicator of the 1890s or early 1900s. We believe that this portrait was taken in the 1890s, although the early 1900s is possible. We know it was a Catholic school because of the emblem on the wall and the nun in the portrait.

Unidentified School (1890s)

Here we see a group in front of their sizeable school building. We have no information as to where the photograph was taken, but as it must have been in the North as it was an integrated class. Notice that there is only one black child. Until the World war I era, blacks largely lived in the rural south. The childreall look to be about the same age. We would guess about 11 years old. This meand that this was only one class at the school, cvonfirming that it wa a sizeable school. It is undated, but the estimate of the dealer is 1890s. That seems reasonable, but we might guess the early-90s or even late-80s. The children wear airty of clothes, Many of the boys wear suits, but the jacket styles varied. Collar-buttoning jackets were popular, but we also see lapel jackets. Several boys wear blouses without jackets. Two of the boys have floppy bows, one rather large. The boys all wear long stockinghs, they look to be different colors. The girls all wear dressess done in many different styles. Several girls have white collars whoch look to be lace collars. Ruffles on the skirt seems stylish. The girls like the boys also wear long stockings, although one girl seems to have striped knee socks. Several girls have their hair pulled back so if we can not see aq dress, it is hard to tell the boys from girls.

Highland Park School (early-1890s)

Highland Park is a neighborhood in northeastern Los Angeles. It is one of the oldest and most established areas of what is now a huge city. We note a scene from a primary school in Highland Park. We are not sure, however, what the name of the school was. We have a photograph that looks to have been taken in the 1890s, perhaps the early-90s. We think the wooden frame school is in the background. For some reason, only the boys are in the photograph. We assume there were girls at the school, but apparently they were photographed separartely. That was not very common. Several boys have various styles of hats. The youngest boy has a broad-brimmed hat. Note that they are wearing hats rather than caps. That helps date the image. Most of the boys wear suits. Some wear just blouses, including the younger boy who wears a Fauntleroy blouse.

Kern City School (1891)

This school was located in Kern City, California. We do not know if it had a specific name or was just called the Kern City School. We have a single portrait from 1891. The portrait seems to show more than a single class, but not the older children that would have attended a primary school at the time. The children wear quite a large range of garments, providing a good view popular fashion in the 1890s. The many different garments and even hair styles here is particularly interesting.

Downer's Grove School (1892)

Here we have a a school in Downers Grove. Illinois. Downers Grove is a Chicago suburb. It was a red brick school, but we are unsure just how lsrge it was. You can see the building in the background of a 1892 photograph. It may have been called the Downers Grove School. We are not sure about this. It surely must be a state elmentary (primary school). It was an integrated school. There are three black children who seem a little isolated. It clearly is not a single class. The children look different ages, but there are few younger children so this must not have been all the children at the school. The children pictured here look moistly abouut 10-13 years old. There was a man and lady teacher. The girls wear dresses and pinafores. The boys mostly wear suits with knee pants. We only see one boy wearing long pants, although we are not sure about the boys in the back. The boys wearing knee pants all seem to be wearing black long stockings. One younger boy wears a blouse with a large collar and floppy bow.

Sumner Highway School (1892)

We are sure about the name of this school. We know where it was located, but not its name. We are guessing it might be called the Sumner Highway School. It is a wonderful photograph of a sod schoolhouse in Nebraska. The Frontier officially clsed in the 1890s. There were stiil, however, many in the Plains states still living in sod houses. Note the complete absence of trees, explsaining why they had to use sod. This is a great example of a one-room sod house. It was located in Marquiss district, 5 miles southeast of Broken Bow, Custer County on the Sumner highway. The photograph was taken in 1892. The teacher was 16-year-old Hiva Miller. The school had 14 children and they provide a detailed view of how rural children dressed. The boys wear different types of caps. They wear suits, mostly with long pants. The girls wear dresses and skirts.

Unidentified Lexington School (1892)

This portrait shows a class of boys at an unidentified Louisville, Kentucky school during 1892. The school is not listed but the caption reads only, "Souvenir of our school". The school is presumably a boys' school. We are not sure if it is a private or public school. The boys all wear suits, mostly knee pants with long stockings. A few boys wear long pants, but they tend to be not as well dressed as the boys wearing knee pants. Many of the boys wear fashionable detachable collars and floppy bows. They do not have their caps. The boys look to be about 10-11 years old. The schools looks to be a substantial brick building.

Wesley Boys' School (Unknown location)

We have found a cabinet card portrait of a class at the Wesley Boys' School. Unfortunately the cabinet card has been trimmed, presumably to fit into a photographic album. Thus we do not know where the school was located. Given the name of the school, we would guess the school is a private school supported by the Methodist Church. It was likely located somewhere in the northest. We do know that the portrait was taken June 15, 1893 at the end of the school year. The black board indicates that it was Group IV. If that meant grade 4, the boys woukd hve been bout 10-11 years old. The photographer's name and location have been cropped off, probably to fit into the old photo album. Most of the boys wear Eton collars, knee pants suits, and long stockings. Many boys also wear sailor suits. One boy wears a long pants suit, but we are not entirely sure that he is a member of the class.

Unidentified School (1893)

We do not know the name of this school. We do know that it was a public school in Washington, D.C. The image we have shows some of the chilkdren participating in a dance or posture lesson during 1893. They look like the older children at a primary school. The image is interesting because it shows the inside of the classroom. I attended D.C. public scohools in the late 1940s abd early 50s and this is just how our school looked, although our desks were a little more updated.

Sand Run School (1893)

The Sand Run School was a rural school in Boone County, Kentucky. Boone Country was of course named after Daniel Boone who helped found Kentucky. The portrait we have dates from 1893. The yonger boys are all barefoot. Several wear fancy blouses with large collars. They were very fashionable at the time. Notice that they were made with different colors and patterns ad not white. Mail order catalogs are full of these blouses. One boy wears his blouse with a floppy bow. Notice how the photographer has blaced the boys with fancy blouses front and center. Also notice the range of heawear the boys are wearing. The girls wear dresses, one girl with a checked pinafore. Several girls have fashionable ballon sleeves.

Grafton School (1895)

HBC has one image from the 1985 Grafton "farm school". The children lokk to be about the same age, 8-9 years. So they appear to be one class from a larger schoool. Children that age would be in the 3rd or 4th grade. The boys here have their hats which is relatively wear in these portraits.

Prague School (1895)

The school in this cabinet card here is unidentified, but we believe was located in Prague, Nebraska. Notice the very youthful teacher. The children here are a group of about 20 children who look about the same age, perhaps 10-11 years old. This means there were probably a class group and a hundred or more children at the school. That and the building at the background means that it was not a rural one or two room school, but a school in the town. And as the photographer, F.H. Svoboda, was located in Prague, Nebraska, we assume that was where the school was located. It thus was probably callecd the Prague School. The photographer's name and the name of the school suggests that there were a number of Czech immigrants in the town. It is a very small town in eastern, Nebraska. The towns claim to fame is, kolache, a popular Czech/Slovak pastry. The portrait was probably taken about 1895 based on the style of the children's clothes and the cabinet mount style. Some boys wear suits while others just shorts and blouses. Many of the boys wear long pants. We see both suspenders and button-on outfits. In the city knee pants wre more common, but long pants persisted longer in rural areas. A few of the children are barefoot, the rest wear black long stockings. The fact that many of the children may have been Czech immigrants children. The girls wear colorful dresses, one with a touch of sailor styling.

Unidentified Oklahoma Territory School (about 1895)

This fascinating school portrait shows the teacher and children in front of sod schoolhouse. We know that there were many sod houses made on homesteads. We are less sure how common sod schools were. We do not know the name of the school, or even if the school had a name. We are not real sure about the naming conventions of these small rural shools. We suspect they were often reffered to by the name of the local community where they were located. We do know that the school was in Woods County, Oklahoma Territory and the photograph taken about 1895. Some of tghe boys wear blouses with large collars and many other wear suit jackets. One older boy wears a vest. There seems to beca mixture of knee pants and long pants. Many of the boys are barefoot. We note one boy wearing suspenders. Another boy seems to be wearing suspender pants. The girls wear dresses, but only one wears a pinafore over it.

Miss Porter's School (about 1895)

We do not know much about Miss Porter's School other than it was located in Middleton, New York. We believe the school portrait was taken about 1895. It looks to be a small coed secondary school run in a private house.

Lincoln School (mid-1890s?)

This Lincoln School was founded (1866) after the Civil War. West Virginia was part of Virgina, but separated during the War and supported the Federal Government. Even so, after the War as they established a public school system, they segregated black and white children. The Lincoln Lincoln School was the African-American segregated school of Ohio County. Here we have a school portrait taken of a class and their teacher. The source suggest it was tajken in the 1880s. And the lack Fauntleroy paraphenalia might suggest the erly 18890s. The teacher's dress styles, epecially the destinctive puffed sleeves is a good indicator of the 1890s as are the knee-length knee pats. The length of the knee pabts, however, sucggets the portrit coukd have been taken in the 90s. Most of the boys wear suits. The girls wear long dresses, several have pinafores. The children look to be about 10 years old which would mean 5th grade. The school remained segregated until the Supreme Court ruled segregated schools unconstituional (1954).

Unidentified Southern School (1890s)

he kepis worn by Federal and Confederate troops wee essentially the same, only in different colors. Grey or beechnut for the Confederates and blue for the Federals. We do occassionlly see one najor stylistic variation. Some kepis were done with much higher bodies than the standard kepi. This left the flat topat a greater angle than the sandard kepi. These elongated kepis were not commonly worn by boys, but we have seen a few examples.

Broadview School (1896)

We do no know a lot about the Broadview School. We have a 1896 portrait taken in front of the school. It appears to have been a typical small rural school. It was located in Maury County, Tennessee. The boys wear blouses and knee pants. And in warmer weather they come to school bsrefoot. Notice none of the boys wear overalls. The girls wear dresses.

Urban Illinois School (1896)

Many boys at this Illinois school, in 1896 wear ruffled collars. Some boys appear to be wearing formal Fauntleroy suits. Other boys are dressed cassually. We are not sure if the fashions worn are the normal outfits or if some mothers dressed the boys up for their class portrait. I'm not sure what class this was, perhaps the 2nd or 3rd grade. Notice the girls wearing pinafores.

Dexter School (1897)

The Dexter School was located in Kentucky's Calloway County. The image we have found was taken in Fall 1897 meaning the beginning of the school year. It looks to be a rural school, but not a real small one. The children were photographed in fron of their school building. We assume it was a primary school. The image is notable for the age of some of the boys still attending primary school. Some of these rural primary schools had programs through the 8th grade. We do not know, but assume that this was probably the situation here. The students seem to be making a point of their hats. Notice the younger boys' hats in the front row and the older boys' hats in the rerar. Many of the younger boys have large collars. Quite a few of the children are also barefoot. Some of the girls wear pinafores.

East Waterford School (1897)

We have one school portrait taken at the East Waterford school in Waterford, Illinois. The school portrait was taken in 1897. There are 24 children and one male teacher who seems to wearing a long frock coat. They are standing in front of the school whicch looks to be a white plank building. The girls wear dresses, some with pinafores which are difficult to make out. Most of the pinafores are dark, but we are unsure just what color. The younger boys wear blouses and knee pants. Notice some of the large collars. Several boys wear overalls, which is rather unusual in the 1890s. We are unsure why we see so many boys wearing overalls here, but not in many other school portrais from the 1890s. Some of the older boys also wear overalls. They seem to be wearing shorts, but we can not tell if they are wearing knee pants or long pants. JKost of the younger children, boys and girls, are barefoot without shoes and stockings. This was common at the time, but seems particularly pronounced here.

Banker School (1897)

The Banker School was a small rural school located in Henderson Township located in Wexford County, Michigan. This was the western part of lower Michigan. We see a view of the school in 1897. It is notable for its rough construction. One might have thought by this time that Michigan would have had a little more substantial schools even in rural areas. We 17 children of various ages. Many of the boys wear fancy blouses. The younger boys wear knee pants, but we are not sure about the older boys. All the younger children are barefoot. An interesting aspect of these rural 19th century school portraits is that the boys did not wear overalls. Wexford County was named after a county in Ireland largely because so many Irish immigrants settled there. A narrow gage railroad helped open the area. Lumber was the major resource. Notice the rough board construction of the school.

Rice School (1897-98)

We note the Rice School in Van Buren Township (in west central Monroe County, southern Indiana) in the school year 1897-98. It was a one-room schoolhouse near the turn of the century. Notice the broken transom window over the door with one of the students framed in the opening. The teacher stands in the third row on the right. One of the boys (second row, second from the left) has included his dog in the picture. You can see the dog's front paws and head. Most of the boys seem to wear long pants and jackets but without ties. The older boys and girls stand at the back. The younger ones are sitting in the front row. A few boys wear knee pants with long stockings.

Grafton School (1898-99)

Boys in the 1890s dressed up to go to school. As many boys wear jackets it appears to be a portrait taken in the fall or spring. The younger boys might even wear large ruffled collars. All the boys wore kneepants, most with long dark stockings. Some boys wore sailor suits. The girls of course wear dresses, several with white pinafores.

North Plainfield School (1898-99)

Here are two images from a North Plainfield, New Jersey schholl. One shows a class, we think of the older children. We would guess this is a public elementry (primary school) with classes up to the 8th grade (13-14 year olds). The boys mostly wear knee pants suits with blacl lobg stockings. Afew boys wear long trouser suits. The girls all wear dresses. There is also a portrait of the teachers of the school. All but two are women and one of the men is probably the principal. This suggests to us that it was an elementary school. We know the school was located in North Plainfield and taken in 1898-99. We don't know what the name of the school was.

Barger School (late-1890s)

This photo shows the Barger School in Allardt, Fentress County, Tennessee. The photograph is undated, but the source suggests was taken in the 19th century. If so it would have been the 1890s, probably the late-1890s. This is certainly possible, but we are not sure it was not the very early 1900s. Note the contrast between the clothing of younger and older boys. Some of the older boys are dressed up in suits and ties. They seem rather old to be attending a primary school. The younger boys wear knee pants, although some are quite long, and are barefoot. One younger boy wears a blouse with a large collar. The girls wear various styles of print dresses.

Laconia High School (late-1890s)

Here we see a group of older teenagers in Laconia, New Hampshire. The only group we can think they may have belonged to is Laconia High School which was opened in 1875. The classes wwre quite small so you would guess that this was the graduating seniors. Here there are 14 teenagers. Presumably there were at least some girls, so the boys seem to have had their portrait taken separately. Note the boy in the middle wears knee pants and black long stockings while the other boys all wear long pants.The portrait is indated, but was probably taken in the 1890s--perhaps around the turn-of-the 20th century. Prints of cabinents cards like this cost $0.25.

Washington School (1899)

Washington was a popular name for a school, named after the first president. This school was located in Nemaha County, Nebraska. Like many early schools, it was a wood frame building painted white. We are not sure when it was built, but we suspect around the 1870s. The school has displayed their large American flag--note the star arrangement. There is wire protection for the windows. In these rural schools, the only lightening would come from the windows. There is one male teacher, although a female teacher may be sitting with the children. A smaller school would have more likely had a young female teacher. There are about 50 children. The boys all wear jackets and all the children wear shoes. We suspect this meant that it was a little chilly. The youner boys wear knee pants anf long stockings. The older boys wear long pants, to the extent we can tell. The girls all wear dresses, but without pinafores which were common at the time. Note than none of the boys wear overalls.







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Created: 7:44 PM 3/26/2007
Last updated: 6:17 AM 2/6/2012