The remainder of the digital collection holds loose correspondence, ledger books, and other documents (dated 1840-1874) belonging to Joseph H. Scranton, Selden T. Scranton, George W. Scranton, and William W. Scranton. Transcriptions for most of these handwritten documents have been completed by Weinberg Memorial Library staff; additional transcriptions will be added into the collection as they are completed.
We thank all of our partners and volunteers for their time, effort, and moral support in this project, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration in the future!
On Tuesday, November 3 at 6pm the Weinberg Memorial Library will host a reception for “We Teach Wherever the Mails Reach,” an exhibit celebrating the 125th anniversary of the International Correspondence Schools of Scranton (ICS). This event is free and open to the public.
Professor William Conlogue of Marywood University, and author of Here and There: Reading Pennsylvania’s Working Landscapes and Working in the Garden: American Writers and the Industrialization of Agriculture, will talk about the history of ICS at the reception for the exhibit in the fifth floor Heritage Room of the Weinberg Memorial Library.
Founded in 1890, ICS originally grew out of a question and answer column written by Thomas J. Foster, publisher of Colliery Engineer and Metal Miner. Foster’s column helped mine workers, many being recent immigrants with limited English, to pass required mine safety exams. The column proved so successful that Foster created a correspondence course on coal mining.
Over the years ICS expanded into a variety of technical fields as well as providing basic courses in English. The company has been a leader in career-focused distance and blended learning for over 125 years. More than 13 million people have enrolled in their programs to further their education and learn advanced skills to better position them for life success.
ICS has changed names a number of times since 1996. The ICS location is currently operated by Penn Foster Career School, which is a regionally and nationally accredited post-secondary distance education school and considers ICS to be its predecessor.
In 2002, the Weinberg Library was given a collection of ICS materials by the company. These materials, primarily from the ICS marketing department, are the focus of this exhibit celebrating the history of the company.
The exhibit will be on display in the Weinberg Library’s fifth floor Heritage Room through Friday, December 11, 2015. For more information, please contact Special Collections Librarian Michael KniesMichael.Knies@Scranton.edu (570) 941-6341.
The Lackawanna Historical Society’s Scranton Family Papers collection includes 19 bound volumes of over 9,000 letters written by George W. Scranton, Joseph Hand Scranton, and William Walker Scranton, dating from 1850 to 1917. The Scranton Family collection is quite large; the full set has over 11,000 pages. Our goal for this Scanathon was to completely digitize the first two volumes of the collection: the George W. Scranton Papers (approximately 414 letters, 625 pages), which cover the time period June 1850 through June 1854.
The Historical Society also loaned us a box of loose correspondence from the Scranton Family, with letters to and from Joseph H. Scranton, Seldon T. Scranton, George W. Scranton, and William W. Scranton, dating from 1841 through 1874.
We knew we’d need a lot of help, and the History Department stepped up. Faculty member Dr. Adam Pratt came and brought students from his HIST140: Craft of the Historian course. The Royals Historical Society also volunteered in force. In total, more than 30 students came to the Library to work three-hour shifts. Staff members from the Lackawanna Historical Society and Scranton Public Library joined in, working side by side with our students.
Bound volumes are always difficult to scan. Luckily, we got some extra help from the State Library of Pennsylvania, which loaned us their brand new table top Scribe Station for the weekend. The Scribe Station is part of a new initiative to support the digitization of important cultural heritage materials in the state of Pennsylvania, and we were the first to sign up! We also used the Library’s flatbed scanners to digitize the loose correspondence.
The result? Success! Not only did we completely digitize both George W. Scranton volumes, we also made a serious dent in the loose letters. Over the course of the weekend, volunteers created 1,608 digitized images (over 20 GB).
Why digitize? The most important reason is access. Up until now, the George W. Scranton volumes have only been accessible to researchers visiting the Lackawanna Historical Society in person. Digitization and online publication will make the letters much more accessible (and full-text searchable!) to historians, students, genealogists, the citizens of Scranton, and any other interested members of the public. Digitization also helps to protect and preserve the papers, which are in rather fragile condition – most researchers will be able to use the digital versions, reducing the wear and tear and decreasing the risk of damage to the original physical volumes.
Description and Transcription
The Scanathon wasn’t just about scanning, though. In order for digitized images to be discoverable and useful, they need to be described. In between shifts on the scanners, our volunteers captured descriptive information (called metadata) about the letters and prepared a spreadsheet that we can use to prepare the digitized images for online publication. Lackawanna Historical Society volunteers had previously prepared transcriptions of the George W. Scranton volumes (thank you!!), which our volunteers copied into our metadata spreadsheets. We also got a start on transcribing the loose correspondence — our students really stepped up to the challenge of reading scrawling, 19th-century cursive.
The Scanathon may be over, but our work isn’t done quite yet. In the next few weeks, Scranton Public Library and University of Scranton Library faculty and staff will match up the digitized letters with the descriptions and transcriptions and publish them online in the Lackawanna Valley Digital Archives. (To get a sense of how they will look, take a look at this letter that we digitized a few years ago as part of a collaborative Civil War digital history project.)
Update: Full volumes (sans transcriptions) are live on Internet Archive!! (Volume 1 – Volume 2)
Early next year, the letters will also be discoverable in the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) via the brand new Pennsylvania Digital Collections Project service hub. The University of Scranton and the Scranton Public Library are both founding members and active participants in this statewide initiative, so we’re thrilled to be able to give this new digital collection the exposure it deserves.
This was our first Scanathon, and it was certainly a learning experience. Perhaps the most important lesson learned was how wonderful it is to have help and support from so many people. Our deepest thanks go out to: Weinberg Memorial Library faculty and staff (especially Sam Davis, Sheli McHugh, Mary Kovalcin, Sharon Finnerty, Kym Fetsko, Kevin Kocur, Ian O’Hara, and work study Kate Reilly), History Department faculty and students (especially Dr. Adam Pratt and RHS president Julia Frakes), Lackawanna Historical Society staff and volunteers (especially Sarah Piccini and the Martin Family), Scranton Public Library staff (especially Scott Thomas, Martina Soden, Sylvia Orner, and Elizabeth Davis), and the State Library of Pennsylvania (especially Alice Lubrecht and Bill Fee). We’ll scan with you any day!
The International Correspondence Schools of Scranton, Pennsylvania grew out of a question and answer column written by Thomas J. Foster, publisher of Colliery Engineer and Metal Miner. In 1885, Pennsylvania passed a Mine Safety Act, which required miners and inspectors to pass examinations on mine safety. Foster’s column helped mine workers, many being recent immigrants with limited English, to pass the exams. The column proved so successful that Foster created a correspondence course on coal mining. In 1890, Foster, who had relocated his publishing venture from Shenandoah to Scranton’s Coal Exchange Building, incorporated the “The Colliery Engineer Company,” creating the foundation for a formal school. In 1891, Foster and mining engineer Alexander Dick founded the “The Colliery Engineer School of Mines.” Until the International Textbook Company incorporated the school in late 1894, the names Colliery Engineer School of Mines, School of Mines, Correspondence Schools, and the International Correspondence School were used interchangeably. By early 1895, the school was officially known as the International Correspondence Schools of Scranton, Pennsylvania or ICS for short.
The first class enrolled 500 miners but within eight years, more than 190,000 students had enrolled in a variety of courses. Besides the initial classes related to mining, ICS expanded into a variety of technical fields as well as providing basic courses in English. By the first decade of the twentieth century, over 100,000 new students per year were enrolling in ICS courses; by 1910, a million cumulative enrollments had been achieved; and, by 1930, four million. By World War II, ICS’s reputation was such that it was given the War Department contract to develop the department’s training manuals. In 1916, ICS created The Woman’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences in what is now the Scranton Preparatory School building. ICS was located on Wyoming Ave until 1958 when they relocated to Oak Avenue.
ICS continued to thrive after the war but by the 1990s greater educational offerings had reduced the role of correspondence schools. ICS has changed names a number of times since 1996. The ICS location is currently operated by Penn Foster Career School, which is a regionally and nationally accredited post-secondary distance education school and considers ICS to be its predecessor.
In 2002, The University of Scranton Weinberg Library was given a collection of ICS materials by the company. These materials, primarily from the ICS marketing department, will be the focus of an exhibit celebrating the history of the company. On Tuesday, November 3 at 6:00 PM Professor William Conlogue of Marywood University, and author of Here and There: Reading Pennsylvania’s Working Landscapes and Working in the Garden: American Writers and the Industrialization of Agriculture, will talk about the history of ICS at a reception for the exhibit in the Heritage Room of Weinberg Memorial Library.
This exhibit will be on display in the Weinberg Library’s fifth floor Heritage Room through Friday, December 11, 2015. For more information, please contact Special Collections Librarian Michael Knies Michael.Knies@Scranton.edu (570) 941-6341.
Tomorrow morning at 9:15 am, the City of Scranton will kick off its year-long Sesquicentennial Anniversary Celebration. Scranton was incorporated as a city on April 23, 1866, so next spring (April 23, 2016) will be the city’s 150th birthday.
While the University of Scranton itself wasn’t around back at the very beginning (founded in 1888, we just celebrated our 125th anniversary in 2013-2014), we’re proud of the close ‘town and gown’ relationship we’ve had with the city of Scranton throughout our shared history.
Here at the Weinberg Memorial Library, we’re looking forward to joining in the fun throughout the anniversary year. Beginning in May, each month of the City celebration will highlight a decade (or two) in the city’s history, and here on our Library blog we’ll be highlighting how the University grew alongside the city during that time.