Josiah Holbrook


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 What he did...

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Who was Josiah Holbrook?

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Josiah Holbrook is connected with the earlier development of the Lyceum and with the efforts to improve our system of popular education in America. Holbrook was the son of Colonel Daniel Holbrook, of Derby, Connecticut where he was born on June 17, 1788. Holbrook "received the ordinary common school education of the day, fitted for college under Rev. Amasa Porter, of Derby, and entered at Yale College in 1806, graduating in 1810." Three years afterward, he married Lucy Swift who later died in 1819, leaving Holbrook with two sons, Alfred and Dwight. "On the death of his father and mother, at about this time, the care of the farm devolved upon Mr. Holbrook, and it was during the period occupied in this vocation that the ideas which were the central ones of his subsequent labors first occurred in his mind."

Acting on these views, he opened, about this time, on his own farm in Derby " of the first schools in America which sought to teach a popularized form of natural science, and to combine manual labor with education. Boys in this school were allowed to pay a portion of their expenses by laboring on the farm" (Memoir of Josiah Holbrook, 230).

"In May 1854, he made a journey to Lynchburg, Va., on business connected with his enterprise; and, having walked out alone one morning, was evidently collecting minerals, as he had busily engaged in doing for some weeks, from the face of a precipitous cliff, overhanging a deep creek, and lost his footing, fell into the waster, and was drowned. He was not missed for a day or two, being supposed to be visiting in the vicinity; but, on searching for him, his body was found, on the 24th of May, floating in the water" (Memoir of Josiah Holbrook, 238).



What did Josiah Holbrook do?

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In 1891, Holbrook opened an industrial school on his father's farm. At this school Holbrook attempted manual training and farm work with instruction drawn from books. Although, this industrial school did not work out, by 1826, Holbrook was an itinerant lecturer on scientific subjects. Holbrook then began a new project, and in an article done by the American Journal of Education, he described it as an `Association of Adults for Mutual Education.' "The scheme, which came to be known as the American Lyceum, had a triple aim: to afford adults the opportunity for mutual improvement through study and association; to stimulate an interest in the schools and contribute to the training of teachers in service; and to disseminate knowledge by the establishment of museums and libraries (Dictionary of American Biography).

In November of 1826, Holbrook was in Millbury, in Worcester County, Massachusetts "where he delivered a course of lectures on subjects in natural science, at the close of which he succeeded in inducing thirty or forty of his hearers, farmers and mechanics of the place, to organize themselves into a society for mutual improvement, which at his request was called 'Millbury Lyceum No. 1., Branch of the American Lyceum.'

The formation of the Lyceum at Millbury was closely followed by that of several others in towns in that vicinity, and these were soon combined, in pursuance of Mr. Holbrook's general plan of a Lyceum, into the "Worcester County Lyceum." The Lyceum of Windham County, Connecticut., and its constituent Town Lyceums, were also shortly afterward organized; Mr. Holbrook's efforts in their case being energetically aided by Rev. Samuel J. May, then of Brooklyn, in that county" (Memoir of Josiah Holbrook, 232).

Articles Written by Josiah Holbrook

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Click here for Holbrook's essay that describes the objectives and rules of the Lyceum.

Click here for an article that Holbrook wrote to a newspaper regarding education of farmers.



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