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9. THE EARLY HISTORY OF SCHOOL SAVINGS

BANKS IN THE UNITED STATES.

BY J. H. THIRY, OF LONG ISLAND CITY, N.Y.

(Read Sept. 7, 1888.)

At the general meeting of this Association for 1877, Mr. John P. Townsend, of New York, read a very interesting paper on Savings Banks. The last three pages of the article were devoted exclusively to School Savings Banks. After commending at length the many benefits accruing to the young in the different countries of Europe where the system of School Savings Banks has been introduced in the Public Schools, he concluded by saying: "The experiment is worth trying in our country. Why not put it at once into practice?” Mr. Townsend had also urged the adoption of the system, two years before this, in 1875, in his history of the Bowery Savings Bank. About the same date (1877, or a short time previous), Mr. S. T. Merrill, of Beloit, Wis., a renowned philanthropist, gathered together, by his own contributions to the press and his large correspondence with authorities at home and abroad, all possible information, with the view of introducing the European plan in our own educational institutions.

Notwithstanding the unceasing efforts of those two pioneers of the system of School Savings Banks in our country, very little was accomplished until 1885, when the writer, then a School Commissioner of Long Island City, N.Y., resolved, with the co-operation of the seven teachers of the Third Ward, to give a trial of the plan in the two schools (Primary and Grammar) of about 750 pupils. Having previously studied the workings of the system as carried out in France, Belgium, and England, we began operations on March 16, 1885. The idea was received so favorably by the press, the school authorities, and the public generally, that the trial proved a complete success. Of the 750 pupils of these two schools, from March, 1885, to July, 1888, 666 became depositors of $4,847-32, of which sum $2,030.49 was withdrawn, leaving a balance in July, 1888, of $2,816.83 to the credit of the various juvenile depositors.

From the inauguration of the system in the two above schools up toʻthe present time, 35 schools in five different States have adopted it, with the same encouraging results. Three of these schools had not reported in time for this paper; and, therefore, I am unable to present complete statistics of their operations. This circumstance compels me to give only an approximate figure, as the result of the system, drawn from the reports made to me on Jan. 1, 1888. Out of 35 schools, with a register of 13,912 pupils, 5,955 are depositors of a sum amounting to $33,033.81, of which $12,32 1.55 has been withdrawn, leaving $20,712.26 due depositors on July 1, 1888. Besides the 35 schools above referred to as enjoying the benefits of this so-called innovation, many institutions, such as the Young Men's Christian Association, clubs for boys in New York City, and Young Women's Christian Association of Baltimore, have appeared as offshoots of the first-named schools; and every one of them is doing well and furnishing striking evidence of the best possible results.

After the plan was accorded one year's trial, about twenty-five of our most advanced educational and secular newspapers recommended the general adoption of the system ; and I received so many applications from all sections of the country, asking for the rules and regulations connected with the plan, that I was at length obliged to publish a small manual giving the sketch of the advantages to the youth of our land growing out of the system. Five hundred copies were at that time distributed to applicants. Two years later, owing to the rapid extension of the good work, I again found it necessary to publish a new edition, with additions and remarks from notes taken during the working of the plan in the years 1887 and 1888. I expect to include in the work now in preparation —“The Early History of School Savings Banks in America”— many new hints, drawn from the experience derived both here and in Europe by friends and advocates of the system, with the majority of whom I am in constant correspondence, exchanging views and ideas, so as to perfect the plan as much as possible and adapt it to our American customs. In my future work, I shall give the names of those who have contributed the most to the onward march of School Banking in our country, and propose bringing its workings to a complete, uniform, and practical plan. Of the 35 schools which have adopted the system, 19 have deviated in some way from the general rules and regulations laid down ; namely, in the way of collecting the savings of the children, and in investing the same. This deviation was partially caused by the absence of regular and chartered Savings Banks in the localities where the School Savings Banks have been introduced. But it is to be hoped that, after another year or two of experience, the necessity of a uniform plan will be felt, and that many more States will charter regular Savings Banks.

ADVANTAGES OF THE SYSTEM.

As I have said before, this new educator in our schools is nothing more nor less than the exemplification of the principle of object teaching, which is so strongly advocated at the present time. Here we teach the children the benefit of saving their few pennies, and impart a practical application of a great and acknowledged good. To teach a science without illustrating its principles generally ends in failure. The philosophy of education should go hand in hand with its practice. Philosophy suggests plans and theories : practice should test and try them.

The multiplication of School Savings Banks in the United States will largely increase the sums deposited in the banks, because, in addition to the amount deposited by the children, the influence of their example will be, in many cases, felt by the parents, who will also begin to save. It has been said that twothirds of our States and Territories do not as yet enjoy the benefit derived from Savings Banks, and that out of the 60,000,000 inhabitants in our country only 23,000,000 enjoy the benefit of these institutions, which have contributed more for the prosperity of the people where they have been established than all the other benevolent institutions combined. Think of the amount that one-third of our population has saved, which, according to the recent statistics of Mr. John P. Townsend, is $1,202,295,034.63 by 3,405,988 depositors. How many houses have been built by means of this money! How many large business enterprises these savings represent! How many homes, to-day, enjoy peace and happiness due alone to these institutions! No better argument could be presented to the people in favor of Savings Banks than a list of the benefits which have accrued from these institutions since their inauguration in this country only seventy-two years ago. If $1,202,295,034.63 has been saved by 23,000,000 inhabitants, probably $1,934, 126,793.83 more could have been saved by the remaining 37,000,000. These figures are more eloquent than all the arguments that could be presented in favor of improving the condition of the working classes.

A French economist says, To regenerate and transform a nation, we must begin with our children.” The school population of children from six to fourteen years of age enrolled in the schools of our 48 States and Territories reaches the gigantic figure of 12,000,000 (see the last report of the Bureau of Education, Washington, 1887), of which number 5,955 are depositors in the School Savings Banks and have saved $33,033.81. The 12,000,000 pupils would have deposited to date $25,250,000, the greater part of which sum has probably been spent in an unprofitable way, and maybe, to some extent, to the injury of the health of those 12,000,000 “ might-have-been” depositors. Every one knows that one of the greatest essentials to success in the education of a child is to secure its willingness to attend school. It is claimed for this system that it adds to rather than detracts from the charm of school life. When a child becomes a depositor in the School Bank, a new interest is awakened, and a bond of union formed between the pupil, school, and teacher, and every addition made to the deposit strengthens and deepens the union.

The time devoted to the collection of the money, from 9 to 9.15 each Monday morning, is a scene of animation and often of goodnatured rivalry, which engenders in the children a spirit of emulation that will gradually expand and grow until it permeates their whole life, not only in the school-room, but will also be made manifest in their intercourse with the world, so that, instead of being machines, they will be recognized as having minds well trained and capable of exercising that almost divine prerogative, “” " thinking for themselves.” How should we expect children brought up amidst improvidence, waste, and extravagance

- all national faults - to develop, without practice, prudence, thrift, , and judicious spending? The bank-book of the average pupil is an interesting study. At first, the deposits of the scholars amounted weekly to only one or two cents; but the amount gradually increased. The spirit of excelling began to develop itself; and the pennies that had gone formerly for toys, sweets, etc., were carefully saved to be added to the nucleus already formed. This will naturally raise in the mind of the reader the question, “ Are you not teaching the children to become misers ?My answer to such argument is that every good thing is open to abuse; but should we therefore prohibit the child from praying to God for fear that he may become a bigot? Must we prevent the little girl from wishing to be loved for fear of her becoming a coquette ?

Many of our small depositors surprised their parents, during the Christmas holidays, by presenting them with some little token of love and regard that in many cases was the first offering the child had ever been able to make ; and others have utilized some of their savings of the summer in purchasing comfortable winter clothing for themselves, thus experiencing that sense of independence that always accompanies the first purchase with money saved. Others again have been enabled to do that which will be one of the sweetest and most hallowed recollections of their lives : they have been able, with their penny savings, to purchase coal and provisions for the family during winter, when work was slack and sickness visited the household. Who, in the face of such facts as these, dare affirm that the few minutes devoted to this business in the school is a waste of valuable time? Do not these illustrations carry conviction in every instance ? Does it not convey to every parent a forcible suggestion that in the time of their prosperity they should instil into the minds of their children the advantages that will accrue from the training, in early life, in practical economy?

Let us see what good there is in this new education. The surrounding aspect of the introduction of the plan into the 35 schools above mentioned has developed a great many good suggestions which have proved to be of incalculable value for the future wel. fare of our children and for society in general.

It is unnecessary now to dwell on the extent to which thriftlessness has become a curse to America. We have been lately reminded of it by the statement from our houses of correction, prisons, and other reformatories, that they are too small to accommodate the increasing number of tramps, paupers, and criminals who are recruited from our large cities and towns, the great majority of whom are made up of outcasts sent from abroad to our "hospitable” country. Many of our large cities are filled with miserable and shocking evidences of want, vice, and intemperance, resulting from improvidence; and the remedy for such a deplorable state of things, in this the nineteenth century, is a matter that demands the thoughtful attention of all classes of society. Many philanthropists are looking to education to lessen, if not to rid us of, this dark stain upon our national greatness. And one of the chief educational means to assist so good an end is to be found in the economical training furnished by School Banks. In saying this, I am not expressing my own unsupported conviction: I am supported by

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