A few years ago, actually long before I made the decision to close the brick and mortar shop of Jeepers, I had thought about creating a Victorian era, one-room schoolhouse in miniature. It was my original intention to create it as the prototype for a workshop at the shop. As is typical I began looking for inspiration and ideas that would help this idea come together. My research actually took me around the globe (figuratively via the Internet) looking for images and text describing what items might typically be found in a classroom of the late 19th Century.
From lunchpails to bottles of ink, from lighting to desks, I found a wide variety of items that could compose this little piece of history that varied only slightly from one continent to the next. But the biggest surprise I got was that they were rarely an idyllic little setting save Hollywood versions and some small towns. Many of these institutions of learning were tiny spaces with bad lighting and intemperate conditions the modern child (and teacher) would find deplorable. Some of these schoolhouses could fit less than a handful of students but were often filled to capacity with barely space to move let alone write on a slate or precious piece of paper. The rooms would be cold in the winter and hot in the summer even with windows thrown wide or stoves stoked to capacity. As lighting was transitioning from kerosene oil to electric, not all areas had that luxury. I cringed to think of the wall mounted or ceiling suspended oil lamps and the potential for fire and worse. As I looked at some of the old tintype images of dark and crowded spaces I think of how those children and teachers struggled to learn under less than ideal conditions. But rather than focus on the darker side of Victorian schoolhouses, I decided to look at the positive side. Many children were finally being given the opportunity to read and write. The Iron Age was providing much needed supplies like sturdy wood and metal desks, pencils, paper, electricity and books, the likes of which were something most children didn't know existed.
So I began to collect ideas and items to fill a generic one-room schoolhouse that I placed in a tiny town somewhere in middle America with just enough space to provide the local children a chance to learn their three R's: Reading, Writing and Arithmetic! I thought about roughing it up a bit to show long use, age, and the occasional mishap, but decided it would be a new schoolhouse opening it's doors for the first time in the late 1890's. I still consider carving a couple sets of initials (in a heart) or a name on a desk, maybe knocking over a bottle of ink across one of those shiny new desks, creating a water stain or two across the ceiling or down the wall, but then I think not, not this time. As much as I like a good old aged project, I decided I wanted something a little more bright and new instead of a rather dark and cramped space.
So from an apple to a switch and from an abacus to a world globe, a schoolhouse clock and the American flag are among some of the items typically found in a Victorian American classroom. Oh yes, they didn't have water fountains as we know them in the 20th and 21st Centuries, but our little school does have a couple wonderful water jugs even if the children must share a mug.
Enjoy this little bit of history if not a bit idealized in one-inch (1:12) scale miniature!
These wonderful student desks (in three different formats with either walnut or maple finishes) are now available in our shop. Just check out our Exclusives!