We don’t sign – or write – as much as we used to. We use our phones, our computers and any number of specialty devices.
But January 23 – in case you hadn’t written it down – is the 41st anniversary of National Handwriting Day.
Established in 1977, on the birthday of America’s most notable scribe, John Hancock, National Handwriting Day designates a day each year to acknowledge the history and importance of penmanship. Hancock, as you may recall from history class or the great film, 1776, boldly signed the Declaration of Independence first, writing his name in large letters, then declared, “There, I think King George should be able to read this.”
This National Handwriting Day will get a little special recognition as there has been a congressional resolution designating the day as such. The Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association (WIMA), (yes there is one) was behind this, no doubt writing letters to bring it into being.
The resolution emphasizes the educational benefits of handwriting for children, as well as the cognitive development and motor skills benefits, according to a news release from Dixon Ticonderoga Co., a supporter of handwriting. Dixon Ticonderoga manufactures and markets a wide range of school supplies, writing instruments, art materials and office supplies under the Ticonderoga, Prang, Dixon, Oriole, DAS, Maimeri and LYRA brands.
When I was a kid, getting grades in penmanship and handwriting caused great tension. I was left-handed, for one thing, and the world of desks and notebooks was not made of for us, — these tools were made for the majority-rules right-handers. Scissors were, too, as were irons, etc. Thankfully, I had a second grade teacher at South Fort Worth Elementary, Mrs. Kirby, who was left-handed and she was understanding and encouraging. She lived back in the day when people tried to “change” you to be right-handed and she was near homicidal toward anyone who suggested such a thing.
Even so, my handwriting was never A-level. But as a result, I took typing in high school and got pretty good at it. That paid off like a bandit when computers came along. While other reporters were hunting and pecking, I was passing them in word count on my Tandy Corp. TRS-80. Better to be lucky than great at penmanship.
I also learned that being left-handed in sports could be an advantage, particularly in tennis, racquetball, etc.
So today, we still “sign our John Hancock,” but nowhere near as much as we once did. Somehow in the West, people used to say, “sign your John Henry,” but according to any account I could find, that was just a shorter version of “John Hancock,” so the guy not only helped found our country, he became part of our folklore. I wonder if when we signed our treaty with Great Britain ending the Revolution, someone asked the English representative to sign his “John Hancock.” That would have showed ‘em.
But handwriting could be coming back. For Christmas I received some “paper” that you write on and then download the writing to your computer. And of course, the new tablet computers recognize handwriting. That’s right. Penmanship is joining the digital age.
Robert Francis is editor of the Fort Worth Business Press.