The Resource Free School of Alexandria Board of Guardians Records

Free School of Alexandria Board of Guardians Records

Free School of Alexandria Board of Guardians Records, 1815; 1829-1834
Free School of Alexandria Board of Guardians Records
Inclusive dates
1815; 1829-1834
  • Free School of Alexandria Board of Guardians Records, 1815; 1829-1834. The collection contains administrative records as follows: drafts and copies of legislation and petitions pertaining to financial support and governance of the school, 1829-1832; board meeting minutes, 1831-1833; correspondence, 1830-1832, much of which pertains to questions and reports about the Lancasterian, or monitorial method of educating poor children; reports, 1829-1834, and financial records, 1829-1831. The collection also contains a printed report of the Trustees of the Free School Society of New York, 1815; and a resolution, unsigned and undated, urging civic and Christian support of the Sabbath School movement
  • The draft Act of the Alexandria Common Council to establish a Board of Guardians for the Lancasterian, or Free School of Alexandria, 1829, contains information about the administrative history of the school and its financial support with annual interest from an endowment established by George Washington to educate orphan children and/or children of the poor. It also contains information about an agreement between the trustees of the Alexandria Academy and the Committee of the Alexandria Common Council, made 1812 April 11, to convey the ground and building of the Lancasterian school to the corporation of Alexandria
  • The draft petition and copy of a petition to Congress is a plea for financial support for the school. Petitioners implore Congress to support the school in order to alleviate poverty and safeguard public morals in the nation's capitol. Petitioners complain about Congress' neglect of Alexandria since it was absorbed by the District of Columbia thirty years earlier
  • The minutes document the Board of Guardian's oversight of the daily operations of the school
  • Correspondence is comprised mostly of letters between the Board of Guardians and Samuel Plummer, who was hired by the Board to teach at the school. In 1830, the Board sent Plummer to Philadelphia with a list of written queries to investigate the operations of the "monitorial system of education," particularly as applied to the operation of schools for the education of the poor. The letters contain the Board's instructions to Plummer, a copy of the questions they want him to investigate, and three letters from Plummer describing his findings. In one letter, Plummer lists the books used in the schools he visited in Philadelphia. Also included are letters, 1832, between Elias Harrison and Samuel Plummer concerning the Board's decision to change the method of compensation for the teacher due to a decline in the number of students attending the school
  • The collection also contains a letter from a congressman, 1830, February 22, concerning his presentation of the Board's petition to Congress; and a letter, 1830 July 18, from William H. Foote to the Reverend Elias Harrison, concerning a request for funds for the school from an endowment established by Elizabeth Foote Washington to support the education of girls
  • Samuel Plummer's quarterly reports to the Board of Guardians, 1830-1833, contain average number of daily attendants, divided by city ward and gender, and general remarks, which discuss the challenges of getting children to attend on a regular basis, discipline, and progress of students. Some reports list furniture and books belonging to the school
  • Reports to Alexandria Common Council, 1830-1831, contain reports on the Board's investigation of systems of free education used in Baltimore, New York, and Philadelphia, as well as annual reports summarizing the quarterly reports from Samuel Plummer on the progress of the Alexandria Free School. The report dated 1831 February 25 includes a reference to the need to increase the teacher's salary. Also included is a report on damage to the school building from a storm in January 1830
  • Reports of Sunday School enrollments, 1829-1834, circa, list the number of scholars, boys and girls, enrolled in Sunday Schools or Sabbath Schools in Alexandria, 1829-1834. The collection contains reports from First Presbyterian Church, 1830 and undated; the Baptist Church of Alexandria, undated; the Methodist Episcopal Church, undated; the Sunday School at Backlick, 1833; Second Presbyterian Church, 1834 April 7; Christ Church Sabbath School, 1834 and undated; and the Methodist Sunday School, 1830. The collection also contains a report from the Sunday School Union, 1829 April 13, which estimates a total of 885 children enrolled in Alexandria
  • Financial records, 1829-1833, contain a treasurer's report, 1831; and records of accounts with the American Sunday School Union, 1829-1833
  • The Trustees of the Free School Society of New York Tenth Annual Report, 1815, documents the work of the society in educating poor children in New York City using the Lancasterian system
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Biographical or historical data
  • The Lancasterian, or Free School of Alexandria was established in 1812, as a branch of the Alexandria Academy. The Alexandria Academy was built with funds donated by George Washington and chartered in1786. The Free School was intended to educate younger students from the Academy. In 1829, the trustees of the Alexandria Academy conveyed to the Alexandria Common Council the lot and building of the school, along with the annual interest from four thousand dollars of stock of the Bank of Alexandria donated by General Washington for the purpose of educating "such orphan children or the children of such other poor & indigent persons as are unable to accomplish it with their own means." The Council established a Board of Guardians to govern the school, which admitted boys and girls. After 1835, the Free School was governed by a commission appointed by the Alexandria Common Council. Additional funds were allocated to the school by Elizabeth Foote Washington, widow of Lund Washington. Lund Washington was a distant cousin of George Washington.
  • The Lancasterian school movement began in England with the work of Joseph Lancaster, a Quaker school teacher who began teaching in 1794. In 1808, the Royal Lancasterian Institution was founded in England, and Lancasterian schools were established throughout England to educate children whose families could not afford to pay for their education. Students were taught with a simple but effective method that focused on teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic, and strict discipline. To address a shortage of teachers, older students were expected to help teach younger students. The first Lancasterian schools in the United States were established in Georgetown and Alexandria.
  • Alexandria, in Fairfax and Arlington Counties, was named for John Alexander, an early owner of the tract on which the town was located. Alexandria was established in 1749. It was incorporated as a town in 1779 and as a city in 1852.
  • Arlington County was originally named Alexandria County. It was formed from a portion of Fairfax County that Virginia in 1789 ceded to the federal government for use as the site of a new national capital. In 1801 the area officially became part of the District of Columbia, although Congress named it Alexandria County. By an act of 9 July 1846, Congress returned the county to Virginia, and the General Assembly extended the commonwealth's jurisdiction over the region effective 20 March 1847. By an act of assembly passed 16 March 1920, the county name was changed to Arlington, the name of the Custis family mansion (the home of Robert E. Lee), which is located in the county.
Cataloging source
Free School of Alexandria Board of Guardians Records
These items came to the Library of Virginia in a transfer of court papers from Arlington County
  • The Library of Virginia
Governing access note
There are no restrictions
Immediate source of acquisition
Arlington County (Va.) Circuit Court
Terms governing use
There are no restrictions.
Type of unit
cu. ft. (1 box)



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Library Locations

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      37.5415632 -77.4360805
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