Victorian Reward of Merit Cards


courtesy Dennis Wendell


I'm now in younger days,

can tell what shall befall me,

prepare for ev'ry place,

my growing age shall call me.

Victorian Rewards of Merit

Rewards of merit, small tokens of congratulation
given to students for good behavior and scholastic accomplishments, have
been utilized by teachers for generations. The practice was most popular
during the nineteenth century when printing techniques evolved to make
this form of ephemera more readily available. A majority of the surviving
rewards of merit are printed, as opposed to hand drawn and painted examples
that involved significant artistic effort. The earliest rewards of merit
were almost always purely of a religious nature, depicting the benefits
of piety. Beginning in the early nineteenth century, the rewards of merit
gradually became more secular, touching lighter topics such as polite behavior,
patriotic awareness, and children's games and other activities.

Rewards of merit, in addition to being examples
of a nineteenth century classroom tool, reveal the progress of printing
in America as well as the priorities of educators and disciplinarians of
the time.

from the American
Antiquarian Society's Rewards
of Merit

click to enlarge

(click to enlarge)

1877 Reward of Merit awarded to Addie Van Patter

1901 Reward of Merit

Reverse side shows grades for Sadie Mills,

District No. 3 in Grant Township

Reward of Merit awarded to Gertie Beckwith

Reward of Merit presented to Fred Mitchell

1890 Reward of Merit

Report for Bennie Van Patter on reverse

(more Reward of Merit cards)