Rewards of Merit

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These charming little cards were given to apt pupils by their teachers, for good conduct or for devotion to their studies. Many early rewards of merit are printed on paper, often hand-colored; later in the century, rewards were bright lithographs.

Early rewards often included text emphasizing obedience to parents and teachers, and the importance of study and hard work. Illustrations on the rewards were not just decorative, but symbolic: the skep with bees was an emblem of hard work and perseverance, since bees work hard to gather nectar for honey; some rewards used images of mythological figures to represent education.


http://www.merrycoz.org/merit/MERIT.xhtml

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In this busy reward, two cupids with symbols of the arts and sciences join the American eagle and two laughing baby Bacchuses, Minerva with her eagle, and a female figure—possibly Hebe, goddess of youth and early cup-bearer to the gods—pouring from a jug into a cup and perhaps representing learning being “poured” into the student.

Presented by I.J. Bosworth to Sylvia Tones; whoever wrote the names used the long s, thus: “Mifs”


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The flowery border includes a skep with bees and a shepherd boy reading to an attentive dog, all framing a stanza from a popular poem:

Here's a lesson all should heed—try, try, try again.

If at first you don't succeed—try, try, try again.

Let your courage well appear,

If you only persevere,

You will conquer—never fear—try try again.


Presented by F.C. White


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This appropriate image of a book nestled in flowers contains two bits of Biblical advice:

A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.
Honor thy mother and thy father in the days of thy youth.

Presented by F. C. White to Amelie Mysick


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A cupid lurks in a flowery wreath, emphasizing the image in the following poem:

How lovely, how charming the sight,

When children their teacher obey;

The angels look down with delight,

This beautiful scene to survey.


Presented by A. J. Putnam to Mary


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A boy and a girl enjoy a book together, surrounded by flowers and attended by two doves. Portions are printed in tan, and accents are hand colored.

Presented by John F. Rohr to Henry Rosenberger


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In purple, two goddesses flank a shield inscribed “Excelsior,” on which perches an eagle; a border printed in green encircles them. The edges of the card are scalloped. The green-printed text extolls 19th-century virtues:

Presented to Lizzie Becker as an honorable testimony of approbation for industry, punctuality and good conduct.

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Copyright 1999-2017, Pat Pflieger
To “Nineteenth-Century American Children & What They Read
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Some works for adults, 1800-1872
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