Rewards of Merit

More rewards

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.

These four rewards appear to be part of a set printed in the 1860s. They extoll not only good study habits, but Peter Parley, still beloved 30-plus years after his first appearance. None of the four rewards was presented to a child. They're printed on paper, instead of on card stock.

The Indian
[A Native-American sits on a rock, overlooking a valley]

The Indian.

I once had a home in my wigwam dear,

And my hunting ground hard by,

But now I've nought but a heart of fear,

For I know the white man's tread is nigh.

Classic figure
[A classically dressed woman sits on clouds, with quill and book]

Let the record of your days be good. Let love, hope, industry, and the good of mankind find a place in the works of each day. If in the school room, let your school mates and teacher feel that your presence is a help—that they would be deprived of a blessing were you to leave them. Let the same good influence prevail in the home circle, and wherever you go. By so doing perpetual sunshine will glow upon your path.

Peter Parley
[Peter Parley sits, telling stories to children]

Peter Parley.

Here is the picture of an old man named Peter Parley. He was a great favorite with the little folks, as he would always tell them a great many stories. He loved the good children and they loved him. He did a great deal of good, by telling stories to children.

The Student
[A boy sits at a desk, papers before him and quill pen in his mouth

The Student.

Much is gained by a proper occupation of time, and much is lost for a want of it. The real student counts every moment valuable for something and apportions his work in such a way as to have work for every time, and time for every work.

Useful knowledge is not obtained without great labor.

back of rewards
[The back of each reward has this text:]

Reward of Merit.
To [blank]
From [blank] Teacher
[blank] 186

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