This intriguing On His Majesty’s Service cover has a blue-green ‘Bantam’ ½d and a pair of OS perfined pink ‘ONE PENNY’ stamps of Victoria canceled with a duplex CANTERBURY/ MY 5/ 12/ VICTORIA with the barred numeral ‘722′. The printed address at lower left identifies that it originated from the Education Department, Melbourne, 1. It was addressed to The Secretary, Simplified Spelling Board, No. 1. Madison Avenue, New York, U.S. America. The reverse had no postal markings (Figure 1).
This is a history about spelling reform efforts in the U.S. and Britain since the mid-1870s. Some of this information comes from the research of Kenneth Ives, who has published it in a book called “Written Dialects”; some passages, noted as such, are taken intact from his work. In 1876, the American Philological Association adopted 11 new spellings, and began promoting their use: “ar catalog definit gard giv hav infinit liv tho thru wisht” Then, as Ken Ives notes, Also in 1876, an `International Convention for the Amendment of English Orthography’ was held in Philadelphia, during the Centennial Exposition. This developed into the Spelling Reform Association.
In 1879, the British Spelling Reform Association was founded. In 1886, the American Philological Association (which had earlier proposed 11 new spellings) came out with a list of 3500 spellings. In 1898, the (American) National Education Association began promoting a list of 12 spellings. They were: ” tho altho thru thruout thoro thoroly thorofare program prolog catalog pedagog decalog”.
The Simplified Spelling Board was founded in the U.S. in 1906, and had a list of 300-plus spellings. One of the founding members was Andrew Carnegie, who donated more than $250,000 over the next several years. The Simplified Spelling Society was founded in the U.K. in 1908, as a “sister” organization.
U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt also promoted simpler spellings. Initially, he ordered the Government Printing Office to use the Simplified Spelling Board’s 300 or so proposed spellings. This order was issued on August 27, 1906 (while the U.S. Congress was in recess). There was resistance from the Government Printing Office and others who were to carry it out, and when Congress readjourned that fall, they set to revoke Roosevelt’s order. From Ken Ives’ documentation: Congress … voted, 142 to 24, that “no money appropriated in this act shall be used (for) printing documents … unless same shall conform to the orthography … in … generally accepted dictionaries.”
Thus, it ended up that simplified spellings were used only in written items coming from the White House itself, and at that, only 12 were used. The National Education Association continued promoting their list until 1921. The Simplified Spelling Board had a fair amount of activity until about 1920, and this had been aided by the donations from Andrew Carnegie. However, Carnegie did not provide any money in his will for the Spelling Board.
Continuing from Ken Ives’ research: With the end of Carnegie funds in 1920, the Simplified Spelling Board became inactive, and the Spelling Reform Association was reactivated, by many of the same people. It aimed at a more thorogoing reform. In 1930, the SRA published its phonemic alphabet.
A few continued to carry the torch for the Simplified Spelling Board, in name at least. The remaining Simplified Spelling Board and the Spelling Reform Association were merged in 1946, and now there is a group with a different name and an additional aim. An organization today called the American Literacy Council, a group as concerned with the teaching of reading and writing as it is with spelling reform, essentially is the outgrowth of the Spelling Reform Association and the Simplified Spelling Board.
The New York Times on July 6, 1906, page 7 refers to Australia and New Zealznd taking up the matter of reform of spelling. In the full article the paper mentions Professor Tucker who is the most eminent philologist in Australia. He had accepted an invitation to be on the Board for Simplified Spelling in New York. The header for the article is seen in Figure 2.
Professor Tucker was born in Burnham, England in 1859 and was appointed Professor of Classical Philology at the University of Melbourne from 1885 until he retired in 1919. He died in 1946 at Devon, England and his eminent career in Australia is written up in The Australian Dictionary of Biography, from which his photo is shown as Figure 3.