Sample writing from The Palmer Method of Business Writing

The Palmer Method of penmanship instruction was developed and promoted by Austin Palmer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was intended to simplify the earlier "Spencerian method", which had been the main handwriting learning method since the 1840s.[1] The Palmer Method soon became the most popular handwriting system in the United States.[2]

Under the method, students were taught to adopt a uniform system of cursive writing with rhythmic motions.


Alphabet and numerals from The Palmer Method of Business Writing

The method developed around 1888 and was introduced in the book Palmer's Guide to Business Writing (1894).[3] Palmer's method involved "muscle motion" in which the more proximal muscles of the arm were used for movement, rather than allowing the fingers to move in writing. In spite of opposition from the major publishers, this textbook enjoyed great success: in 1912, one million copies were sold throughout the United States. The method won awards, including the Gold Medal at the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, in 1915, and the Gold Medal at the Sesquicentennial Exposition in Philadelphia, in 1926.[4]

Proponents of the Palmer Method emphasized its plainness and speed, that it was much faster than the laborious Spencerian Method, and that it allowed the writer to compete effectively with the typewriter.[5] To educators, the method's advocates emphasized regimentation, and that the method would thus be useful in schools to increase discipline and character, and could even reform delinquents.[6]

The Palmer Method began to fall out of popularity in the 1950s and was eventually supplanted by the Zaner-Bloser Method, which sought to teach children print writing (also called "manuscript printing") before teaching them cursive, in order to provide them with a means of written expression as soon as possible, and thus develop writing skills.[7] The D'Nealian Method, introduced in 1978, sought to address problems raised by the Zaner-Bloser Method, returning to a more cursive style of print writing. The Palmer company stopped publishing in the 1980s.[8]


In radar engineering, a Palmer Scan is a scanning technique that produces a scanning beam by moving the main antenna and its feed in a circular motion. The name was derived from the looping circles practiced by students of the Palmer Method.[9]


  1. ^ Tyler, Robin DVC (2010-04-12), Palmer Method of Penmanship, NYU Dead Media Archive, retrieved 12 April 2010.
  2. ^ Apps-Bodilly, Susan (2013). One room schools : stories from the days of 1 room, 1 teacher, 8 grades. Wisconsin Historical Society. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-87020616-0. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  3. ^ Palmer, A. N. (1894) Palmer's Guide to Business Writing. Cedar Rapids, IA, Western Penmanship Publishing Co. [Web.] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, .
  4. ^ Vitolo, Joseph M. "AN Palmer (1860–1927)". The Penmen Archives. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  5. ^ Trubek, Anne (2009-12-17), Handwriting Is History, Pacific Standard, archived from the original on 2010-02-04, retrieved 17 December 2009.
  6. ^ Smith, Tracy (23 January 2011), "Is penmanship being written off?", CBS News, retrieved 10 Nov 2015.
  7. ^ Alston, Jean; Taylor, Jane (1987), Handwriting: Theory, Research and Practice, New York: Nichols Publishing, ISBN 9780709951070.
  8. ^ Makala, Jeffrey. "Born to Please, Art of Handwriting Instruction, Spencerian and Palmer methods". University Libraries' Rare Books and Special Collections. University of South Carolina. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  9. ^ Vakin, SA (2001). Fundamentals of Electronic Warfare (Artech House Radar Library). Artech Print on Demand. ISBN 978-1580530521.


Further reading

See also