Rumford Historical Society curator Dave Gawtry, left, stands with speaker Charles Plummer of Auburn and society President Jane Peterson holding a blackboard invented by Samuel Read Hall Jr. when he taught at the East Rumford School in the early 1800s. Rumford Falls Times photo by Bruce Farrin

RUMFORD — Samuel Read Hall Jr., who is credited with inventing the blackboard and the blackboard eraser while teaching at the East Rumford School in the early 1800s, went on to help organize what has become the oldest educational association in the United States.

The life of the educational pioneer was the topic of the Rumford Historical Society meeting April 17 at Rumford Falls Auditorium, where one of Hall’s blackboards was displayed.

Charles Plummer, an instructor at the Senior College of the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College in Lewiston, shared Hall’s many contributions toward improving public education.

Hall was born in 1795 in Croydon, New Hampshire, a small town about 50 miles northwest of Concord. The son of a clergyman, he was home-schooled and never attended college. In 1814, he accepted a teaching job in East Rumford, where he taught grammar, penmanship and how to write compositions.

Plummer said Hall reportedly invented the blackboard in 1816, and the blackboard eraser, to help teach arithmetic. Soon after, the blackboard was commonly used throughout the country.

Later, Hall moved to New Hampshire, where he studied to become a minister and received his license to preach. However, he wasn’t done with advancing education.

In 1823, he established Concord Academy in Concord, Vermont, the first training school for teachers to be recognized in the country. In 1830, he helped organize the American Institute of Instruction, now the oldest educational association in the United States.

His other pursuits included leading the newly formed English Academy & Teachers Seminary, part of Phillips Academy at Andover, Massachusetts. He also published training manuals and school textbooks, and played a leading role in the school reform movement.

Historical Society President Jane Peterson said the East Rumford School on Route 2 was torn down when the town highway garage was built in the early 1960s. The school’s rock foundation can still be found beside the road.

One of Hall’s blackboards was given to the Rumford Historical Society by Isabel Wyman Shea. Shea and her sister, Bessie Sweetser, received it from Virgil Abbott, their uncle, in about 1907.

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