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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

School Yearbooks

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, July 29, 2018

The collection of school yearbooks for our county continues to grow in our Local History and Genealogy collection housed at the Schiappa Branch Library.


Spring housecleaning always seems to time-of-year when new donations of yearbooks make their appearance as Estates are sorted out, drawers are cleared, and attics and basement cleaning is ongoing.


Many yearbooks have been carefully preserved with the memories of days-gone-by cherished by all --- others are in lost boxes of things.  The award goes to the yearbooks located in the lawn mower storage building with the rakes and shovels.


Regardless, they all appear on my desk for some tender-loving-care before being cataloged and processed.


The earliest yearbooks for our area relate to Wells High School in Steubenville, around the turn of the 20th Century.


Yearbooks became more common in the 1920s as the new state law called the Bing Act of 1921 required that all children between the ages of 6-18 must attend school with exceptions for those working on farms.


The bigger change was the requirement that all school districts had to establish high school education for all students by 1935, or contract with typically a larger city having an academy or high school.


And so, with high schools came the yearbooks to document the students attending those schools, as well as the history of those schools and their communities, then covering townships.


I confess to reading a lot of donated yearbooks when handed to me for mending and conservation, and many are filled with fascinating historical information that is rich for our library’s collection.


The most recent donation of yearbooks included Mingo, Warren Consolidated, and Bergholz.


The Warren Consolidated School was established in 1929 and the yearbook says it was a merger of Warrenton, Warren Township, and Tiltonsville.


Like all the yearbooks, it contains photos of all of the high school students, featuring the seniors for that year, teachers and administrators, school activities, and local business sponsorships which are often helpful in locating business histories.


The 1939 edition has a listing of alumni back to 1927, which is helpful in locating ancestors in that area and is often included in earlier yearbooks.


Class poems, class history, sports, are also found in nearly every old yearbook.


The Bergholz High School yearbooks again contain school district history back to 1911, with addresses for alumni as they existed in 1938.


The three yearbooks that were donated also demonstrated three different printing companies that had developed to produce yearbooks of that era, and one had the signatures of every senior pictured in the yearbook.


Everyone’s signature in cursive style showed the teaching of that time period, something gone today.


The school bands had appeared in the smaller rural schools, as well as sports that didn’t exist before the consolidation of all of the schools of the township.


Several years ago I edited a volume of school newsletters of my father’s school district in southern Ohio which took place of a school yearbook.  His school could finally have a basketball team for the first time.


His district had the ultimate in consolidation --- the 4 one-room schoolhouses were hitched to teams of horses and moved to the backyard of the new central high school for the one-campus township school.


The eight Mingo yearbooks extended from 1948 into the 1990s and nearly every yearbook had local town history and photographs.


Many times librarians refer to school yearbooks for local history of the community where the high school was located.


So, if your kids have moved away, or grandma is gone and you find someone’s yearbook, remember the library might be able to use it --- and share it with everyone.