« PreviousContinue »
work, the re-organization and successful management of the Boston schools. We saw his untiring industry, his persistent purpose, his calm patience under opposition and provocation, and when the triumph came, we saw how meekly and gracefully he bore his honors.
One of the strong points in Mr. Philbrick's character was the rare judgment he showed in steering between extreme educational conservatives on the one side, and violent radicals on the other. He had a profound distrust of all educational hobbies. Always ready to examine what was new and promised to be valuable, he pursued the even tenor of his way, refusing to be turned aside from his purpose by any patent devices or short cuts to educational success.
Another of his peculiar traits, as I knew him, was his desire to find out the best side of every teacher's character. Too many of us, I fear, who have the supervision of teachers, seem to regard criticism as the principal function of our office. We seem to think if we find the bad, the good will take care of itself. This was not Mr. Philbrick's method. He first carefully sought and commended all that was excellent in a teacher's work, and then, in the kindest manner, pointed out what needed correction. This was one thing that gave him so strong a hold on the love and respect of the teachers of Boston. As the years go by, I believe the work of Mr. Philbrick in all departments, as teacher, superintendent, and writer, will be more and more appreciated, and the conviction will be strengthened that this work will bear the test of near approach and strict examination.
But we are told that Mr. Philbrick was not a great man. No, as the term is generally understood, perhaps not. What is a great man? I once heard Mr. Everett say, a great man is one who sets his mark on the institutions of his age, and leaves the world better for his having lived. John Dudley Philbrick set his mark on the educational institutions of Boston, and left them better than he found them.
It has been said within the last few weeks that Mr. Philbrick's death was untimely. So it was when we remember what was expected of him. When he left us here in Boston, we had a right to look for ten or fifteen years more of active educational work from him. But when we look at what he did, his death was not untimely. He accomplished more in that fifty years than others would have accomplished in a century. So far as the true purposes of living and doing for his fellowmen are concerned, the span of a patriarch's life was but a fraction compared with that threescore years and nearly ten, so nobly and so grandly filled. As we said a few months ago of one of our departed members, we look with just pride and satisfaction on the record of a full and rounded life, devoted, for half a century, to the noble cause that lay nearest his heart.
ADDRESS OF GRANVILLE B. PUTNAM.
Mr. President and Gentlemen :
As I have known our friend, Mr. Philbrick, longer, and, in some respects, more intimately than any other one present, I desire to say a few words upon this occasion. As you know, he was born in Deerfield, N. H., and this home of his childhood was ever dear to him. Until the time of his death he retained the old homestead in his possession, and it was his delight to revisit it. Every rock and tree was a familiar friend. To trim these trees seemed almost a passion, and he took great pride in their growth and symmetrical development under his pruning hand. He often spoke in admiration of the scenery, which was so rugged and picturesque, and predicted that the time would come when Deerfield would be a favorite place of summer resort.
His father was a man of strong character, whom he much resembled. As he lay upon his death-bed, a likeness of his father was placed in my hand, and as I looked from one to the other, I was struck with the marked resemblance.
He spent his time much as country boys do, attending school during short terms, making maple sugar, breaking steers, etc. He was a young man of courage and muscle, and I have often heard him tell the story of the reception he gave the sophomores who visited his room early in his freshman year. Instead of complying with their demands, he seized a chair and with a tiger-like strength and agility drove them not only from the room but down the stairs. He was soon summoned to the study of the President. He went with a good deal of trepidation, told his story, and waited for his sentence. The President slowly said, “ Freshman Philbrick, you did just right, just right. You can go, sir.”
My personal knowledge of Mr. Philbrick dates back to the year 1839, I think, when he was a student in Dartmouth College. Having had a little experience in teaching, he resolved to secure a winter school in Massachusetts, and fixed upon $20 per month as his price. He started out on foot, traveling from town to town, seeking a situation in the town of Danvers, until he reached a schoolhouse painted white, with green blinds. This structure seemed to him palatial, and he decided that if he could secure a position there he would teach for $19 per month.
My father was Prudential Committeeman that year, and young Philbrick sought him out and presented his application. He was taken out upon a bridge leading from the shoe factory to the storehouse for a private consultation. The bridge was in plain view from a kitchen window, where were grouped the young ladies of the family, who indulged in remarks at the expense of his personal appearance. Foremost among these was my aunt, who afterwards became his devoted wife. His was the first winter school which I attended. i In the spring of 1849 I came to Boston, and was again his pupil, having entered the first class in the Quincy School. This was soon after its establishment upon the single-headed plan. Mr. Philbrick was its first master, and fully believing in this plan of organization, he entered with all the energy of his nature upon the task of making it a success. He was rewarded by being permitted to see this plan, together with that of having a single room for each teacher and a single desk for each pupil, adopted in every portion of the land.
This was the first school to be furnished with a large assembly hall. In this he was accustomed to have public exercises. These were very fully attended, and aided in increasing the fame of the school. His discipline was firm, and upon frequent occasions he vigorously applied the rod, as I can testify from personal experience. I should, however, consider his government mild for those days.
Mr. Philbrick was a man of scholastic tastes, and a hard student. Mr. Wm. H. Leonard, for many years his next-door neighbor, once told me that when awake he could always tell the midnight hour by hearing him splitting his wood for the morning fire ; for this he always did when his evening work in the study was ended. Mr. Philbrick possessed a great store of educational facts, and had them at his command, so that he was, in my opinion, better equipped for writing the history of Education in America than any other man. This would have been for him a noble task, but if ever written it must be by another hand.
I must not occupy your time longer, but I would bear witness to his nobleness of character and usefulness to men. His manner was so simple and unassuming that some said he was not a great man; but if the standard which Brother Blackinton has suggested is the true one, — namely, that he is great who leaves his mark upon his age, surely John Dudley Philbrick was great man.