In a forgotten corner of The Washington D.C. Public Library, a photo archivist has discovered what may be a momentous piece of history.
It’s a list of signatures from public figures of the early 1800’s, including President Thomas Jefferson, offering their own money for a seemingly humble proposal: to build a simple pair of elementary schools. But Jefferson’s ultimate goal, we learn, is far loftier. With this venture, he is quietly floating his plan to launch the nation’s first public school system.
Eventually he would go broke through such acts of charity, but Jefferson’s ideals of public education would transform the nation. Could it all have begun with a modest $200 pledge?
History Detectives investigates the beginnings of public education in the United States.
- Also in Expansion: 1801-1861 1856 Mormon Tale Is this tattered book a true account of female slavery in the old West?
- Related Investigation Fillmore Pardon Did President Fillmore pardon a Native American convicted of murder?
- Related Investigation Preston Brook's Riding Crop Was this riding crop a gift from Jefferson Davis as a reward for attacking a political opponent?
- Also in Expansion: 1801-1861 Koranic School Book Why does this 200 year old schoolbook contain two translated passages from the Koran?
- Also with Wes Cowan U.S.S Olympia Glass Could this farmhouse door have sailed into battle in one of the country's greatest naval victories?
- Also with Wes Cowan Civil War Sabotage? The steamship Sultana exploded one night in 1865, killing more than 1,800 people. Was the disaster a result of Civil War sabotage?
This is a place for opinions, comments, questions and discussion; a place where viewers of History Detectives can express their points of view and connect with others who value history. We ask that posters be polite and respectful of all opinions. History Detectives reserves the right to delete comments that don’t conform to this conduct. We will not respond to every post, but will do our best to answer specific questions, or address an error.