American Penmanship Terminology 101: Palmer Method, Spencerian, Business Penmanship – What do these terms mean?

I see various terms referring to different scripts or styles of penmanship get thrown around with little understanding about what those terms mean or where they came from. In this video, I do my best to untangle the web of terminology surrounding traditional American Penmanship.


The umbrella for all of these terms is “Traditional American Penmanship”. In other words, all of these terms refer to traditional, handwritten scripts that were popular in America in the 1800’s and early 1900’s.

The most popular brand of American penmanship in the mid to late 1800’s was “Spencerian”. In the 1880’s and 1890’s, this type of penmanship evolved in two directions: 1) Business Penmanship and 2) Ornamental Penmanship.

Business Penmanship was the practical penmanship of its time and had its own brand names like “Palmer Method”, “Champion Method”, “Bailey Method”, and many more.

Ornamental Penmanship was used primarily for artistic purposes. It was taught at penmanship colleges and through the popular penmanship periodicals of the time.

If you are specifically interested in learning The Palmer Method, check out The Palmer Method Intro Series.