Allen's Improved Educational Tables

Allen's Improved Educational Tables

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Usage conditions apply
This teaching device was designed for students to move blocks with letters on tracks to assemble words or even sentences in the middle four horizontal center tracks. This wood letter board is an example of the earliest form of spelling or educational board. There is a original identification tag on the left side and a paper label on the back discussing the board's use and success. This board is the larger of the two Allen Educational Table's in the collection.
Edwin Allen (1811-1891), a cabinetmaker’s son, invented and manufactured the Allen Educational Table or Educational Board in 1849. He was interested in mechanics, clock making, and producing more standard printing type using modern machinery. In 1836, he established a workshop in Windham, Connecticut and developed a pantographic router method for cutting type. Allen patented and promoted these boards in trade journals as to be “used in schools of different grades and of many mothers at home.” The original label on the back of one of our boards contains a statement about their value in teaching the alphabet and spelling in Primary Schools with “a bright, gentle, affectionate and patient female teacher” clearly indicating his teacher ideal. Henry Barnard, who at that time was Superintendent Commissioner of the Schools of Connecticut, sent Allen a testimonial letter May 24, 1849, recommending their use in Primary and District Schools. There were advertisements for both a large size board used on a stand or hung in the classroom and for 5 handheld sizes with a variety of extra combinations of letters and numbers. A price list can be seen above.
Currently not on view
Object Name
spelling board
Object Type
educational toys
date made
Allen, Edwin
place made
United States: Connecticut, South Windham
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
paper (overall material)
overall: 1.2 cm x 36 cm x 20 cm; 15/32 in x 14 3/16 in x 7 7/8 in
ID Number
patent number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Dr. Richard Lodish American School Collection
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Education
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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