Amos Bronson Alcott
Surely dear father some good angel or elf dropped a talisman in your cradle that
gave you force to walk thro life in quiet sunshine while others groped in the dark ...
~Louisa May Alcott to her father
November 28, 1855
Amos Bronson Alcott was born November 29, 1799. The son of a flax farmer in
Wolcott, Connecticut, he taught himself to read by forming letters in charcoal on a wooden
floor. Through sheer willpower and dedication to the ideal, he educated himself and guided
his genius to expression as a progressive educator and leader of the Transcendentalists.
"Transcendentalism" was a term coined for a movement of New England writers and thinkers
in the 1830s. They believed that people are born good, that they possess a power
called intuition, and that they can come closer to God through nature.
Amos Bronson Alcott was unique in the way he embodied and lived out his
Transcendentalist ideas. As an educator, he believed that all knowledge and moral guidance
springs from inner sources and it is the teachers role to help these unfold in a
His daughter Louisa, one of his most faithful pupils, wrote, "My father taught in
the wise way which unfolds what lies in the childs nature, as a flower blooms,
rather than crammed it, like a Strasbourg goose, with more than it could digest."
Mr. Alcott taught in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Boston. He introduced art, music,
nature study, and physical education to his classes at a time when these subjects
were not commonly taught. Many parents did not understand Alcotts innovative methods and
withdrew their children from his schools. Because of this situation, the Alcott family
moved over 20 times in 30 years.
Alcott believed that the key to social reform and spiritual growth was in the home, in
family life. Essential values instilled in his children from an early age were
self-reliance, sense of duty, self-sacrifice, and charity. Self-expression was cultivated
and this extended to a keeping of journals. These journals were shared in order to foster
an openness of thought and feeling.
In his later years, he went on lecture tours in the Midwest where his enthusiastic talks
on education and Transcendentalism brought much recognition to himself and fellow friends
and Concordians, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
From 1859 through 1864, he served as Superintendent of Schools in Concord. In 1879, mainly
through the support of his Western admirers, his lifelong dream for a School of Philosophy
in Concord was fulfilled. One of the first summer schools for adults, The Concord School
of Philosophy continued for nine summers. It closed in July of 1888 with a memorial service
to Mr. Alcott, who had passed away on March 4 of that year.
Archival photographs of the family and objects in the collection are available for a fee.
All requests must be made in writing, allowing at least 2-3 weeks for processing.
Please click here to e-mail your photo request, or, write to Attn: Photo Requests,
PO Box 343, Concord, MA 01742-0343.
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