American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Memory, Exhibit Object Focus

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Left-Handed Penmanship

Supply Object Title
J.S. Prendergast, private. Co. F. 24th Massachusetts Infantry, North Truro, Massachusetts

Left-handed penmanship contest submission
[Left-handed penmanship contest submission], 1865
Manuscript and carte-de-visite
Manuscript Division, 40.12 a.b
Gift of Gabriel Wells, 1931

William Oland Bourne, editor of the periodical The Soldier's Friend, sponsored two contests in which Union soldiers and sailors who lost their right arms by disability or amputation during the Civil War were invited to submit samples of their penmanship using their left hands. Cash prizes totaled $1000 for the first contest and $500 for the second. An exhibition of all first contest entrants was held in Washington, D.C., on May 1, 1866.

Private J.S. Prendergast, Company F. 24th Massachusetts Infantry, won $20 for this submission. The contest brochure revealed that Prendergast not only lost his right arm but “two fingers and part of the thumb of the left hand.”

Annoucement of exhibition of left-handed penmanship
Exhibition - Left Handed Penmanship
Broadside, 1866
Rare Book & Special Collections Division
(40.12 c)

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