BFS Turns 150

100 Years Ago at BFS

BFS Commencement and Important Announcements
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 6, 1914

This week, your friendly historian decided to time-travel back one hundred years to the 1913-1914 school year at BFS. Turning once again to The Brooklyn Daily Eagle at one of my favorite sites,, I found this page containing the article, “Friends School to Have Annex, which gave an overview of our school’s Commencement exercises of June 5, 1914. The article also included two special announcements from Chairman of the School’s Board of Trustees Will Walter Jackson:  Ella Woodward’s appointment as Head of our school’s Lower Division and, more importantly, the school’s September, 1914 expansion into the adjacent brownstone at 116 Schermerhorn, what would later be known at BFS as the Phebe Anna Thorne High School building, named after the noted Quaker philanthropist whose estate purchased 116 Schermerhorn for BFS. Mr. Jackson also mentioned that “plans have been drawn for a new gymnasium building, and that through the generosity of some friends of the school we may soon have that much-needed addition to our plant.” Despite those plans and ready donors, the gymnasium would not materialize until 1917 (I understand that is a heated story, so we’ll save it for another day).

An interesting note about the 1913-1914 school year is that it marks the point when BFS seems to have adopted its system of recording student grades using pre-printed, two-sided 6″ x 9″ cards: white cards for the lower division in grades 1 through 6 (kindergarten was not included, perhaps it was not yet considered an academic year), and blue cards for the upper division in grades 7 through 12. This student records system would be used for almost the next 60 years at BFS, and it is still used today as the official transcript system for students enrolled at BFS from 1914 to 1968. The student record system of even earlier years is presently unknown, though it is understood that the school did not use numerical grades as preferred at other schools. Looking at the transcript cards for the two graduates of 1914, Shreve Parrish and Ernest Palmer, the only section filled out on each transcript was for their final year, under 11th grade, and notes their date of graduation as June 5, 1914. At the time, our upper division of grades 7 through 12 had been proudly designed to allow many of our students to finish their studies a year ahead of students at most other schools, a design which continued into the 1923 year when BFS graduated its then-largest graduating class of 24 students, a number attributed solely to the phasing out of our early graduation due to the redesign of our school’s curriculum. I personally experienced written evaluations at BFS, which my parents and I greatly appreciated, but, having overseen the digitization of BFS student records from 1913 to 2007, I now think they had it right in 1913.

Excerpted from the transcript of Ernest R. Palmer, BFS Class of 1914
Mr. Palmer died in 1949 at the age of 52, see page 4 of The Millburn and Short Hills Item, Dec. 8, 1949

Look closely and one can see the stoop of the brownstone at 116 Schermerhorn,
mentioned by Will Walter Jackson at the 1914 Commencement.
BFS was gifted that brownstone by the estate of Phebe Anna Thorne.