Thursday, June 5, 2014

Throwback Thursday

Dad's diploma when he graduated 8th grade from the Donald McKay School in East Boston, Massachusetts, June 1934. Dad was 15 years old.

The document measures 16 in. wide by 18 in. long and provides an interesting glimpse into history.

Donald McKay built clipper ships. His shipyard and home were located in East Boston. The bottom center panel shows clipper ships, perhaps an illustration of McKay's shipyard.

The top image shows a seated goddess holding a caduceus, a staff carried by heralds, and the seal of the City of Boston.

I have two guesses as to the identity of the goddess. Iris, is a goddess of the sea and sky. She is associated with communication, messages, the rainbow, and new endeavors. Fitting image for graduation. She is often depicted carrying a caduceus, a staff carried by messengers. Iris was messenger to the goddess, Hera. Iris is usually depicted with wings. No wings on this illustration.

The goddess could also be Athena, goddess of knowledge, wisdom, learning, craft,and justice. I haven't found any references to Athena carrying a caduceus. In earlier cultures, entwined snakes were the symbol of fertility, wisdom, and healing, also associated with Athena. Perhaps, the caduceus was a means of imparting wisdom upside the heads of lazy students.

The center left illustration is Benjamin Franklin, scientist, politician, statesman, and inventor. He was also born in Boston, Massachusetts.

The center right illustration is Josiah Quincy, mayor of the city of Boston from 1896-1899.

The diploma is signed by Maurice J. Tobin, Chairman of the School Committee from 1931-1937. He later served as mayor from 1938-1945, and as governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from  1945-1947. In 1967, the Mystic River Bridge was renamed the Maurice J. Tobin Memorial Bridge.

Sadly, many diplomas and important documents are no longer lettered by hand. Dad's name is hand-done in a Gothic or Old-English script. I wonder who the calligrapher was. Perhaps, someone from the school or more than likely someone from the print shop who practiced calligraphy. The document is not dated other than the month and year.

The diploma is printed on a heavy weight card stock. It must have been handed to the students and tied with a ribbon as it was saved rolled. Dad's name is lightly written in pencil on the back of the rolled edge. The handwriting is not Dad's.


  1. Wow...that is so impressive. I love that it was hand-lettered, because that is such a under-used art!

  2. It's sad hand lettering is going out of favor. :( (My mom was an amateur calligrapher.)