Old Shorthand Postcards

Hi, I’m new to the group, but have always had an interest in Gregg Shorthand as it was a skill that my mother had learned in New York City around 1930 and of which she tried to teach me as a child. I did learn a few of the sounds and shortcuts and it did help in high school.
A few years ago I was rumaging around an old junk store up here in the Northwest and came across a number of old poscards from the early 1900’s that were all in shorthand and addressed to the same person. I’ve shown them to few people who had knowledge of shorthand, but no one has been able to figure them out. Are they Gregg or Pitman or some special code. I’d love to solve the mystery and I’ve put 3 of them on my website – http://www.ashwood.members.winisp.net/postcards/ . Can anyone help in deciphering the messages or at least suggesting in what system these are written.

(by tedmc for everyone)

43 comments Add yours
  1. Those are so cool! So that's how Pittman looks. Hmm. Kind of misarranged looking if you ask me. Would definitely look better in Gregg, don't you agree?   I don't think that that wasn't unkind to say since  this is a Gregg group; but if it had been an interdenominational sh-nd site it would be different. Would need to be more diplomatic and tolerant of other writing styles.   P

  2. This is a very fine specimen of Pitman shorthand. What somewhat surprises me is seeing this postcard without ruled lines, as that is an important part of having legible Pitman (an oxymoron, by the way). Pitman Shorthand was another way of thinking, and was quite the skill for an artist. (Naturally, had the author written it in Gregg, it would be more legible). The letters are very clear, and this is important because this postcard was a medium of communication. It is just the theory behind the letters that is difficult. For instance, the first postcard reads, "r-r has an eel g psf? ow w brd…" Had I studied the archaic Pitman system, I would have done a better job.

  3. I say it is an oxymoron mostly out of joking, but also upon the difficulty that one encounters upon reading someone else's Pitman shorthand. With Gregg shorthand, often one can pick up someone else's shorthand and read it well. The pen has to be at just the right pressure for the letter to be written legibly in Pitman. Another problem with Pitman is the variety of ways to write a single word and vice versa. For instance, the Pitman outline strd can mean Saturday, steward, stride, strayed, astrayed, astride, eastward, yesterday, sturdy, stirred, storied, star-eyed, or asteroid. It simply is a rather unnatural and rather problematic system. I am making online a book about the subject, which will be available at gregg.angelfishy.net (So far, I have uploaded what you see at http://n.1asphost.com/greggshorthand/basicp01.shtml ).

    It can be an highly effective system (even though transcription of it is extremely difficult). However, it is not based on the ellipse, as Gregg is, but rather the perfect circle, which is almost impossible to the speedy hand. Gregg Shorthand is derived from longhand; Pitman, from unnatural angles and troublesome shading requirements. The Pitman writer does not write the text, but he draws it. But anyway, check out that text some time. It has the air of the "Gregg is the fulfilment of Pitman!" attitude, which can be fun to read. 🙂

    Pitman is for only a select few, and those people are quite good at it. Gregg can be effectively applied by anyone who can write.

  4. Thank you everyone for the great feedback. VALO I've taken your advice and emailed the Pitman group. Hopefully, I'll find out what was written to Miss B. E. Wolff so many years ago. I love puzzles.   All together I have 11 cards. When I have a few spare moments I'll scan in and post the remaining 8 on my website.   Ted.

  5. Hmm. Sounds like Pitman really isn't legible at all. And it looks so ugly compared with Gregg's graceful flourishes.   BTW, I've been wondering why Gregg is called a 'light-line' system. Is that because there's no variation in the thickness of the line?

  6. Not only is there no thickening in Gregg as in Pitman, but Pitman has the awkward positioning rules where the outline is placed over, on, or below the line of writing (hence the need for lined paper) depending upon the first sounded vowel.

    Since the Pitman writer generally omits vowels in rapid writing, it makes transcribing an "interesting" proposition ad times. Unlike Gregg, where vowels are connected–i.e., written as part of the outline–Pitman writers write the consonants and then go back and insert the dots and dashes and hooks and arrows which represent vowels and vowel combinations.

    Lastly, there are multiple forms for the consonal sound so that one word could possibly be written numerous ways. There may be a pecking order to which rule is used when, but I've never seen anything which could be used as a guide.

    It was said that Pitman (New Era) theory took twice the time to learn compared to Gregg (Anniversary), but the outlines were considerably smaller and shorter and more compact. There is certainly a beauty in well-written Pitman but it's not as graceful and flowing as Gregg!

    I can read New Era Pitman (not well at all), but this system is older and I can only make out a few words on the postcards I viewed.


  7. Looks do matter, don't they? At least when it comes to shorthand.   I looked into learning Teeline (big in the UK, probably unheard-of anywhere else) once, but it's hideously ugly – all awkward angles and odd-looking shapes. Yuck.

  8. Well, since the point of shorthand is speed, I would say that looks do not matter, only speed does.  Still, it is a nice bonus isn't it, if it looks nice?  Gregg is such an attractive style of shorthand, it's not too hard to imagine it being adopted as the long hand system for some society (the Greggan Republic).   Yes, light line really means even thickness.  Gregg doesn't have to be written with a fine line,  heavy lines would work too.  Here are some ideas for why he coined it as "light line":   1.  Pitman uses a "shaded" line, also called a "calligraphic" line, which varies in thickness.  There is not a good word for a line that has the same thickness throughout.  "Light" sounds better than the "unshaded", or "non-calligraphic".  Maybe the inventor could have called it a "standard" line or a "constant" line.   2.  Quill pens, which were used widely until after the Civil War, dulled easily and often made thick, sloppy lines, as seen in these signatures from the Declaration of Independance. A fine, or thin line was harder to achieve and was thus considered fancy, beautiful and desireable.  In fact, you'll notice that "fine" has come to be used to mean "high quality", like fine furniture, or fine wine.  So, when J.R. Gregg pointed named his line "fine", it was a good marketing choice.  People with fine taste would buy a book about fine shorthand!   So, this is just my theory, I have little factual evidence to support it yada yada..   __________________ Praise the lord, I saw the light!

  9. Pricilla, thank you for being so conscientious about the rule to keep posts kind in nature.  The rule is intended to prevent ad hominem statements that facilitate conflict and hurt people's feelings.  So, it is okay to be unkind to things, as long as it's done in a way that doesn't put someone out.   _____________________ Praise the lord, I saw the light!

  10. Kevin, sure, if two systems were equally fast, I would choose the prettier one.  But in choosing a shorthand system, I dont know if I would sacrifice speed for prettiness.   __________________ Praise the lord, I saw the light line!

  11. Dr. Gregg is certainly the inventor of one of the best and finest systems of shorthand in the world, but I'm afraid he isn't the one who coined the expression"light-line". Emile Duploy챕 did. His system was adapted to the English language by Pernin in 1880, and Dr. Gregg mastered it before inventing his own cursive adaptation.

    The first version of Duploy챕's system was called "phonographie", like Pitman's, because it represented all the sounds in a word. Phonography was thus the ancestor of phonetics and phonology. It wasn't fast enough for parliamentary or court note-taking, but still was five times faster than normal longhand.


  12. Thaks for that correction, Mark.  Also, when I said   "when J.R. Gregg named his line 'fine', it was a good marketing choice."   I mean to say "light" instead of "fine".   ________________ Praise the lord, I saw the light line!

  13. >in that case you must have a great looking wife — er…life!   Actually no, but I don't think we should go there, John.   The story's too long and involves Joan Jett (of 'I love rock and roll' fame), drumsticks, a sleazy diner in Philadelphia and methodone.   Perhaps on another forum… 🙂  

  14. At the time, a light line meant less stress and less strain on the hand. Stenographers used metal nibs, with which they could easily write heavy lines, but they constantly had to vary the pressure on the nib, which made the whole process of taking-notes in Pitman, Gabelsberger or Pr챕vost very tiring.

    L챕g챔re comme la plume au vent.

  15. It was called "d챕li챕e".

    "Un d챕li챕" is the fine or light part of a written letter. "Un plein" is the heavy or shaded stroke. But that was a long time ago, when people used Spencerian calligraphy.

  16. Lucky one! There used to be a copy of that book on sale at e-Bay, but it's gone.

    Dr. Gregg didn't copy Duploy챕's system, which is geometric. He only borrowed the principles of joining the vowels in their natural order, distinguishing voiced and unvoiced consonants by their size, and rejecting shading and positioning.
    That's all.
    Gregg shorthand is much more cursive. It adopts the natural slanting of longhand. That is impossible to to with Duploy챕 shorthand.

    There are however a few abbreviating rules that he borrowed from Sloan, like the reversed vowel position to express an extra R, or the relative positioning of a word to shorten phrases.

  17. I think that  the aesthetics are important and that they may contribute to learnability and speed.   Pleasant visual, and an otherwise satisfying process would lend encouragement and morale and other subtle benefits.   Who would be very pleased to make a messy looking page when there is a an easier, more sensible way? It's not just that it's messy looking—it doesn't flow and –Gregg is really amazing–it's efficacious, and in it's simplicity 'tis graceful looking.    The beauty/genius of the Gregg system is truly amazing.

  18. John,

    It's on page 75 of the pre-anniversary edition. Lesson eleven deals with abbreviating methods. One of them is "Omission of words". Well-known phrases can be abbreviated by leaving off "of the", "by", "after", "from,to"… and writing the following word closer.
    Also, when you write the article "the" in the position of the "ing" dot of the preceding word.

  19. Priscilla   In American usage, the punctuation ALWAYS goes inside the quotation mark. But I think that is relatively recent.   In Britain, the punctuation only goes inside the quotation mark if it part of the quote.   Canadians use either, tho our journalists tend to go with the American style, because it looks much neater, and is easier to read.   Billy

  20. Funny, I was just asking my English major friend about this today.  He confirmed what you all have said–the period always goes inside the quotation marks in America.  It's in Kevin's homeland where the placement depends on the quotation.   _______________ Praise the Lord, I saw the light line!

  21. Thank you for the very thoughtful responses.   Colons and semicolons always go outside closing quotation marks. Question marks and and exclamation points can go either inside or outside, depending on whether they are part of the quoted matter. This manifests a logic that is absent in the rule about commas and periods.   See, eg, The Chicago Manual of Style, 15/ed, page 142 ff.   Brian

  22. John,

    Some examples for clarification:

    He asked, "Did you bring your steno book?" (question mark inside because it's part of the quotation)

    Did you say, "I brought my steno book"? (question mark outside because it's not part of the quotation)

    Periods and commas always go inside quotes, probably because it doesn't make any difference to the sense of the sentence, and it looks more balanced. (As opposed to a period sitting all by itself outside the quotes.)

    (At least, that's the way we do it in Canada)


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