Timeline Tuesday: Business Education

Practical business education has changed greatly during the last century. Once mandatory, penmanship and typing courses have been replaced by instruction in keyboarding. Shorthand is seldom used except for personal note-taking. Computer programs now transcribe human speech without the need for a stenographer.

The Young Men’s Journal (Omaha), on March 31, 1893, reported on the courses and training offered by the Omaha College of Shorthand and Typewriting, “one of the flourishing institutions of the city. It is located in the most central portion of the city in Boyd’s New Theatre building, one of Omaha’s largest structures. The college occupies the large hall and front rooms of one entire floor, and the accommodations and facilities are up to the ideal.

“While it is strictly an exclusive school of shorthand and typewriting, students who are deficient in penmanship, orthography and such other English branches as are requisite to the qualifications of a good stenographer, receive instruction in the same. The corps of instructors are experienced and practical stenographers who give their entire time and energy to the school.

“The proprietor and principal, Prof. A. C. Ong, is a man of classical attainments and wide reputation as a thorough and practical educator. His experience reaches over a period of eighteen years of most successful work. He understands the needs of students who are preparing themselves for office and stenographic work, having had experience as employer and employee.

“The [shorthand] systems taught are the Graham and Pitman. [Pitman shorthand-and Graham, a modification-are older systems than the better-known Gregg shorthand.] It is generally conceded that these systems are without question, superior to all others. . . . Every one of the expert stenographers from the East, six in all, who reported the M. E. Conference here in Omaha last May, were Graham writers. This system for speed and accuracy is proverbial.

“The school is conducted on the most practical system. Students are taught the details of office work. Especial attention is given to legal forms, copying and filing business papers, manifolding, etc., and such work as they will have to do in actual office practice.”

For more information on early business education in Nebraska, see Oliver B. Pollak’s “Looking for ‘Wide-Awake’ Young People: Commercial Business Colleges in Nebraska, 1873-1950” in the Spring 2009 issue of Nebraska History magazine.

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