Lower Merion Academy: A Legend in Learning

Joshua Hoopes

textile woven with alphabet
1814 cross-stitch by 11-year-old Jane B. Hutcheson. All schoolgirls were required to learn needlework and practice the art of making samplers.

An early teacher’s contract with Joshua Hoops (signed Hoopes) was for three years and five months, from the beginning of November when the school opened. Joshua was expected to farm the ground, keep the building in good repair, teach the “scholars” and notify them of the “Rules for the Government of the School.” Joshua had to pay the Trustees $.50 for each student he taught for each quarter, as rent for occupying the school house and using the acreage and the farm buildings.

Joshua also needed the approval of the Trustees for any teacher that he hired. There was an unusual performance bond that each party was bound by: “…the penal sum of one thousand Dollars…” This bond was dropped in future lease agreements.

Joshua left in 1817 to establish a boarding school in Downingtown and then one in West Chester which he operated for 28 years. He was known for his lectues on botany and astronomy.

Noah Leeds was appointed “Superintendance of the Institution,” on April 11, 1817. The terms of service were usually short, one to three years, except for Israel Irwin who lasted 23 years, retired, and then built a home near the Academy.

Teaching was not as secure a profession as it is today.

Academy building sits in a grassy lawn, seen from the east side
The Academy around the turn of the 20th century.