One of the principal difficulties encountered during the early years of the common schools was the dearth of good teachers. Even before the establishment of the state system, in 1834, the need of some agency for training teachers for the elementary schools was well recognized, and attempts were made, both by public authorities and by private persons, to supply the want. *53 One of the avowed purposes for establishing academies was the training of teachers. *54 It was the expectation that the many colleges and academies chartered between 1786 and 1838 would assist in training teachers that led the legislature to contribute to their support. Thus, for instance, the grant of $500 annually for five years to Washington College, in 1831, was made on the condition that the college should admit, gratis, each year, twenty students who should be trained as teachers in the elementary schools. *55 Other colleges and academies that received aid on condition that they should provide for the training of teachers were, Jefferson College, in 1832, *56 Reading Academy, in 1832, *57 Pennsylvania College of Gettysburg, in 1832, *58 and Marshall College in 1837. *59 It is noticeable, however, that the act of 1838, which established a subvention for ten years for the benefit of all colleges, academies, and female seminaries that were able to meet the requirements of the law, did not make the training of teachers one of the conditions for obtaining state aid. *60 From the abandonment of the subvention to colleges and academies, in 1844, until 1857, the state did nothing directly to aid in the development of normal training schools.

But although no definite action was taken by the legislature toward the establishment of such schools, public officers continued to deplore the lack of good teachers, and to ask state aid to provide the necessary facilities for training them. In 1838, State Superintendent Burrowes presented to the legislature an elaborate argument for free state normal schools. *61 The matter was discussed by many of the state superintendents from 1838 to 1857, and, in 1853 and in 1854, bills providing for training schools were introduced into the legislature. But, for one reason or another, they failed to become laws. *62

53 See Wickersham, pp. 612 ff.

54 Idem, pp. 606-607.

55 Act 4 April, 1831, P.L. p. 454.

56 Act 20 Feb., 1832, P.L. p. 82.

57 Act 5 May, 1832, P.L. p. 509.

58 Act 7 April, 1832, P.L. p. 369.

59 Act 29 March, 1837, P.L. p. 96.

60 See Act 12 April, 1838, P.L. pp. 333-334.

61 Journal of the House of Representatives (1837-38), II, pp. 570 ff.

The legislature, however, finally acceded to the demands of the educators and of the public, and, in 1857, passed an act "to provide for due training of teachers for the common schools of the state. *63 But this act did not create the free state schools for which Burrowes had asked nearly twenty years before. The essential features of the law were as follows: (1) The state was divided into twelve districts, each to contain a single state normal school; (2) the schools were to be established and maintained by private companies; (3) the mechanical equipment, teaching staff, and, in part, the curriculum and methods of instruction were to be such as would receive the approval of the state superintendent; (4) the normal school in each district, after it had been inspected and approved by the state superintendent, was to be officially designated and published as a "state" normal school; (5) the schools were authorized to grant certificates of competence to students who successfully completed the course; (6) each common school district within any normal school district was permitted to send, at its own expense, annually to the normal school one student who should remain until he had completed the course, but the maximum charge for each such student was limited to $20 per annum; *64 (7) the state promised no direct financial aid to such institutions as should be established, it being supposed, writes Wickersham, that the prestige arising from their connection with the state system of common schools and their power to issue certificates would be sufficient reward for living up to the conditions imposed. *65

It was, however, more than two years after the passage of the act when the first normal school was recognized by the state. This was the Millersville Normal School in Lancaster County, which had previously been conducted as a private teachers' training school. *66 The second school to receive state approval was the Edinboro Normal School in Erie County, which was recognized in 1861. *67

62 See Wickersham, pp. 617-618.

63 Act 20 May, 1857, P.L. pp. 581-587.

64 It was required that these students should give evidence of intention to enter the teaching profession. This section of the law was, as might have been expected, practically futile. By 1865 the district authorities had sent but three pupils to the normal schools. The state superintendent expressed the opinion that "It is not probable that any more will ever thus be sent." Report (1865), p. 26.

65 p. 621.

66 Millersville was recognized in December, 1859. Wickersham, p. 624.

67 Idem, 626.