** U.S. school uniform: Catholic Schools






U.S. School Clothes: Catholic Schools


Figure 1.--This is the graduating 8th grade class in 1928. The boys wear dark suits with both sporty kneesocks and dark long stockings. The girls wear white dresses and white long stockings. This is of course not their normal school clothes. There was no school uniform at the time.

Public schools began to develop in the early 19th century. They were controlled by protetant officials who in many cases were hostile to Catholocism. As large numbers of Catholic immigrants (primarily Irish) began to arrive in the 1840s, the Church decided to create their own separate Catholic schools. Suceeding waves of immigration from Catholic countries (especially Italy) greatly expanded the U.S. Catholic population. The Catholic schools at one pont were education more than 20 percent of American children. The Catholic schools unlike the state public schools insisted on a school uniform. I'm not sure why the Church made this decision, but may be due to the Irish and Italian influence or the fact that immigrant Americans were generally low income families and would be sensitive to preceived differrences in the clothing that poorer children might be wearing. The uniforms worn by the boys are usually white shirts and ties, sweater, and solid color--often blue pants. Usually thevboys wore long pants, but many elementary schools now permit shorts.

Chronology

Public schools began to develop in the early 19th century. They were controlled by Protestant officials who in many cases were hostile to Catholocism. As large numbers of Catholic immigrants (at fiest primarily Irish) began to arrive in the 1840s, the Church decided to create their own separate Catholic schools. Many more Catholic immigrants arrived after the Civil War (1861-65). We see immogrants from many more countries and for the firtst time this included Catholic immigrants from many southern and eastern European areas. The largest number came from Italy which was newly united. Others came from areas that were unlike today, not independent countries. Much of Eastern Europe was conmtrolled by great empires Austrian, Prussian, and Russian). This complicated immigration records because many Catholic counties like Czechoslovakia Lithiania, Latvia, Poland, and olthers did not yet exist. This is all important becuse many Catholic churches were ethically based. We do not yet have many 19th century images of these schools. One is an unidentified Catholic achool in the 1890s. We do have qyute a number of 20th cenntury images. And after World War I (1914-18), national immigration quotas were established which substantially reduced immigration from Catholic areas. We see images from the 1920s that show children that look to be well assimilated based on clothing, but going to school in make-shift buildings. A good example is a school in East Orange, New Jersey that looks to be a house used as a school durung the 1920s.

Ethnic Composition

Suceeding waves of immigration from Catholic countries (especially Italy) greatly expanded the U.S. Catholic population.

Size

The Catholic schools at one pont were education more than 20 percent of American children.

Teachers

Catholic schools are traditionally famous for the many dedicated nuns that provided the backbone of Catholic education in America. Those nuns had an enormous impact on Catholics. Counless people in their adult lives recall the nuns that taught them. Often they refer to the nuns' ruler yielding discipline. Sescipline is an often under related factor in education. Without descipline schools can not operate. Much has been written about the failure od urban education in America. There are a range of factors invbolved here, but one fact is indisputable. Without discipline, education will not take place. And the nun's descipline meant that children in urban schools has an environment in which they could and fis learn. Less well documented are the values the nins helped instill or the academic standards they required. And this was often accomplished in rough working-class neigborhoods with children thst were not easy to teach. Unlike many young women today, the nuns were not concerned about 'finding themselves'. The nuns had found thenselbes and were rock solid in their moral values. The nuns were indespensable to the operation of Catholic schools. Without state finding, financing Catholic schools was a perenial problem. The nuns provided the schools a cohort of dedicated teachers willing to work for salasries below those offerd in the state system. The decline in the number of women choosing to become nuns has been a factor in the decling number of Catholic schools around the country. Catholic schools now have to hire large numbers of teachers who are not nuns. This has substantially increased operating costs.

Uniforms

Catholic schools began adopting uniforms long before public schools began to use them. Our information on actual Catholic school uniforms, however, is very limited at this time. The Catholic schools unlike the state public schools insisted on a school uniform. I'm not sure why the Church made this decision, but may be due to the Irish and Italian influence or the fact that immigrant Americans were generally low income families and would be sensitive to preceived differrences in the clothing that poorer children might be wearing. The greater focus on discipline at a Catholic school might have been another factor. This appears to have been a choice taken by individual schools, but given that uniforms were adopted in the Catholic schools before the public schools, there must have been some incouragement from the heirarchy. Uniforms are now common at Catholic schools. HBC is, however, not sure when uniforms were introduced. We believe that the uniforms were mostly introduced after World War II (1939-45), but this requires confirmation. and we do see some uniforms beginning to appear in the 1940s. We have very little information about individual Catholic schools. A HBC reader tells us that his Catholic school had uniforms in the 1940s. "I remember well what we wore as uniforms in the late-1940s, when I attended Catholic Junior High School in San Diego, California. The pants were gray corduroy, and we wore white long sleeve shirts and gray woolen sweaters." Most Catholic schools, both primary (elementary) and secondary schools have required uniforms--usually simple uniforms.

First Communion

Catholic children attending Catholic schools generally did their First Comminions as a group through the school. In such instances the school set a standard suit style or dress code. The HBC First Communion section has both group and individual portraits. The outfits, however, are not indicators as to how the children dressed at school. We will eventually list the group portraits here.

Individual Schools

Catholic diasis began organizing schools after the mid-19th century. We have not yet found details about 19th century schools. We do have some information about the 20th century. We have not We have few Catholic schools in our archive at this time. We see the St. Nicholas Greek School in Newark, New Jersey during 1906. One school is the School of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore Maryland during 1926. We note an unidentified Catholic school in Lille, Maine during 1942. The photographs shows a classroom scene.

Personal Experiences

A HBC reader tells us that his Catholic school had uniforms in the 1940s. "I remember well what we wore as uniforms in the late-1940s, when I attended Catholic Junior High School in San Diego, California. The pants were gray corduroy, and we wore white long sleeve shirts and gray woolen sweaters." Another reader tells us about his private Catholic schoo in the 1950s. Another reader tells us about two Catholic schools that he had attended in the 1960s. One former parochial school student recalls purchasing uniform shoes.


Additional Information

Related Links: Careful this will exit you from the Boys' Historical Clothing web site, but both sites are highly recommended.

Apertures Press New Zealand E-book: New book on New Zealand schools available
School Uniform Web SiteInformative review of British school uniforms with some excellent photographs
Boys' Preparatory SchoolsLovely photographic essay of British preparatory schools during the 1980s containing over 200 color and black and white photographs.






HBC-SU






Related Chronolgy Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
[Main Chronology Page]
[The 1900s] [The 1910s] [The 1920s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s]
[The 1950s] [The 1960s] [The 1970s] [The 1980s] [The 1990s] [The 2000s]



Navigate the Relate Boys Historical Clothing Style Pages
[Main country page]
[Long pants suits] [Short pants suits] [Lederhosen] [Kneesocks] [Eton suits]
[Jacket and trousers] [Blazer [School sandals]



Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing School Uniform Pages
[Return to the Main U.S. School Page]
[Return to the Main National School Page]
[Australia] [England] [France] [Germany]
[Ireland] [Italy] [Japan] [New Zealand] [Poland] [Singapore] [Scotland]
[Singapore] [United States]



Navigate the HBC School Section
[Return to the Main private school page]
[Return to the Main school type page]
[About Us]
[Activities] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [Debate] [Economics] [Garment] [Gender] [Hair] [History] [Home trends] [Literary characters]
[School types] [Significance] [Transport and travel [Uniform regulations] [Year level] [Other topics]
[Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Return to the Historic Boys' School Home]






Created: April 16, 2000
Last updated: 6:07 PM 5/27/2021