The First Term

The Handicraft School
The Handicraft School was situated at Kasarmikatu 21 in the year 1871 (C.L.Engel, 1836).
©Photograph: A.E. Rosenbröijer. Helsinki City Museum. 42031.

On the opening day, January 11th 1871, it was 14 degrees centigrade below zero. The cold winter was tightening its grip. The Helsinki students had to go to the School of Applied Arts under pretty wintry conditions. The temperature sank to a mean -18 degrees. In April, however, spring was announcing its arrival. Then temperatures were about a mild zero degrees.

The students in the spring term - sixty-four altogether - were all men. From the autumn term of 1871 women joined in. Two thirds of the students came from nearby areas, from Helsinki and the province of Uusimaa. The rest came from elsewhere in Finland, one was born in St. Petersburg and two in Sweden. In the first term 25 of the students were between 12 and 16 years old, nine were over 26, and the oldest 42. Lessons were given in the evenings on five weekdays and on Sunday mornings. Around ten specialists from different fields took care of the teaching, without pay, for the good sake.

It is somewhat complicated to define the contents of the lessons. There were no fixed terms for the subjects taught. Likewise, the subjects could overlap - for instance different types of drawing were called by a variety of names.

Many subjects, for instance arithmetics and book-keeping, were taught from the beginning in both Finnish and Swedish. At the start it was difficult to give Finnish-language lessons due to a lack of competent teachers. Accordingly, there was less teaching in Finnish and not nearly in all subjects.

The following subjects were taught in the first term:

  1. Ruler and ornament drawing, 4 lessons/week
  2. Landscape drawing, 2 lessons/week
  3. Geometric morphology, 2 lessons/week
  4. Arithmetics, 4 lessons/week
  5. General natural science, 2 lessons/week
  6. Book-keeping by single entry, 1 lesson/week
  7. Ornament and house painting
  8. Moulding, 2 lessons/week
  9. Calligraphy and writing in print/lettering, 2 lessons/week

In all there were 23 lessons a week until May 15th. The annals tell that the students had 'followed the lessons with great desire'. (von Essen 1925).