For many years, at Christmas time, I received in the mail the next year’s Motto Calendar. Some Philadelphians call it the Quaker Calendar, or the Scattergood Calendar.
It’s about 4 by 6 inches, with a page for each month. The conventional calendar for the month is at the bottom. Printed in red or blue ink, at the top, are five or six quotations, from dozens of sources.
It might be Abraham Lincoln or Bill Clinton, Harriet Tubman or Dinah Shore, Sammy Davis Jr. or Thomas Aquinas, the Qur’an or the New Testament, Mohandas Gandhi or William Penn.
It’s the descendant of a long line of motto calendars, begun by a Philadelphia Quaker, Thomas Scattergood, in 1884. Originally, Scattergood had the calendars printed to distribute to his family, employees and friends.
But after a year or two, other people began asking for them. He sold some, but stipulated that no one should ever profit from his calendars. (His first calendars were two for a penny.)
When Thomas Scattergood died in 1907, J. Henry Scattergood took over the selection of quotations. He died in 1967, and his neice, Elizabeth Scattergood Chalmers, took over.
I’ve lost track of the family members who struggled on, handling the details and choosing the quotations. And the price of the calendars, though always modest, of course inevitably increased.
I don’t remember what the Motto calendars cost when I first began buying them, probably in the '60s. It was a pleasant December chore to stop in at the little old Quaker meeting house on 12th Street near Market that had survived when the PSFS building began scraping the sky next door.
I’d buy the new calendar from Mrs. Elizabeth Lewis at the front desk, who would greet me, “How is thee today?” and prove that I was still in the Quaker City.
There was always a neat little hole with a brass eyelet, in the middle of the four digits of the new year printed at the top of the calendar, just right for hanging it on a nail. In 1968, the Scattergood family eliminated the eyelet to cut costs.
By that time, the annual number of copies of the calendars had surpassed one million.
In recent years, I didn’t have to buy my next year’s motto calendar, to put in its place held by a magnet on the refrigerator door, because Jim Colbert of Roxborough annually sent one as a Christmas card.
Jim had started to read my column when it began running daily in the old Evening Bulletin, and he was ten years old. He’s retired now, which tells you something about both our ages.
But he recently emailed me the bad news that 2020 will be the last of the Motto Calendars.
The decision comes from Marion Scattergood Ballard, for many years an executive in various corporations, who in 2000 took over the publishing of the annual calendar. Thomas Scattergood was her great-grandfather.
According to family lore, Scattergood felt that he was not gifted to speak in Quaker meetings, so he created the annual inspirational calendars as his ministry. He produced them until his death in 1907. His son, Henry, continued them until 1963.
Since then, various family members have created the calendars, taking on the chore of choosing 60 or so quotations appropriate to the times.
The first clue to their demise that I’m aware of was mentioned last month in a blog by Augusta Scattergood, which said, “The Scattergood family has produced these lovely gems for generations. But for various unanticipated reasons, 2020 is their last year.”
Visit columnist Jim Smart’s web site at www.jamessmartsphiladelphia.com.
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