2018 tours of Gibbs in Boston’s Back Bay are on the Events Page.
January 10 is the anniversary of Katharine Ryan’s (Mrs. Gibbs) birth in 1863 in Galena, Illinois.
How Gibbs Catalogs Changed
Below is the oldest catalog I have been able to find. This 1924 catalog is designed like a dance card that well-born women would use at formal dances to keep track of partners for each dance. Notice the card stock for the cover, the very modern style of the logo, and the binding. Rather than use a commercial binding, Mrs. Gibbs chose to have a white cord just like a dance card. This hinted to prospective students and their parents that the school was above the ordinary.
After the World War I drafts in 1917, Mrs. Gibbs lost the male part of her audience. She simply changed the focus on the title page to “Katharine Gibbs School of Secretarial & Executive Training for Educated Women.”
Below are 21st-century catalogs including the last Gibbs catalog in the world (right). The student body is again both male and female, the dress code is gone, computers are being used, and some students are in medical scrubs because the medical field is growing. The 2001-2003 catalog says Katharine Gibbs without “school” while the 2009-2010 edition says Gibbs College. The catalogs are for only the Boston campus because by this time each site published its own material.
Everyone keyboards now. Here is a real keyboard typewriter. A typewriter patented in 1857 by a doctor from Newport has a keyboard that looks like a piano keyboard. It was called the “literary typewriter.” There are examples at the Newport Historical Society and at the Smithsonian. Check it out by clicking on Smithsonian.
The Barbizon Then and Now and Katharine Gibbs School
Katharine Gibbs: Beyond White Gloves is in the acknowledgements at the end of The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis. She makes the day-to-day rigor come alive.
In email Fiona Davis said, “I read your book with avid interest as it gave me such a wonderful background to the school and the time period. I can’t thank you enough for all of the research and care you took in writing it. The very fact that you were able to preserve so much of the history of the school for future generations is a true gift to us all.”
The novel is set in both 1952 with a Gibbs student living at the Barbizon Hotel for Women in New York and with a woman living at the Barbizon in 2016. In 2016 one floor has women who lived had there before it became condos and were allowed to remain.
The chapters alternate between the two times, and I was so happy to see some details from my book used. The true story of how two students would share one pair of gloves and get through morning inspection at the elevators is now in two books and will not be lost.
STAND ABOVE THE CROWD! EXCELLENCE IN ALL YOU DO!
These taglines from later marketing material sum up what Gibbs meant to so many.