Can Anybody Out There Read Shorthand?

Or tell me where to find someone who can?

We’re getting the Rice Charter Change Trial records ready to send out out to be digitized and are confronted with a mystery. There are several stenographer’s notebooks in the collection filled with some variety of shorthand. I first ran across these over twenty years ago and tried with no luck to find someone who could read them. That was like prehistoric times though, back in the days when you had to actually go around and ask people. Now we have the internet and I wouldn’t be surprised to find some sort of Shorthand Devotees Group somewhere out there who could clear this right up.

Here’s what the notebooks look like:

And here’s an example of the shorthand:

Judging by the bits and pieces I can read—this looks like a page from the testimony of Logan Wilson, who had been president of the University of Texas and Dean of Newcomb College at Tulane, called by Rice as an expert witness about the state of American higher education—I feel fairly sure that this was a contemporaneous record of the trial, done to provide a quicker way for the Rice administrators who weren’t in the courtroom every day to know what was happening. If that’s so then we don’t need to worry about translating it all into readable English because we have the transcript that was published later.

Any thoughts?

Bonus: Not a single soul to be found.

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9 Responses to Can Anybody Out There Read Shorthand?

  1. grungy1973 says:

    Shorthand is as indecipherable to me now as cursive will be someday to today’s children.
    During my four-hour photo tour on Sunday afternoon there was almost always at least one other being in sight, including the rare employee-in-a-cart. Quite a few cyclists.

  2. Galloway Hudson. Wiess '60 says:

    Legacy notebooks that say “Rice Institute” on the cover. Fitting, somehow.

  3. Melinda Reagor Flannery says:

    I would try older church ladies. My mom was a whiz at Gregg shorthand; she was born in 1920. But I think it was being taught and used until the advent of the PC. This gal does Pitmann’s: http://www.shorthandtranscription.co.uk/index.html. I found a 2010 WSJ article about a lady who transcribed Gregg’s but her site seems to be gone: https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703303904575292982869708158. This was also interesting if you wanted to teach yourself: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/06/yeah-i-still-use-shorthand-and-a-smartpen/373281/

    • effegee says:

      Gregg Shorthand was still being in Houston ISD in spring 1969. There weren’t many takers then and I don’t know how much longer it lasted. The pool of the initiated is getting pretty limited.

    • johnsigwald says:

      I used to have a Gregg Shorthand manual in my library but, alas, no more.

  4. Eleanor Powers Beebe says:

    Melissa, I can try to decipher them, though shorthand is a very personal style of note taking, and each writer has his or his own symbols for certain words. It is based on phonetics, so a symbol which I might write for “company” (c,p) might be used for a word which reoccurs in the context of the document(such as “captain.” Please e-mail me at ebeebe@yahoo.com if you still need help. I will do what I can.

    Eleanor Beebe ’62

  5. Steve Lukingbeal, Hanszen ‘76 says:

    Wow. Shorthand. I wish my grandmother was still alive to help. She was as proud of her business degree earned in 1915 as her brothers were proud of their Ivy League and Ohio State degrees. As a secretary, she practiced shorthand for over fifty years. When I went to Rice, she taught me the basics so that I could take better notes in class. Looking over your example, you can see several colleges mentioned such as Tulane, the University of Kentucky, Maryland, Harvard for a PhD, East Texas State, and the University of Texas. If you patiently treat the notes like an encryption, you can eventually figure out the entire text.

  6. Patricia Ladd says:

    When I was transcribing my grandmother’s diaries, the shorthand subreddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/shorthand/) was very helpful to me. I posted pictures of the pages in shorthand and multiple people translated it for me within the day. Some of it was guesswork on their part, especially for names, but it was enough to get me the gist.

  7. Kristin says:

    It has been a while but I would be willing to try.

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