Teaching as a profession aims to achieve the most noble of principles — educating children to be responsible, productive citizens. Unfortunately, the teachers hired in the early years of the new republic and well into the nineteenth century were usually untrained and unprepared for the job ahead. The civic-minded movers and shakers in New York City at the time were interested in the education of its youth, but the path to securing qualified teachers for the schools was slow to be realized.
In early New York City there were two choices for primary school education — charity schools or “pay schools.” Pay schools were for those who could afford tuition and charity schools offered a limited education for poor New York City children. In 1832 this changed when “public notice [was] given that schools were now open to all as a common right, and that every effort would be made to render them attractive and desirable to all classes of citizens.”
In New York City the opportunities for a college education were limited and available to white, middle and upper class young men who could afford the tuition at either Columbia University or the University of the City of New York (later New York University). No municipality had assumed the cost of funding higher education for its residents and this became a fierce political battle in New York. However, free publicly supported higher education did finally become a reality, and New York City became the first municipality in the United States to open a free, publicly supported institution of higher education for young men in 1849 — the Free Academy.
Sandra Roff is Professor and Head of Archives & Special Collections at Baruch College, City University of New York.
 Carl F. Kaestle, The Evolution of An Urban School System: New York City, 1750-1850 (Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1973), 91.
 Thomas Boese, Public Education in the City of New York: Its History, Condition, and Statistics (New York: Harper & Brothers, publishers, 1869), 59.
 Margaret A. Nash, Women’s Education in the United States, 1780-1840 (New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2005): 60, 66.
 James W. Fraser, Preparing America’s Teachers: A History.(New York: Teachers College, 2007):82. “Address Delivered on the Opening of the New-York High School for Females,” American Journal of Education 1, no. 5 (1826): 270.
 Nash, Women’s Education, 59-60.
 Sandra Roff, “Spreading the News: Revisiting the History of the New York Free Academy Using 21st Century Technology,” American Educational History Journal 34, nos. 1 & 2 (2007): 148.
 Barbara Welter, “The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860,” American Quarterly 18, no. 2, P.t 1 (1966): 152, 154, 162.
 Jo Ann Preston, “Domestic Ideology, School Reformers, and Female Teachers: Schoolteaching Becomes Women’s Work in Nineteenth-Century New England,” The New England Quarterly 66, no.4 (1993): 532.
 Christine A. Ogren, The American State Normal School: “An Instrument of Great Good" (New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2005): 20.
 Joseph McKeen, “The Teacher’s Institute of the City and County of New-York: Constitution,” The District School Journal of the State of New York 6, no.2 (1845): 28.
 New York Society of Teachers, The Mathematical Club, The Teachers’ Institute, Ward School Teachers’ Association, City Teachers’ Association,” American Journal of Education 40 (September 1865): 495-96.
 Samuel E. Staples, Normal School and their Origin: A Paper Read at a Regular Meeting of the Worcester Society of Antiquity June 5th, 1877 (Worcester, Mass.: Printed by Tyler & Seagrave, 1877), 2-4. http://archive.org/details/normalschoolsan00massgoog
 Our Common Schools,” New-York Daily Tribune, February 4, 1843: 1.
 Fifteenth Annual Report of the Board of Education of the City and County of New York for the Year Ending January 1, 1857 (New York: Wm.C. Bryant & Co., 1857), Appendix, 38.
 “Teachers and the Normal School,” New York Daily Times, October 12, 1853: 4.
 Thirteenth Annual Report of the Board of Education of the City and County of New York for the Year Ending January 1, 1855. (New York: Wm. C. Bryant & Co., 1855), 53.
 Twenty Seventh Annual Report of the Board of Education of the City and County of New York, for the Year ending December 31, 1868 (New York: Evening Post Stream Presses, 1869): 52.
 Twenty Eighth Annual report of the Board of Education of the City and County of New York, for the Year ending 31st December, 1869 (New York: Printed by the NY Printing Company, 1870), 50.
 Clare Bunce, “The Normal College of the City of New York,” Harper’s Bazaar 25, no.4 (1892): 70.