[PW] History of School Lockers

Donna Halper dlh at donnahalper.com
Sat Jul 24 09:24:50 PDT 2021

On 7/23/2021 3:56 PM, Burns, Jacqueline wrote:
> Anyone know of a source that can help me with this?

The availability of lockers may have evolved gradually. I find newspaper 
mentioned of student lockers in the late 1880s (in May 1888, there was a 
scandal at Harvard, in which two young men who had lost consider sums by 
gambling were robbing student lockers to get valuables to pawn). Then, I 
see a mention of a new high school at Santa Cruz, California which, 
among other features, provided lockers for 74 students who would be 
using the new chemistry and physics labs and needed a place for "safe 
storage of individual apparatus" when they were not at school--July 
1895. I note that a number of universities were making lockers available 
to students at this time (late 1890s, turn of the new century)-- but 
again, mainly for specific purposes, like a place to leave one's 
personal belongings while swimming or using the gymnasium. But student 
lockers seem to be available in some high schools-- I see a story from 
October 1902 in Omaha about the principal searching the students' 
lockers in order to confiscate (gasp) mirrors-- seems the female 
students were, allegedly, spending too much time fixing their hair and 
checking to make sure they looked okay, rather than focusing on their 
studies. But most of the mentions of student lockers that I find, even 
during this time, are still about lockers located in or near the 
gymnasium-- and I also find numerous articles about keys being given to 
students so that they can lock their lockers and avoid thefts. For 
example, a May 1910 description from Syracuse NY speaks of an entire 
floor at the university's gym, where students can store their valuables: 
"they are black iron, and when the students go upstairs to do gymnasium 
work, they lock their suits up in these lockers. Each one has a lock and 
key." (Syracuse Post-Standard, May 7, 1910,  p. 15).  Are you seeking 
information about when lockers moved away from just being mainly for use 
prior to going to the gym (or to chemistry lab), and moving into being 
just an all-purpose storage space for high school students?


Donna L. Halper, PhD
Associate Professor of Communication & Media Studies
Lesley University, Cambridge MA

More information about the Project-Wombat-Open mailing list