September 19 – Happy Birthday Clara S. Bacon


Her maiden name was Clara Springstead and she was born in a well-to-do suburb of Albany, NY on September 19, 1886. Now pay close attention to the breadth and depth of the following credentials she put together as an educator.

She graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a bachelor’s degree and earned her Masters at the University of Wisconsin. She also did graduate work for a PhD at Columbia. For eight years beginning in 1910, she taught Latin, German and English at the New York State Teachers College in Albany. She left that position in 1918 to become Supervisor of Immigrant Education for all of New York State. In 1922 she came to Amsterdam to serve as Assistant Superintendent and she remained in that position for the next quarter century, retiring in 1947.

During the years she served in that position here in Amsterdam, Bacon also taught summer school at several of this state’s teacher colleges. She authored and co-authored three different textbooks for English in secondary schools and an entire series of spelling books for the elementary level. Her articles on educational curriculum frequently appeared in the nationally known Journal of Educational Methods. She was much in demand on the educational circuit as a guest lecturer. She was invited to speak about education at NYU, Columbia, Syracuse and Cornell numerous times. In addition, she served as President of the New York State Teachers Association, chaired a state ed. committee determining how to measure the success and effectiveness of elementary schools and served on another one that studied how to measure and improve teaching effectiveness. She also chaired the committee on education for the New York State League of Women Voters.

The one-time Guy Park Avenue home of Clara Bacon.

Bacon came to Amsterdam the very same year that one-time Amsterdam High School principal, Wilbur Lynch returned to the district as Superintendent. The Harvard educated Lynch had spent seven years as director of the system of American schools that existed in Mexico City and also served as the head of Oneonta Teachers College. Under the leadership of Lynch and Bacon, Amsterdam’s public schools gained a reputation for excellence that extended statewide. One might wonder why, when Lynch retired as the head of this city’s schools in 1938, Bacon did not get his job. I’m not certain the actual reason but I’m going to guess a lot of it had to do with the fact that she was not a “he.”

Her and her husband Charles A. Bacon lived in a handsome English Manor brick home at 251 Guy Park Ave., which still stands. Mrs. Bacon was also a very active member of the Amsterdam community. She was a past president and advisory board member of the Amsterdam Century Club, on the board of the Children’s Aid Society, a member of Second Presbyterian Church and for several years director of its vacation bible school. She also served on the Boards of the Amsterdam Free Library, Amsterdam Memorial Hospital and the Montgomery County Health Association.

Bacon died here in Amsterdam on July 30, 1967, a bit over a year after she attended the opening ceremonies for the new elementary school up on Henrietta Heights named in her honor.

Clara Bacon shares her September 19th Birthday with the guy who turned “Pizza” into Amsterdam’s favorite meal!


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