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John Swett Passes Away

Today in Masonic History John Swett passes away in 1913.

John Swett was an American educator.

Swett was born in Pittsfield, New Hampshire.

In 1853, Swett moved to California to mine for gold. There he would meet Mary Louise Tracy. The two would be wed on May 8th, 1862. They would have eight children together. The couple met and wed in Sonoma, California. Shortly after their marriage they moved to San Francisco.

In 1863, Swett was instrumental in founding the California Educational Society. The Society would eventually become the California Teachers Association, the largest teachers union in the state of California.

Also in 1863, Swett ran for and was elected as the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The election occurred during the American Civil War and Swett ran as a Republican (National Union Party). During his term, which lasted until 1867, Swett would fight to make the California school system free to all students. In his 1866-1867 report he would state:

"The school year ending June 30, 1867, marks the transition period of California from rate-bill common schools to an American free school system. For the first time in the history of the State, every public school was made entirely free for every child to enter."

Swett would have his critics as well. In the 1878 book The Poison Fountain Zachariah Montgomery, criticized Swett's autocratic style. Montgomery pointed out, using Swett's own words, that he felt that teachers should not have to answer to parents regarding the education their children were receiving. That the only people the teacher had to answer to was "his employer".

After Swett's time as the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, he went on to be the Superintendent of the San Francisco Public Schools (holding that position twice) and principal of two different San Francisco schools. He retired in 1895.

Swett passed away on August 22nd, 1913.

Swett would join Phoenix Lodge No. 144 in San Francisco in 1862.