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´╗┐Title: A History of the McGuffey Readers
Author: Vail, Henry H.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A History of the McGuffey Readers" ***


[Illustration: WILLIAM H. McGUFFEY]








New Edition.


Copyright, 1911, by Henry H. Vail.

[Transcriber's Note: At the top of each page in the original is a header
line briefly describing the content on each page. In this document,
these header lines have been placed inside square brackets and move to
the start of the paragraph which begins the content so described.]

A History of the McGuffey Readers


Before me are four small books roughly bound in boards, the sides
covered with paper. On the reverse of the title pages, two bear a
copyright entry in the year 1836; the others were entered in 1837. They
are the earliest editions of McGuffey's Eclectic Readers that have been
found in a search lasting forty years.

They represent the first efforts in an educational and business
enterprise that has for three-quarters of a century called for the best
exertions of many skilled men, and in their several forms these books
have taken a conspicuous part in the education of millions of the
citizens of this country.

But what interest can the history of the McGuffey Eclectic Readers have
to those who did not use these books in their school career? Their story
differs from that of other readers since in successive forms, adjusted
more or less perfectly to the changing demands of the schools, they
attained a wider and more prolonged use than has been accorded to any
other series.

[The Function of Readers]

By custom and under sanction of law certain studies are pursued in the
common schools of every state. Spelling, reading, writing, arithmetic,
geography, history, grammar, civics and physiology are the subjects
usually taught. The school authorities select the textbooks which shall
be used in each subject. The readers are the only texts used in all
schools affording opportunity for distinct ethical teaching. The history
of our country should give ideas of patriotism; the civics should
contain the primary notions of government; the physiologies should
instruct the pupils in the laws of health; but the reader should cover
the whole field of morals and manners and in language that will impress
their teaching indelibly upon the mind of every pupil. While the chief
aim of the school readers must be to teach the child to apprehend
thought from the printed page and convey this thought to the attentive
listener with precision, these efforts should be exerted upon thoughts
that have permanent value. No other texts used in the school room bear
directly and positively upon the formation of character in the pupils.
The school readers are the proper and indispensable texts for teaching
true patriotism, integrity, honesty, industry, temperance, courage,
politeness, and all other moral and intellectual virtues. In these books
every lesson should have a distinct purpose in view, and the final aim
should be to establish in the pupils high moral principles which are at
the foundation of character.

[Formers of Character]

The literature of the English language is rich in material suited to
this intent; no other language is better endowed. This material is fresh
to every pupil, no matter how familiar it may be to teacher or parent.
Although some of it has been in print for three centuries, it is true
and beautiful today.

President Eliot has said, "When we teach a child to read, our primary
aim is not to enable it to decipher a way-bill or a receipt, but to
kindle its imagination, enlarge its vision and open for it the avenues
of knowledge." Knowledge gives power, which may be exerted for good or
for evil. Character gives direction to power. Power is the engine which
may force the steamer through the water, character is the helm which
renders the power serviceable for good.

Readers which have been recognized as formers of good habits of action,
thought, and speech for three-quarters of a century, which have taught
a sound morality to millions of children without giving offense to the
most violent sectarian, which have opened the doors of pure literature
to all their users, are surely worthy of study as to their origin, their
successive changes, and their subsequent career.

The story of these readers is told in the specimens of the several
editions, in the long treasured and time-worn contracts, in the books of
accounts kept by the successive publishers, and in the traditions which
have been passed down from white haired men who gossiped of the early
days in the schoolbook business. Valuable information has also been
furnished by descendants of the McGuffey family, and by the educational
institutions with which each of the authors of the readers was

[Different Editions]

For half a century the present writer has had personal knowledge of the
readers. At first, as a teacher, using them daily in the class room; but
soon, as an editor, directing the literary work of the publishers and
owners. It therefore falls to him to narrate a story "quorum pars minima

For more than seventy years the McGuffey Readers have held high rank as
text-books for use in the elementary schools, especially throughout the
West and South. But during this time these books have been revised five
times and adjusted to the changed conditions in the schools. In each one
of these revisions the marked characteristics of the original series
have been most scrupulously retained, and the continued success of the
series is doubtless owing to this fact. There has been a continuity of

[Contents of the Books]

The First and Second Readers were first published in 1836. In 1837 the
Third and Fourth Readers were printed. For reasons elsewhere explained
these books were "improved and enlarged" in 1838. In 1841 a higher
reader was added to the series which was then named McGuffey's
Rhetorical Guide. In the years 1843 and 1844 the four books then
constituting the series were thoroughly remodeled and on the title pages
were placed the words "Newly Revised" and the Rhetorical Guide was
annexed as the Fifth Reader. Ten years later the entire series was made
over and issued in six books. These were then called the New Readers.
From 1853 until 1878 the books remained substantially unchanged; but in
the latter year they were renewed largely in substance and improved in
form. These readers as copyrighted in 1879 were extensively used for
more than a quarter of a century. Changing conditions in the school room
called for another revision in 1901. This latest form now in extensive
use is called The New McGuffey Readers.

Each of these revisions has constituted practically a new series
although the changes have never included the entire contents. In the
higher readers will be found today many selections which appeared in the
original books. The reason for retaining such selections is clear. No
one has been able to write in the English language selections that are
better for school use than some written by Shakespeare, Milton, Bacon,
and other early writers. The literature of the English language has not
all been written in the present decade nor in the last century.

As at first published, the lower books of the McGuffey Readers had no
trace of the modern methods now used in teaching the mastery of
words--even the alphabet was not given in orderly form; but the
alphabetic method of teaching the art of reading was then the only one
used. The pupil at first spelled each word by naming the letters and
then pronounced each syllable and then the word.

[First Editions]

The following stanza is copied from page 61 of the edition of 1844 to
illustrate the method of presenting words:

  I like to see a lit-tle dog,
    And pat him on the head;
  So pret-ti-ly he wags his tail
    When-ev-er he is fed.

The First Reader was mostly in words of one syllable. In this book we
find the story of the lame dog that, when cured, brought another lame
dog to be doctored: of the kind boy who freed his caged bird; of the
cruel boy who drowned the cat and pulled wings and legs from flies; of
Peter Pindar the story teller, and the "snow dog" of Mount St. Bernard;
of Mr. Post who adopted and reared Mary; of the boy who told a lie and
repented after he was found out; of the chimney sweep who was tempted to
steal a gold watch but put it back and was thereafter educated by its
owner; of the whisky boy; and of the mischievous boy who played ghost
and made another boy insane. Nearly every lesson has a moral clearly
stated in formal didactic words at its close.

In the Second Reader we find the story of the idle boy who talked with
the bees, dogs, and horses, and having found them all busy, reformed
himself; of the kind girl who shared her cake with a dog and an old man;
of the mischievous boys who tied the grass across the path and thus
upset not only the milk-maid but the messenger running for a doctor
to come to their father; of the wise lark who knew that the farmer's
grain would not be cut until he resolved to cut it himself; of the wild
and ravenous bear that treed a boy and hung suspended by his boot; and
of another bear that traveled as a passenger by night in a stage coach;
of the quarrelsome cocks, pictured in a clearly English farm yard, that
were both eaten up by the fox that had been brought in by the defeated
cock; of the honest boy and the thief who was judiciously kicked by the
horse that carried oranges in baskets; of George Washington and his
historic hatchet and the mutilated cherry-tree; and of the garden that
was planted with seeds in lines spelling Washington's name which removed
all doubt as to an intelligent Creator. There were also some lessons on
such animals as beavers, whales, peacocks and lions.

[Favorite Selections]

The Third Reader will be remembered first because of the picture, on
the cover, of Napoleon on his rearing charger. This book contained five
selections from the Bible; Croly's "Conflagration of the Ampitheatre
at Rome;" "How a Fly Walks on the Ceiling;" "The Child's Inquiry;"
"How big was Alexander, Pa;" Irving's "Description of Pompey's Pillar;"
Woodworth's "Old Oaken Bucket;" Miss Gould's "The Winter King;" and
Scott's "Bonaparte Crossing the Alps," commencing "'Is the route
practicable?' said Bonaparte. 'It is barely possible to pass,' replied
the engineer. 'Let us set forward, then,' said Napoleon." The rearing
steed facing a precipitous slope in the picture gave emphasis to the
words. There were also in this reader several pieces about Indians and
bears, which indicate that Dr. McGuffey never forgot the stories told
at the fireside by his father of his adventures as an Indian scout and

In the Fourth Reader there were seventeen selections from the Bible;
William Wirt's "Description of the Blind Preacher;" Phillip's "Character
of Napoleon Bonaparte;" Bacon's "Essay on Studies;" Nott's "Speech on
the Death of Alexander Hamilton;" Addison's "Westminster Abbey;"
Irving's "Alhambra;" Rogers's "Genevra;" Willis's "Parrhasius;"
Montgomery's "Make Way for Liberty;" two extracts from Milton and two
from Shakespeare, and no less than fourteen selections from the writings
of the men and women who lectured before the College of Teachers in
Cincinnati. The story of the widow of the Pine Cottage sharing her last
smoked herring with a strange traveler who revealed himself as her
long-lost son, returning rich from the Indies, was anonymous, but it
will be remembered by those who read it.

These selections were the most noteworthy ones in the first editions of
these readers.

The First and Second Readers of the McGuffey Series were substantially
made new at each revision. A comparison of the original Third Reader
with an edition copyrighted in 1847, shows that the latter book was
increased about one-third in size. Of the sixty-six selections in the
early edition only forty-seven were retained, while thirty new ones were
inserted. Among the latter were "Harry and his Dog Frisk" that brought
to him, punished by being sent to bed, a Windsor pear; "Perseverance," a
tale of kite-flying followed by the poem, "Try, try again;" the "Little
Philosopher," named Peter Hurdle, who caught Mr. Lenox's runaway horse
and on examination seemed to lack nothing but an Eclectic spelling book,
a reader and a Testament--which were promised him; "The Colonists," in
which men of various callings offered their services, and while even the
dancing master was accepted as of some possible use, the gentleman was
scornfully rejected; "Things by Their Right Names," in which a battle
was described as wholesale murder; "Little Victories," in which Hugh's
mother consoled him for the loss of a leg by telling him of the lives of
men who became celebrated under even greater adversities; "The Wonderful
Instrument," which turned out to be the eye; "Metaphysics," a ludicrous
description of a colonial salt-box in affected terms of exactness
designed to ridicule some forms of reasoning. Those who used this
edition of the third reader will surely remember some of these

[The Bible]

In the Fourth Reader printed in 1844 there were thirty new
selections--less than one-third of the book; but some of these were
such as will be remembered by those who read them in school. There was
"Respect for the Sabbath Rewarded," in which a barber of Bath had become
so poor because he would not shave his customers on Sunday, that he
borrowed a half-penny to buy a candle Saturday night to give light for
a late customer, and was thus discovered to be the long-lost William
Reed of Taunton, heir to many thousand pounds; "The Just Judge," who
disguised himself as a miller and, obtaining a place on the jury,
received only five guineas as a bribe when the others got ten, and who
revealed himself as Lord Chief Justice Hale and tried the case over in
his miller's clothing; Hawthorne's "The Town Pump;" Mrs. Southey's
"April Day."

  "All day the low-hung clouds have dropped
    Their garnered fullness down.
  All day a soft gray mist hath wrapped
    Hill, valley, grove and town."

Bryant's "Death of the Flowers;" Campbell's "Lochiel's Warning;" and the
trial scene from Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. All these became
favorite reading exercises in later years.

As late as 1840 the Bible was read daily in all the schools of the
West. Although sectarian or denominational teaching was not permitted,
religious instruction was desired by the great majority of school

Even up to the opening of the Civil War, whatever the faith or the
practice of the adult inhabitants of the country, the Bible story and
the Bible diction were familiar to all. The speeches of the popular
orators of that day were filled with distinct allusions to the Bible
and these were quickly and clearly apprehended by the people. It may be
questioned whether popular speeches of the present day would have equal
force if based on the assumption that everybody knows the Biblical
stories. Indeed it is a common remark made by professors of English in
the higher institutions of learning that pupils know little of the
Bible as a distinctly formative and conservative element in English
literature. In the texts authorized for the study of English classics,
Biblical allusions are very common. These have little meaning to pupils
who have not read the Bible, unless the passage is pointed out and
hunted up.

[Dr. Swing's Opinion]

From the pages of these readers the pupils learned to master the printed
word and obtain the thought of the authors. Without conscious effort
they received moral instruction and incentives toward right living.
Without intent they treasured in their memories such extracts from the
authors of the best English Literature as gave them a desire to read

[Books as Teachers]

In one of his sermons Dr. David Swing of Chicago said: "Much as you may
have studied the languages or the sciences, that which most affected you
was the moral lessons in the series of McGuffey. And yet the reading
class was filed out only once a day to read for a few moments, and
then we were all sent to our seats to spend two hours in learning
how to bound New Hampshire or Connecticut, or how long it would take a
greyhound to overtake a fox or a hare if the spring of each was so and
so, and the poor fugitive had such and such a start. That was perhaps
well, but we have forgotten how to bound Connecticut, and how to solve
the equation of the field and thicket; but up out of the far-off years
come all the blessed lessons in virtue and righteousness which those
reading books taught; and when we now remember, how even these moral
memories have faded I cannot but wish the teachers had made us bound the
States less, and solve fewer puzzles in 'position' and the 'cube root'
and made us commit to memory the whole series of the McGuffey Eclectic
Headers. The memory that comes from these far-away pages is full of the
best wisdom of time or the timeless land. In these books we were indeed
led by a schoolmaster, from beautiful maxims for children up to the
best thoughts of a long line of sages, and poets, and naturalists. There
we all first learned the awful weakness of the duel that took away a
Hamilton; there we saw the grandeur of the Blind Preacher of William
Wirt; there we saw the emptiness of the ambition of Alexander, and there
we heard even the infidel say, 'Socrates died like a philosopher, but
Jesus Christ like a God.'"

This public recognition of the influence of these readers upon the mind
and character of this great preacher is again noted in Rev. Joseph Fort
Newton's biography of David Swing in which the books which influenced
that life are named as "The Bible, Calvin's Institutes, Fox's Book of
Martyrs and the McGuffey Readers;" and the author quotes David Swing as
saying that "The Institutes were rather large reading for a boy, but to
the end of his life he held that McGuffey's Sixth Reader was a great
book. For Swing, as for many a boy in the older West, its varied and
wise selections from the best English authors were the very gates of
literature ajar."

One of the most eminent political leaders of the present day attributes
his power in the use of English largely to the study of McGuffey's Sixth
Reader in the common schools of Ohio.

[How a Japanese Learned English]

At a dinner lately given in New York to Marquis Ito of Japan, the
marquis responded to the toast of his health returning thanks in
English. He then continued his remarks in Japanese for some eight
minutes. At its close Mr. Tsudjuki, who was then the minister of
Education in Japan, traveling with Marquis Ito as his friend and
companion, and who had taken shorthand notes of the Japanese speech,
rose and translated the speech readily and fluently into good English.
One of the guests asked how he had learned to speak English so
correctly. He replied that he had done so in the public schools of Japan
and added, "I learned my English from McGuffey's Readers, with which you
are no doubt familiar."

[The Authorship]

It is not unusual to see in the literary columns of a daily newspaper
inquiries as to where certain poems may be found of which a single
stanza is faintly recalled. Many of these prove to be fragments of
pieces that are found in the McGuffey Readers. Quite lately Theodore
Roosevelt made the public statement that he did not propose to become a
"Meddlesome Matty." This allusion was perfectly clear to the millions of
people who used the McGuffey Readers at any time after 1853.

When the Fourth Reader was issued in 1837 it contained a preface of
three closely printed pages setting forth and defending the plan of
McGuffey's books. In this he said: "In conclusion, the author begs leave
to state, that the whole series of Eclectic Readers is his own. In the
preparation of the rules, etc., for the present volume he has had the
assistance of a very distinguished Teacher, whose judgment and zeal in
promoting the cause of education have often been commended by the
American people. In the arrangement of the series generally, he is
indebted to many of his friends for valuable suggestions, and he takes
this opportunity of tendering them his thanks for the lively interest
they have manifested for the success of his undertaking."

The sole author of the four readers first issued as the Eclectic Readers
was William Holmes McGuffey. He was responsible for the marked qualities
in these books which met with such astonishing popular approval in all
these years. What these qualities are is well known to those who have
used the books and the users are numbered by millions.

[The Rhetorical Guide]

The Rhetorical Guide was prepared by Mr. A.H. McGuffey, and his name
alone was on the early editions. In 1844 the book was revised by the
author and Dr. Pinneo, and was given the alternate title "or Fifth
Reader of the Eclectic Series." The work of revision occupied two years.
The title page carried the name of its author until, for reasons of his
own, he asked to have it removed.

As usual when revisions of schoolbooks are made, the older edition was
continued in publication so long as a distinct demand for it existed.
But the issuance of a revised edition always suggests the question of
change, which competing publishers promptly seek to bring about. The
publishers of the "Newly Revised McGuffey Readers," therefore, sought
to replace the older edition wherever it was in use and to displace
competing books wherever possible. The edition of 1843 acquired large
sales over a very wide territory in the central West and South. It is
the edition generally known by the grandfathers of the school boys of
the present day.

It may be interesting to name some of the selections in this Rhetorical
Guide issued in 1844 since in modified form the work has been the
highest reader of the series.

[Selections of Value]

As a guide toward rhetorical reading the book contained a carefully
prepared collection of rules and directions with examples for practice
in Articulation. Inflection, Accent and Emphasis, Reading Verse, for the
Management of the Voice and Gesture. These pages were intended for drill
work, and in those days the teachers were not content with the dull
monotonous utterance of the words or with mere mastery of thought, to
be tested by multitudinous questioning. If the pupil obtained from the
printed page the very thought the author intended to convey, the pupil
was expected to read orally so as to express that thought to all
hearers. If the correct thought was thus heard, no questions were
needed. The test of reading orally is the communication of thought by
the reader to the intelligent and attentive hearer, and the words of the
author carry this message more accurately than can any other words the
pupil may select.

[Noted Selections]

The selections in the Rhetorical Guide were made, first of all, to teach
the art of reading. There was therefore great variety. Second, to
inculcate a love for literature. Therefore the selections were taken
from the great writers,--poets, orators, essayists, historians, and
preachers. The extracts are wonderfully complete in themselves,--one
does not need to read the whole of Byron's Don Juan to appreciate the
six stanzas that describe the thunder-storm on the Alps. Of the poetical
extracts all the users of this book will remember Southey's "Cataract
of Lodore" with its exacting drill on the ending,--"ing," Longfellow's
"Village Blacksmith" and the "Reaper and the Flowers;" Bryant's
"Thanatopsis" and "Song of the Stars;" Wolfe's "Burial of Sir John
Moore;" Gray's "Elegy;" Mrs. Hemans's "Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers;"
Cowper's "My Mother's Picture;" Jones's "What Constitutes a State;"
Scott's "Lochinvar;" Halleck's "Marco Bozzaris;" Drake's "American
Flag;" and Mrs. Thrale's "Three Warnings." As an introduction to the
thought, imagery and diction of Shakespeare, there were "Hamlet's
Soliloquy," "Speech of Henry Fifth to his Troops," "Othello's Apology,"
"The Fall of Cardinal Wolsey" and his death, the "Quarrel of Brutus and
Cassius" (often committed to memory and spoken) and Antony's Oration
over dead Caesar. The extracts from orations were chosen largely for
their relation to great events in history. There were Patrick Henry's
"Speech before the Virginia Convention," Walpole's "Reproof of Mr.
Pitt," and Pitt's reply. Who cannot remember "The atrocious crime of
being a young man," and go on with the context? There were extracts
from Hayne's "Speech on South Carolina," and Webster's reply defending
Massachusetts; a part of Burke's long speech on the Trial of Warren
Hastings prefaced by Macaulay's description of the scene; Webster's
"Speech on the Trial of a Murderer," ending with "It must be confessed,
it will be confessed; there is no refuge from confession but suicide,
and suicide is confession;" Webster's speech on the Importance of the
Union with its concluding sentiment, "Liberty and Union, now and
forever; one and inseparable." There was also Fox's "Political Pause"
with its wonderful requirements of inflection to express irony;
Sprague's "American Indians," "Not many generations ago, where you now
sit, encircled with all that exalts and embellishes civilized life,
the rank thistle nodded in the wind, and the wild fox dug his hole
unscared." Did you not commit it to memory and speak it? Then there was
Webster's Speech in which he supplied John Adams from his own fervid
imagination that favorite of all patriotic boys, "Sink or swim, live
or die, survive or perish; I give my hand and my heart to this vote."
At its close, "it is my living sentiment, and, by the blessing of God,
it shall be my dying sentiment; independence now, and independence

[Literary Selections]

From the essayists there was Lamb's "Eulogy on Candle Light;" that
delightful "Eulogy on Debt" from an unknown author; Addison's "Allegory
on Discontent," and "Westminster Abbey;" and Jane Taylor's "Discontented
Pendulum." Only seven selections were taken from the Bible; but one of
these was Paul's Defense before Agrippa. There were, however, quite a
number of articles of strongly religious tendency, like Dr. Spring's
"Observance of the Sabbath."

The book contained two hundred and thirty-five selections and of this
number nearly one-half appeared in all subsequent revisions.

This Rhetorical Guide or Fifth Reader is the book that by its careful
selection of specimens of the best English literature in prose and verse
contributed most to the training of its readers toward the appreciation
of true beauty in literature. It contained many pieces of solid and
continuous worth,--many that relate closely to the great historical eras
of the United States.

[McGuffey's Ancestry]

In the latest revision of the highest reader, made in 1879, one hundred
and thirty-eight selections composed the book. Of this number sixty-one
were in the original book as prepared by Mr. A.H. McGuffey.

It was an admirable collection of much material that is still prized and
which, when carefully read by pupils hungry for thoughtful language,
made a deep and lasting impression. In many cases the inmost thought of
the author may not have been at once fully apprehended by the young
readers; but with advancing years and wider experience in life the
stored words became instinct with thought and feeling.


Dr. William Holmes McGuffey was born September 28, 1800, on the southern
border of Washington county, Pa. The family descended from William
and Anna (McKittrick) McGuffey who came from Scotland, and landed at
Philadelphia. They made a home in the southern part of York county,
at which, during the Revolution, General Washington often stopped to
refresh himself. In 1789 this family removed to Washington county, Pa.

[The Indian Scouts]

Alexander McGuffey, the father of Dr. McGuffey, was six years old when
the family came to America in August, 1774. In 1790, when he was
twenty-two years of age, he and his friend, Duncan McArthur, afterward a
governor of Ohio, were selected from five young men who volunteered to
act as scouts against the Indians in Ohio who were then threatening the
frontier settlements in the western part of Virginia and Pennsylvania.
These two young men were selected after tests by Samuel Brady to find
which could run the fastest, shoot most accurately, and were least
afraid of Indians. Alexander McGuffey served in the army three years,
venturing his life with small bodies of scouts in the Indian country.
He took part in several fights with the Indians. When General St. Clair
in 1792 marched north from Cincinnati to meet the Indians, this body of
scouts was one day concealed in a swamp near the spring of Castalia,
Ohio. There they saw great numbers of Indians passing to meet General
St. Clair, and three of the scouts hastened through the Indian country
to inform the general. They traveled only at night and hid during the
day. One night they marched forty miles. They told General St. Clair
what they had seen and again went out to watch the collecting Indians.
Three days later St. Clair was defeated. These scouts were then twelve
miles away but the retreating soldiers soon overtook them and then the
"woods were alive with Indians." The scouts turned eastward and in due
time reached Logstown, near Wheeling.

[Indian Warfare]

The next year McArthur, McGuffey and George Sutherland were again sent
out by General Wayne to spy the Indians. When only seven or eight miles
from Wheeling and west of the Ohio river, they came upon a trail which
led to a deer lick. Just at dusk McGuffey, who was leading the party,
saw in the path the gaily decorated head-dress of an Indian. It had been
placed there by the Indians who were in ambush close by and were ready
to shoot any white man who should stop to pick it up. McGuffey saw
through the stratagem instantly; without halting, he gave it a kick and
shouted "Indians!" Several Indians fired at once and one of the balls
smashed McGuffey's powder horn, and passed through his clothing, but did
not wound him. The three scouts retreated in safety, and the Indians did
not follow them.

The wars with the Indians in that region closed in 1794, and Alexander
McGuffey then married Anna Holmes, of Washington county, and became a
settler. His eldest son was William Holmes McGuffey. When this son was
but two years old the family moved to Trumbull county, Ohio. Here, in
the care of a pious mother and father, he spent the years of childhood
and of early manhood, performing the labors falling upon the eldest son
in a large family of children dwelling in a log cabin on the frontier.
From the heavy forest, fields were cleared, fenced and cultivated, roads
were made and bridges were built, and in all these labors the sturdy son
of the famous Indian scout took part.

[A Frontier School]

During the first eighteen years of W.H. McGuffey's life he had no
opportunities for education other than those afforded by the brief
winter schools supported by the voluntary subscriptions of the parents
in the neighborhood.

In 1802 Rev. Thos. Hughes, a Presbyterian clergyman, built at
Darlington, Pa., the "Old Stone Academy" for the education of young men,
having obtained the necessary funds by traveling on horseback throughout
Pennsylvania and eastward even to Newburyport, Mass.

This seminary of learning was conducted on lines of the utmost economy
to meet the needs of the boys living on the frontier. The tuition was
only three dollars a year and the charge for board was seventy-five
cents a week. The food was simple. For breakfast, bread, butter, and
coffee; for dinner, bread, meat, and sauce; for supper, bread and milk.
The only variation allowed in this bill of fare was the occasional
omission of sauce or coffee.

[The Old Stone Academy]

At the close of a summer day in 1818, Thomas Hughes was riding horseback
through Trumbull county. The dust on the highway deadened the sound of
his horse's feet. While passing a log cabin, half hidden from the road
by intervening trees and shrubs, he heard the plaintive voice of a woman
who was in the garden, out of sight. The clergyman stopped his horse and
listened. He heard the woman earnestly praying that some way might be
opened for her children to obtain such education as should fit them for
the duties of life. Riding on, the clergyman inquired at the next house
regarding the inmates of the log cabin. He was informed that a Mr.
McGuffey lived there. Turning back he sought the prayerful mother and
learned from her the circumstances of the family. The doors of the "Old
Stone Academy" were opened to William H. McGuffey and he there obtained
his first start in a preparation for college. But his labor could not be
wholly spared on the farm so lately won from the surrounding forest. He
worked in the fields in summer, continuing his studies and walked many
miles once a week to recite his lessons to a kindly clergyman.

W.H. McGuffey's father was too poor to aid his son in obtaining a
collegiate education, and the latter soon turned to teaching as a means
of obtaining money to support himself in college. When prepared for
college he went back to his native county and entered Washington
College. He was in his twenty-sixth year when he graduated with
distinguished honors from that institution.

It was at Washington College that W.H. McGuffey first met with a great
teacher and former of character,--Dr. Andrew Wylie, then the president.
It was considered by Dr. McGuffey one of the most fortunate events of
his life that he came at that time under the influence of Dr. Wylie's
forceful mind and elevated character.

[A College Professor]

Dr. McGuffey was obliged to suspend his collegiate course for a year to
earn more money for his support. He taught a private school at Paris,
Ky., in 1823 and 1824. There he met Dr. Robert H. Bishop, the president
of Miami University at Oxford, Ohio. Dr. Bishop was so impressed with
the character and mental power of the young teacher that on March 29,
1826, even before McGuffey received his bachelor's degree from
Washington College, he received his appointment as professor of Ancient
Languages at Miami University.

He graduated in 1826 and began his labor at Oxford, Ohio, at the opening
of the fall session. He at once took high rank in a faculty consisting
of strong men, and, young as he was, won the respect and homage of the
students. In 1832 he was transferred to the chair of Mental Philosophy.
To make this subject interesting and valuable to beginners requires, on
the part of the teacher, wide reading, clearness of thought, and
simplicity and directness of speech. These qualities Dr. McGuffey had.
He had become well read in philosophy, especially of the Scottish
school, Brown being his favorite author. But he had fully assimilated
the matter and had thought independently. He also had a fund of fresh
and suggestive illustrations coming within the daily experience of men,
which brought his lectures close to the minds of the students. Whatever
positions of honor or of trust his pupils held in their later careers,
they never ceased to feel the impulse which came from Dr. McGuffey as a

On March 29, 1829, he was licensed as a preacher in the Presbyterian
church, and from that date he became a frequent public speaker. He never
had charge of a parish as minister, but usually preached on Sunday in
the college chapel to the students and to such of the public as could
obtain space to sit or to stand. The preacher's unassuming manner, the
clearness of his thought, and the simplicity of his language produced
impressions that were enduring. He never wrote his sermons. He simply
thought them out rigorously, and his mind worked so logically and in
such definite lines that he could repeat on request a sermon, preached
years before, in a form recognized by his hearers as substantially the

[Cincinnati College]

After ten years spent in teaching and preaching at Miami University, Dr.
McGuffey resigned, August 26, 1836, and accepted the presidency of
Cincinnati College.

This institution was chartered in the winter of 1818-1819 by the
legislature of Ohio, largely at the solicitation of Dr. Daniel Drake. It
was partially endowed by the gifts of the public-spirited citizens of
Cincinnati. But its collegiate functions had been allowed to drop,
although a school on the Lancastrian system was maintained.

The election of Dr. McGuffey as president of this college was a result
of renewed activity on the part of the leading men in the city to found
a genuine college of high character in that city. They believed that if
well conducted such an institution would bring to its doors students
enough to support the college by their fees.

A medical department was organized in June, 1835, with eight competent
professors, a law department with three professors, and a faculty of
arts with seven teachers. In this faculty, William H. McGuffey was
president and professor of Moral and Intellectual Philosophy, O.M.
Mitchell was professor of Mathematics and Astronomy, and Edward D.
Mansfield was professor of Constitutional Law and History. Dr. McGuffey
accepted the presidency with a full knowledge that the work was
experimental. A trial of three years demonstrated that a college could
not be sustained without an invested endowment. Cincinnati College "was
endowed with genius, and nothing else."

[Ohio University]

In 1839, Dr. McGuffey accepted the presidency of the Ohio University at
Athens, Ohio, which office he held for four years. During these years
his faculties were at their fullest development. He had become an
experienced, scholarly teacher and a popular speaker on religious and
educational subjects. The students at Athens held him in the highest
esteem, and the influence of his teaching became deeper as years rolled
by and experience emphasized his lessons.

In 1839 he was honored with the degree of Doctor of Laws conferred upon
him by the Indiana University, of which his former teacher and friend,
Dr. Wylie, was then president.

The income of the Ohio University came chiefly from the rents of two
entire townships of land which had been given it for an endowment. This
land was lawfully revalued at the end of ten years. The revaluation was
contested in the courts by the tenants. The Supreme Court decided in
favor of the university; but the farmers induced the legislature in 1843
to pass a law which fixed the income of the university from these lands
at a sum so low as to cause the doors of the institution to be closed
for five years.

Dr. McGuffey returned to Cincinnati and was for two years a professor in
Woodward College, now Woodward High School.

[University of Virginia]

In 1845 he was appointed professor of Natural and Moral Philosophy in
the University of Virginia. This position he filled with credit to
himself and with great acceptance to the students in that institution
for more than a quarter of a century and until his death on May 4, 1873.

Dr. McGuffey's classes in the University of Virginia were well attended.
His lectures were delivered extempore, in language exactly expressing
his thoughts. His illustrations were most apt. He taught "with the
simplicity of a child, with the precision of a mathematician, and with
the authority of truth."

[Method of Teaching]

A portion of the lecture hour was given to questioning the members of
the class. In this he used the Socratic method, leading the pupil by a
series of questions to the discovery of the incorrectness of his
reasoning or the falsity of his grounds. By this process the students
were led to question their own reasoning, to think clearly and to
express their thoughts accurately.

Dr. McGuffey once told a pupil that he had preached three thousand
sermons and had never written one. Until late in life he had never
written his lectures. Shortly before his death he began the preparation
of a book on Mental Philosophy. This was never completed.

Dr. McGuffey was twice married. By his first wife. Miss Harriet Spinning
of Dayton, he had several children. One daughter, Mary, married Dr.
William W. Stewart of Dayton; another, Henrietta, married Professor A.
D. Hepburn who was for a time president of Miami University. Professor
Hepburn's son, in turn inheriting his grandfather's faculty of teaching,
is a professor in the University of Indiana.

[Interest in Public Schools]

In 1837 Professor Calvin E. Stowe went to Europe to investigate the
organization and method of elementary schools. On his return he
published, in 1838, his report on the Prussian system. Subsequently Dr.
McGuffey labored in Ohio with Samuel Lewis and other public-spirited men
for the passage of the general school law under which the common schools
of Ohio were first organized. He carried to Virginia the same zeal for
the education of all the children of the state to prepare them for the
duties of life. One of his first acts on assuming the duties of his
professorship in the university was to make a tour of the state
advocating the introduction of a public school system in Virginia.
To this first appeal for common schools, open alike to rich and poor,
there was then but a feeble response; but, twenty-five years later, Dr.
McGuffey had the satisfaction of seeing the public schools organized
with one of his own friends and a former pupil at its head,--Hon. W.H.

Dr. McGuffey was a man of medium stature and compact figure. His
forehead was broad and full; his eyes clear and expressive. His features
were of the strongly marked rugged Scotch type. He was a ready speaker,
a popular lecturer on educational topics, and an able preacher. He was
admirable in conversation. His observation of men was accurate, and his
study of character close.

[Trip Through the South]

After the Civil War and while the reconstruction was in progress it
was extremely difficult in the North to obtain a correct view of the
situation in the South. State governments had been established in which
"carpet-baggers" had more or less control. Nearly all the whites in the
South had taken part in the war. They were largely disfranchised and
their former servants often became the legal rulers. The Klu Klux Klan
had begun their unlawful work, of which the papers gave contradictory

As business men, the publishers of McGuffey's Readers desired to learn
the truth about the situation of the South and its probable future.
They asked Dr. McGuffey to take a trip through the Carolinas, Georgia,
Alabama, and Mississippi and make report to them at Cincinnati. This he
did, visiting all the larger towns where he was usually the honored
guest of some graduate of the university. He saw the legislatures in
session, met the governors, and studied the whole situation. He then
came to Cincinnati and told his story. He had made no notes, but he
never hesitated for a name. He repeated conversations with unquestioned
accuracy and described with humor the gross ignorance and brutality of
some of the southern legislators, the looting of the capitol at the end
of the session, the indirect robbery that was under way, the reversal of
all the conditions of life, and the growing unrest of the men who had
heretofore been the rulers.

It was such a picture as at that time no Northern paper would have dared
to print--it was the truth. For days he held his listeners captive with
the story--the writer never heard a more interesting one.

[College of Teachers]

While Dr. McGuffey was still at Oxford, Ohio, he took part in the
formation of probably the first extended Teachers' Association formed in
the West. There had been a previous association of Cincinnati teachers
organized for mutual aid and improvement. This was about to be given
up; but at their first anniversary on June 20, 1831, Mr. Albert Pickett,
principal of a private school in Cincinnati, proposed a plan for
organizing in one body the instructors in public and private schools and
the friends of education. Circulars were sent out and the first meeting
of the College of Teachers was held October 3, 1832. A great number of
teachers from many states of the West and South attended these meetings
and took part in the proceedings. Throughout its continuance Dr.
McGuffey took an active part in the work. In the years 1832-1836
fifty-seven addresses were delivered to the College by thirty-nine
speakers. Of this number Dr. McGuffey prepared and delivered three.

[Topics Discussed]

The proceedings of the College of Teachers were published in annual
pamphlets which together formed two large octavo volumes. The topics
which were then under discussion are best shown by the titles of a few
of the addresses, with the name of the speaker and the year of delivery:

On Introducing the Bible into Schools, Rev. B.P. Aydelott, 1836;
Importance of making the business of Teaching a Profession, Lyman
Beecher, D.D., 1833; The Kind of Education Adapted to the West,
Professor Bradford, 1833; Qualifications of Teachers, Mr. Mann Butler,
1832; Physical Education, Dr. Daniel Drake, 1833; On Popular Education,
John P. Harrison, M.D., 1836; On the Study and Nature of Ancient
Languages, A. Kinmont, 1832; On Common Schools, Samuel Lewis, Esq.,
1835; On the Qualifications of Teachers, E.D. Mansfield, Esq., 1836;
Reciprocal Duties of Parents and Teachers, Rev. W.H. McGuffey, A.M.,
1835; General Duties of Teachers, Albert Pickett, 1835; Philosophy of
the Human Mind, Bishop Purcell, 1836; Utility of Cabinets of Natural
Science, Joseph Ray, 1836; Agriculture as a Branch of Education, Rev. E.
Slack, 1836; Education of Emigrants, Professor Calvin Stowe, 1835; Best
Method of Teaching Composition, D.L. Talbott, 1835; Manual Labor in the
Schools, Milo G. Williams.

Some of these topics are still engrossing the attention of teachers at
their annual meetings for the discussion of live educational questions.

While Dr. McGuffey was at Oxford, teaching mental philosophy to the
pupils in Miami University, he prepared the manuscript for the two lower
readers of the graded series which bore his name. To test his work while
in progress, he collected in his own house a number of small children
whom he taught to read by the use of his lessons.

It is evident that these readers were prepared at the solicitation of
the publishers and on such a general plan as to number and size as was
desired by the publishers. Dr. McGuffey was selected by them as the most
competent teacher known to them for the preparation of successful books.
He did not prepare the manuscripts and search for a publisher.

[The Copyright Contract]

On April 28, 1836, he made a contract with Truman & Smith, publishers of
Cincinnati, for the preparation and publication of a graded series of
readers to consist of four books. The First and Second readers were then
in manuscript, the Third and Fourth readers were to be completed within
eighteen months. They were both issued in 1837. Dr. Benjamin Chidlaw,
then a student in college, aided the author by copying the indicated
selections and preparing them for the printer. He received for this work
five dollars and thought himself well paid.

These four books constituted the original series of the Eclectic Readers
by W.H. McGuffey which in all the subsequent revisions have borne his
name and retained the impress of his mind.

The First Reader made a thin 18mo book of seventy-two pages, having
green paper covered sides; the Second Reader contained one hundred and
sixty-four pages of the same size. The Third Reader had a larger page
and was printed as a duodecimo of one hundred and sixty-five pages. The
fourth Reader ranked in size with the Third and contained three hundred
and twenty-four printed pages. Each was printed from the type, which was
distributed when the required number for the edition came from the

By the terms of the contract the publishers paid a royalty of ten per
cent on all copies sold until the copyright should reach the sum of one
thousand dollars, after which the Readers became the absolute property
of the publishers. It must be remembered that in those days this sum of
money seemed much larger than it would at the present time, and it may
be questioned whether this newly organized firm of publishers commanded
as much as a thousand dollars in their entire business. At any rate
the contract was mutually satisfactory and remained so to the end of
the author's life. Right here it seems proper to remark that although
the McGuffey readers became the property of the publishers when the
royalties reached one thousand dollars. Dr. McGuffey was employed by the
publishers in connection with important revisions so long as he lived
and the contracts specify a "satisfactory consideration" in each case.

[Later Contracts]

When, after the Civil War, these readers attained a sale which became
very profitable to the firm then owning the copyrights, the partners,
without suggestion or solicitation, fixed upon an annuity which was paid
Dr. McGuffey each year so long as he lived. This was a voluntary
recognition of their esteem for the man and of the continued value of
his work.

[The Beecher Family]

Before Dr. McGuffey completed the manuscripts of the Third and Fourth
readers he left Oxford and went to Cincinnati. Here he found himself in
close touch with a community fully alive to the claims of education.
Cincinnati, in 1837, was the largest city in the West excepting New
Orleans and was the great educational center of the West. The early
settlers of Cincinnati were generally well educated men and they had a
keen sense of the value of learning. The public schools of Cincinnati
were then more highly developed than those of any other city in the
West. Woodward High School had been endowed and Dr. Joseph Ray, the
author of the well known arithmetics, was the professor of mathematics
there. The Cincinnati College was then bright with the promise of future
usefulness. Lane Seminary was founded and Dr. Lyman Beecher was inducted
professor of Theology on December 26, 1832, and became the first
president. He went to Cincinnati with his brilliant family. His eldest
daughter, Catherine, had already won a high reputation as a teacher,
acting as principal of the Hartford (Conn.) Female Institute. His
younger daughter, Harriet, married, in January, 1836, Calvin E. Stowe,
then one of the professors in Lane Seminary. It was while in Cincinnati
that she gathered material and formed opinions which she later embodied
in "Uncle Tom's Cabin." In 1834 Henry Ward Beecher graduated at Amherst
College. He and his brother, Charles, then went to Cincinnati to study
theology under their father. While pursuing his studies Henry Ward
Beecher devoted his surplus energies to editorial work on the Cincinnati
Daily Journal. These were some of the people of Cincinnati interested in
the problem of education who took part with Dr. McGuffey in the
discussions of the College of Teachers and labored zealously for the
promotion of education in every department. While president of Lane
Seminary. Dr. Beecher was also the pastor of the Second Presbyterian
Church in Cincinnati where W.B. Smith was an attendant.

[Alexander H. McGuffey]

Dr. McGuffey left Cincinnati in 1839, and when the publisher, Mr.
Winthrop B. Smith, found it necessary to add to the four McGuffey's
Readers another more advanced book, he employed for its preparation, Mr.
Alexander H. McGuffey, a younger brother of Dr. McGuffey. Mr. Alexander
H. McGuffey had, in 1837, prepared for Messrs. Truman & Smith the
manuscript of McGuffey's Eclectic Spelling Book, and although the nature
of this task was very different from the preparation of a reader for the
highest grades in the elementary schools, the result showed that the
publishers judged wisely in selecting a man competent to prepare a
selection from English literature.

[Illustration: ALEXANDER H. McGUFFEY]

Mr. Alexander Hamilton McGuffey was born August 13, 1816, in Trumbull
County, Ohio. He was sixteen years younger than his brother, William,
and when only ten years of age was placed under charge of his brother
at Oxford, Ohio. There he studied Hebrew before he had any knowledge
of the grammar of his mother tongue. He was a brilliant student, and
he graduated from Miami University at the age of sixteen. Soon after
graduation he was appointed Professor of Belles Lettres at Woodward
College. In this field of labor his knowledge of English literature was
broadened and he acquired a love for the classic English writers that
lasted through life. But Mr. McGuffey determined to become a lawyer and,
while still teaching English literature in Woodward College, he read
law. He was admitted to the bar as soon as he reached his twenty-first
year, and became a noted and wise counsellor. His labor for his clients
was in keeping them out of the courts by clearly expressed contracts and
prudent action. He was seldom engaged in jury trials; but was expert in
cases involving contracts and wills. In such suits his knowledge of the
principles of law and his power of close reasoning were valuable. He was
often placed in positions of trust, and was for more than fifty years
the watchful guardian of the interests of the Cincinnati College.

[The Rhetorical Guide]

He prepared the manuscript of the Rhetorical Guide after the close of
his labor as a teacher. The work probably occupied his leisure time in a
law office before he acquired remunerative practice in his profession.

[McGuffey's Sixth Reader]

The contract between Mr. A.H. McGuffey and W.B. Smith, dated September
30, 1841, provided for the preparation within eighteen months, of the
manuscript of a book to be called McGuffey's Rhetorical Reader, or by
any other appropriate name which Mr. Smith might select. It was to
contain not less than three hundred and twenty-four duodecimo pages nor
more than four hundred and eighty. Mr. Smith paid five hundred dollars
for it, in three notes payable in three, twelve, and eighteen months
after the delivery of the manuscript. The book was issued in 1844 as
McGuffey's Rhetorical Guide. Its material, revised by its author, later
became, in modified form, the Fifth Reader in the five-book series, and
again much of the same material was used in the Sixth Reader published
first in 1855.

Mr. A.H. McGuffey died at his home on Mt. Auburn, Cincinnati, on June 3,
1896. He was twice married. His first wife, married in 1839, was Miss
Elizabeth M. Drake, daughter of the eminent Dr. Daniel Drake. After her
death he married Miss Caroline V. Rich of Boston. He had a large family.
A son, Charles D. McGuffey. Esq., lives at Chattanooga, Tenn.

Mr. A.H. McGuffey was a noteworthy figure in any assemblage of men. He
was tall, slender and erect. His manner was urbane and reserved. He
served on many charitable and educational boards and was attentive to
his trusts. He was an active member of the Episcopalian Church, being
many years a warden in his parish, and frequently a delegate to the
Diocesan Convention, where he was a recognized authority on
Ecclesiastical Law.

In a life of nearly eighty years in which he was active in many
educational and beneficent enterprises his early work in the preparation
of the Rhetorical Guide probably exercised the widest, the best, and
the most enduring influence. Many of the newspapers in all parts of the
country published notices of his death, recognizing in kindly terms the
service that had been rendered the writers by the schoolbook of which he
was the author.


Since the McGuffey Readers became at an early day the absolute property
of their publishers, they became responsible for all subsequent
revisions and corrections of the books.

[Truman & Smith]

The firm of Truman & Smith was organized about 1834 by William B. Truman
and Winthrop B. Smith. Both had had some experience in the business of
selling books. It is highly probable that this firm became for a short
time the Western agent for some schoolbooks made in the East. But Mr.
Smith soon perceived a distinct demand for a series adapted to the
Western market and supplied near at hand. He had the courage to follow
his convictions.

Mr. Winthrop B. Smith was born in Stamford, Conn., September 28, 1808,
the son of Anthony and Rebecca (Clarke) Smith. He was, in his youth, an
employee in a book-house in New Haven. At the age of eighteen he went to
Cincinnati, declaring that he would not return to his home until he was
independent. He labored there fourteen years before he returned, not
rich, but established in an independent career. He often declared that
until 1840, he was "insolvent, but no one knew it."

Before entering business, Mr. Smith received a sound common school
education. This, grounded on a nature well endowed with common sense,
great energy, and strong determination, qualified him for success in
business. He became a man of great originality, clear-headed and
far-sighted. Toward his employees he was just, but exacting. He was a
good judge of the character and qualities of other men, and was thus
able to bring to his aid competent assistants who were loyal and

Mr. Smith married in Cincinnati on November 4th, 1834, Mary Sargent. He
died in Philadelphia, December 5th, 1885, in his 78th year. Of his
family, one son is a banker in Philadelphia.

[Their First Publications]

The firm of Truman & Smith published several miscellaneous books, mostly
reprints of standard works likely to have a steady sale. Their first
venture in a copyrighted book was "The Child's Bible with Plates; by a
lady of Cincinnati," which was entered on June 2, 1834. On June 21st of
the same year the firm entered the titles of three books: "Mason's
Sacred Harp," a collection of church music by Lowell Mason of Boston,
and Timothy B. Mason of Cincinnati; "Introduction to Ray's Eclectic
Arithmetic," by Dr. Joseph Ray; and "English Grammar on the Productive
System," by Roswell C. Smith. Of these four books the arithmetic was
issued on July 4, 1834. It was the firm's first schoolbook. In revised
and enlarged form it later became the first book in the successful
series of "Ray's Arithmetics."

But even in those early days, books would not sell themselves unless
their qualities were made known to the public. Agents had to be
employed--and at first Mr. Smith was his own best agent. There were
expenses for travel and for sample books, for advertising, as well as
for printing and binding.

[Illustration: W.B. Smith]

The Truman and Smith team did not always pull together. Mr. Truman was
not versed in the schoolbook business. Mr. Smith was.

[The Dissolution]

It is said that Mr. Smith went early one morning to their humble shop on
the second floor of No. 150 Main street, and made two piles of sample
books. In one he put all the miscellaneous publications of the firm, big
and little--the Child's Bible and Sacred Harp among them--and on top of
the pile placed all the cash the firm possessed; in the other, were half
a dozen small text books, including the four McGuffey Readers. When
Mr. Truman arrived, Mr. Smith expressed the desire to dissolve the
partnership, showed the two piles and offered Mr. Truman his choice.
He pounced on the cash and the larger pile and left the insignificant
schoolbooks for Mr. Smith, who thereupon became the sole owner of
McGuffey's Readers.

This separation of the partnership took place in 1841 and although there
is no documentary evidence of the exact method in which it was brought
about, the division of assets was in accord with the spirit of the
incident as handed down by tradition.

[A Lesson in Copyright Law]

Mr. Truman's apparent disgust with the schoolbook business may have
come in part from a lawsuit in which his firm was made a defendant.
Sooner or later, publishers are quite likely to obtain some elementary
instructions as to the meaning and intent of the copyright law through
action taken in court. Messrs. Truman & Smith took a lesson in 1838.

On October 1st of that year Benjamin F. Copeland and Samuel Worcester
brought suit in the court of the United States against Truman & Smith
and William H. McGuffey for infringement of copyright, alleging that
material had been copied from Worcester's Second, Third, and Fourth
Readers and that even the plan of the two latter readers had been

A temporary injunction was issued December 25, 1838; but before that
date the McGuffey Readers had been carefully compared with the Worcester
Readers and every selection was removed that seemed in the slightest
degree an invasion of the previous copyright of the Worcester Readers.
As these McGuffey books were still not stereotyped, it cost no more to
set up new matter than to reset the old. On the title page of each book
appeared the words, "Revised and Improved Edition," and two pages in
explanation and defense were inserted. In these the publishers stated
that certain compilers of schoolbooks, in New England, felt themselves
aggrieved that the McGuffey books contained a portion of matter similar
to their own which was considered common property, and had instituted
legal proceedings against them with a view to the immediate suppression
of the McGuffey books and in the meantime had provided supplies of the
Worcester books to meet the demand of the West.

[Avoidance of Issue]

No objection was raised to meeting these compilers on their own grounds;
but for both parties there was another tribunal than the law. "The
public never choose schoolbooks to please compilers." They stated that
to place themselves entirely in the right and remove every cause for
cavil or complaint they had expunged everything claimed as original, and
substituted other matter, which, both for its fitness and variety would
add to the value of the Eclectic Readers. Throughout this preface, after
stating the facts regarding the suit, there was a strong claim for the
support of Western enterprise.

Although in this appeal the publishers stated that the correspondences
between the two series were "few and immaterial," a careful comparison
of the early edition of the Second Reader with the "Revised and Improved
Edition" shows that Mr. Smith took out seventeen selections and inserted
in their places new matter. To an unprejudiced examiner it appears
that the new matter was better than the old. The old marked copy of
Worcester's Second Reader, preserved for all these years, shows ten
pieces that were used in both books. It thus appears that the publisher
took this opportunity to improve the books as well as to make them
unassailable under the copyright law. In three months between the
bringing of the suit and the granting of an injunction, Mr. Smith had
made his improved edition safe and rendered the injunction practically

[The Suit Settled]

The court proceeded in the usual manner and appointed a master to
examine the books and make report to ascertain what damage had been
inflicted on the owners of the Worcester Readers. But Mr. Smith was an
attendant in church and doubtless had heard Dr. Beecher read, "Agree
with thine adversary quickly while thou art in the way with him, lest at
any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver
thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison," and he had no desire
to remain there until he had "paid the uttermost farthing."

When the master, in the leisurely execution of his duty, made his report
nearly two years later, the court found that the defendants had removed
from their books the pirated parts and that the suit had been settled by
paying the plaintiffs two thousand dollars. There was no further contest
about the plan of the two books.

The Worcester Readers had a short and inconspicuous life. When this suit
was brought, their publishers were Richardson, Lord and Holbrook of
Boston. In 1836 Charles J. Hendee published them, and in 1854 they
appeared with the name of Jenks, Hickling & Swan of Boston. These
several publishers were probably gobbled up by some imaginary Book Trust
sixty years ago.

Dr. McGuffey undoubtedly inserted these selections innocent of any wrong
intent and supposed them to be in common use.

[Early Popular Schoolbooks]

As early as 1848 the success of the Eclectic Readers was sufficient to
excite imitation and in the First Reader of that year Mr. Smith printed
four preliminary pages warning his patrons not to be deceived by
"Newman's Southern Eclectic Readers."

In the first century after the settlement of this country the New
England Primer had a history which in some respects resembles that of
the McGuffey Readers. In that case, the settlers were widely removed
from the source of supply which had in past years served their needs.
The Primer was strongly religious and fully in accord with the faith of
the people. It served as a first book in reading and was followed by the
Bible. This Primer was not protected by copyright and any enterprising
bookseller or printer in a remote town could manufacture an edition to
supply the local demand. The excessive cost of transportation was thus

[Changed Conditions]

Somewhat similar causes contributed to the widespread use and
long-continued demands for Webster's Spelling Book, which was
copyrighted. This book had the support of the authority of Webster's
Dictionary--an original American work; and it soon became a staple
article of merchandise which was kept in stock in every country store.
It supplanted the New England Primer and became the first book in the
hands of every pupil. Less marked in its religious instruction, the
speller spread through the South and into regions where the people were
not trained in the Puritan doctrines. The wonderful sales of Webster's
Spelling Book remained for many years after the War; but have now
dropped to insignificance. It is not probable that other books will
under present conditions repeat the history of these books. There is
now no wide region of fertile country rapidly filling with settlers and
separated from their former sources of supply by great distance and by
mountain ranges unprovided with passable roads. Even the more newly
settled regions of the country are reached by railroads and the parts
early settled are covered by a network of railroads, of telegraph and
telephone wires which bring the consumer and the producer near together.

In the manufacture of books as with most other articles, machinery has
taken the place of hand work. When W.B. Smith carried on his business in
the second story over a small shop on Main street, Cincinnati, nearly
every process in the manufacture of a book was mere hand labor. The
tools employed were of the simplest character. Now a book-factory is
filled with heavy machines of the most complicated kind, which in many
cases feed themselves from stocks of material placed upon them. New
machines are constantly being invented to cheapen and perfect the
manufacture. Thus a very large investment of capital is now required to
set up and maintain a plant which can produce books economically and
with perfect finish in every part. Books are seldom manufactured in
places remote from the large cities and very few of the publishers of
schoolbooks make the books which they sell. They contract for them with
printers and binders.

[Stereotyped Editions]

The first four editions of McGuffey's Readers were printed from the
actual type, as all books were once printed; but before 1840 the readers
were produced from stereotyped plates. The use of such plates enabled the
publisher to secure greater accuracy in the work and also enabled him to
present books that in successive editions should be exactly the same in
substance as those already in use. Since that date electrotype plates
have displaced stereotypes, as they afford a sharper, clearer impression
and endure more wear.

In a First Reader printed in the fall of 1841 there are two pages of
advertising matter in which Truman & Smith claimed to have sold 700,000
of the Eclectic Series. This book is bound with board sides and a muslin
back and a careful defense of this binding is made, claiming that the
muslin is "much more durable than the thin tender leather usually put
upon books of this class." This statement was unquestionably true. The
leather referred to was of sheepskin and of very little strength, but it
took very many years to convince the public of the untruth of the
saying, "There is nothing like leather."

[Dr. Pinneo, Editor]

It is said that Mr. Smith, in the early days of his career as a
publisher, himself made the changes and corrections which experience
showed were needed; but, about 1843, he employed Dr. Timothy Stone
Pinneo to act under his direction in literary matters.

[Dr. Pinneo's Work]

Dr. Pinneo was the eldest son of the Rev. Bezaleel Pinneo, an early
graduate of Dartmouth College, who was for more than half a century
pastor of the First Congregational Church in Milford, Conn. Dr. Pinneo
was born at Milford in February, 1804. His mother was a woman of
culture, Mary, only daughter of the Rev. Timothy Stone of Lebanon,
Conn., a graduate of Yale College. Dr. Pinneo graduated at Yale in the
class of 1824. A severe illness in the winter after his graduation made
it necessary for him to spend his winters in the South until his health
was sufficiently restored to enable him to pursue the study of medicine.
He taught for a time in the Charlotte Hall Institute, Maryland, and
then removed to Ohio. He acted one year as professor of Mathematics
and Natural Philosophy in Marietta College. He studied medicine in
Cincinnati and received the degree of Doctor of Medicine from the Ohio
Medical College in 1843. On June 1, 1848, he married Jeanette Linsley,
daughter of Rev. Dr. Joel H. Linsley, at one time president of Marietta
College. Dr. Pinneo was for eighteen years a resident in Cincinnati. In
1862 he went to Greenwich, Conn., where he was occupied in literary work
and in the conduct of a boys' boarding school. In 1885, after his wife's
death, he removed to Norwalk, Conn., where he died August 2, 1893. Two
daughters and a son survived him. Dr. Pinneo contributed materially to
the revisions of McGuffey's Readers made in 1843 and in 1853; but both
these revisions passed through the hands of Dr. McGuffey, then at the
University of Virginia, and were approved by him. It does not appear
that Dr. Pinneo exercised any personal authority over the readers. He
was employed, for moderate amounts, to prepare revisions which were
satisfactory to both publisher and author. In the revision of 1843, his
work was confined to the Third and Fourth readers. The First and Second
readers were remade by Daniel G. Mason, then a teacher in the schools of
Cincinnati. In the revision of 1853 the entire series passed through Dr.
Pinneo's hands. He probably corrected the proof sheets. Dr. Pinneo's
latest work on the McGuffey Readers was done in 1856.

After leaving Cincinnati, Dr. Pinneo prepared, and Mr. Smith published,
a series of grammars--the Analytical, issued in 1850, and the Primary,
in 1854. He was also the author of a High School Reader and of Hemans's
Young Ladies' Readers. These books had for some years a considerable

[Obed J. Wilson]

As early as 1853 Mr. Obed J. Wilson was in the office of Mr. Smith as
an employee. Mr. Wilson was born in Bingham, Maine, in 1826, and earned
his first money as an axman in the pine forests which were in that day
near his native town. He obtained, in the common schools, sufficient
education to become a teacher and he never ceased to be a student, thus
acquiring a broad acquaintance with English literature. He taught in the
schools of Cincinnati when he first went West. There his abilities soon
attracted the attention of Mr. Smith, who employed him. For some years
he traveled as an agent, chiefly in Indiana and Wisconsin, introducing
the books of the Eclectic Series. He gradually became Mr. Smith's
trusted assistant, particularly in the direction of the work of agents
and in the selection of new books, and their adaptation to the demands
of the field. He married Miss Amanda Landrum, who was also a skilled
teacher in the Cincinnati schools. Mrs. Wilson was responsible for a
revision of the McGuffey First Reader made in 1863. She also at that
time corrected the plates of the higher numbers of the series. For many
years thereafter Mr. Wilson was the chief authority for Mr. Smith and
his successors in literary matters, and few men excelled him in breadth
of reading and in discriminating taste.

Mr. Wilson lives in his home near Cincinnati which is filled with the
choice books which he has read and studied so faithfully, and he still
has the companionship of the wife who has been his constant helpmate for
more than half a century.

Mr. Winthrop B. Smith was the sole proprietor of the McGuffey Readers
and his other publications from 1841 until about 1852. He then admitted
as partners, Edward Sargent and Daniel Bartow Sargent, his wife's
brothers, and the firm name became W.B. Smith & Co.

[Eastern Publishers]

While books could be manufactured in the West even in the early years
cheaper than they could be delivered in the West from the better
organized establishments in the older cities of the East, it was not
possible to deliver books in New York from Cincinnati so cheaply as the
books could be made in the East. The cost of transportation constituted
a very considerable element in the price of schoolbooks. Mr. Smith
therefore made an arrangement with Clark, Austin & Smith, of New York,
to become the Eastern publishers of the McGuffey Readers and other
books, and a duplicate set of plates was sent to New York. From these
plates, editions of the readers were manufactured, largely at Claremont,
N.H., bearing on the title page the imprint of Clark, Austin & Smith,
New York.

The Smith of this firm was Cornelius Smith, a brother of Winthrop B.
Smith. Cornelius Smith withdrew from this firm before 1861. In that year
the war broke out, and this New York firm, which as booksellers and
stationers had a large trade in the South, lost not only their custom in
that section, but were unable to collect large amounts due them for
goods. Clark, Austin, Maynard & Co. failed and Mr. W.B. Smith bought, in
1862, all their assets for the sum of $6,000, placed Mr. W.B. Thalheimer
in charge of the business and resumed control of the duplicate plates of
the McGuffey Readers.

From the location of Cincinnati on the Ohio river, then affording
the cheapest means of distributing goods to all parts of the South,
Mr. Smith had obtained, before 1860, a very considerable part of the
schoolbook trade in the Southern states of the Mississippi Valley.
The opening of the Civil War swept this trade away and left on the
books of the firm in Cincinnati many accounts not then collectible.
The continuance of the war and the constant fluctuations in the price of
materials, due to the use of paper money, joined to advancing age and
ill health, all combined to lead Mr. Smith to withdraw from business.

[New Firm Formed]

A new firm, Sargent, Wilson & Hinkle, was organized April 20, 1863,
with Edward Sargent, Obed J. Wilson and Anthony H. Hinkle as general
partners, and with W.B. Smith and D.B. Sargent as special partners.

These active partners had long been in this business, Mr. Sargent as
a partner and bookkeeper, Mr. Wilson as literary editor of skill and
judgment and also a forceful manager of agents, Mr. Hinkle as a
thoroughly skilled binder and manufacturer.

Winthrop B. Smith and D.B. Sargent remained as special partners,
furnishing capital but taking no part in the direction of the business.

[Southern Reprint]

The Confederate States, at the opening of the War, had within their
limits no publisher of schoolbooks which had extensive sales. Nearly all
of the schoolbooks used in the South were printed in the North. But
there were printing offices and binderies in the South. The children
continued to go to school, and the demand for schoolbooks soon became
urgent. To meet this demand, a few new schoolbooks were made and
copyrighted under the laws of the Confederacy; but others were reprints
of Northern books such as were in general use. The Methodist Book
Concern of Nashville, Tenn., reprinted the McGuffey Readers and supplied
the region south and west of Nashville until the Federal line swept past
that city. This action on the part of the Methodist Book Concern had the
effect of preserving the market for these readers, so that as soon as
any part of the South was strongly occupied by the Federal forces,
orders came to the Cincinnati publishers for fresh supplies of the
McGuffey Readers. This unexpected preservation of trade was of great
benefit to the firm of Sargent, Wilson & Hinkle.

[Wilson, Hinkle & Co.]

In 1866 the special interests were closed out, and Mr. Lewis Van Antwerp
was admitted as a partner. On April 20, 1868, the firm of Sargent,
Wilson & Hinkle was dissolved. Mr. Sargent retired and the new firm,
Wilson, Hinkle & Co., bought all the assets. At this date Mr. Robert
Quincy Beer became a partner. Mr. Beer had long been a trusted and
successful agent and he was put in charge of the agency department.
Under this partnership the business gradually became systematized in
departments. One partner had in charge the reading of manuscripts and
the placing of accepted works in book form, one had charge of the
manufacture of books from plates provided by the first, and one of
finding a market for the books. At the first organization of the firm of
Wilson, Hinkle & Co., Mr. Wilson was the literary manager as well as the
director of agency work. Mr. Hinkle was the manufacturer, having control
of the printing and binding, and Mr. Van Antwerp had charge of the
accounts. Mr. Beer was brought in to relieve Mr. Wilson in the direction
of agents. But Mr. Beer died suddenly, January 3, 1870, and the
surviving partners soon sought for another competent and experienced man
to take his place.

[Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co.]

Mr. Caleb S. Bragg had for years acted as the agent for a list of books
selected by him from the publications of two or three publishers and was
a partner in the firm of Ingham & Bragg, booksellers of Cleveland, Ohio.
Mr. Bragg sold his interest in the business in Cleveland and became a
partner in Wilson, Hinkle & Co., on April 20, 1871; and at the same
time Henry H. Vail and Robert F. Leaman, who had for some years been
employees, were each given an interest in the profits although not
admitted as full partners until three years later. Mr. Hinkle's eldest
son, A. Howard Hinkle, was brought up in the business, and the contract
for 1874 provided that he should be admitted as a partner, with his
father's interest and in his place, when that contract expired in 1877.
The contract of 1874 was preparatory to the voluntary retirement of both
Mr. Wilson and Mr. Hinkle. Consequently, on April 20, 1877, the firm of
Wilson, Hinkle & Co. was dissolved and the business was purchased by the
new firm. Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co., of which Lewis Van Antwerp, Caleb S.
Bragg, Henry H. Vail, Robert F. Leaman, A. Howard Hinkle, and Harry T.
Ambrose were the partners. This firm continued unchanged until January
1, 1892, except for the untimely death of Mr. Leaman on December 12,
1887, and the retirement of Mr. Van Antwerp, January 2, 1890, just
previous to the sale of the copyrights and plates owned by the firm to
the American Book Company.

This sale, completed May 15, 1890, did not then include the printing
office and bindery belonging to the firm. These were used by the firm of
Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co. until January 1, 1892, in manufacturing books
ordered by the American Book Company. The American Book Company became,
on May 15, 1890, the owners, by purchase, of all the copyrights and
plates formerly owned by Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co. The four active
partners in that firm, each of whom had then been in the schoolbook
business some twenty-five or thirty years, entered the employ of the
American Book Company. Mr. Bragg and Mr. Hinkle remained in charge of
the Cincinnati business, Mr. Vail and Mr. Ambrose went to New York; the
former as editor in chief, the latter was at first treasurer, but later
became the president.

[A Vigorous Firm]

Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co. issued many new and successful books and remade
many, including the McGuffey Readers and Speller, Ray's Arithmetics and
Harvey's Grammars. Most of these met with acceptance and this was so
full and universal throughout the central West as to give opportunity to
the competing agents of other houses to honor Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co.
with such titles as "Octopus" and "Monopoly," names that were used
before "Trusts" were invented. They also called the firm in chosen
companies, "Van Anteup, Grabb & Co." These were mere playful or humorous
titles in recognition of the fact that this firm had, by its industry,
skill and energy, captured a larger share of the patronage of the people
than was agreeable to its competitors, and they, in despair of success
by fair means, resorted to the old-fashioned method of calling their
antagonist bad names. The best books, if pressed vigorously and
intelligently, were sure to win in the end, and the people who used the
books cared little what name appeared at the foot of the title-page.

In all important book contests the firm that holds possession of the
field is much in the situation of the tallest man in a Kilkenny Fair.
His head sticks up above the crowd and therefore gets the most knocks.

[Revisers and Editors]

The latest revision of the McGuffey Readers, five books, was prepared
and published by the American Book Company in 1901, under the same
general direction as the revision of 1878; but the actual work was done
by Dr. James Baldwin who was the author of the Harper Readers and of
Baldwin's Readers. Even in this latest edition there are in the higher
books many selections that appeared in the earliest. Care was taken to
maintain the high moral tone that so clearly marked Dr. McGuffey's work
and to bring in from later literature some valuable new material to
displace that which had proved less interesting and less instructive.
These books acquired at once a large sale, and the sales of the previous
editions are still remunerative.

Of the men connected with these successive owners of these copyrights it
seems proper to name those who directed the revisions which took place.
It is evident that none were undertaken without long and anxious
discussions as to the need of revision and of its nature. In such
decisions all partners would take part; but finally the actual direction
must come into the hands of some one partner whose experience and
qualification best fitted him for literary work.

As has been seen, Mr. Winthrop B. Smith was for a few years, while the
business was still in its infancy, the sole owner and the manager of
every part of his business. Mr. Pinneo contributed aid from 1843 to
1856; but even before his work was finished Mr. O.J. Wilson's skill
became recognized and his mind was dominant in literary matters so long
as he remained a partner--until 1877. But in the meantime he had
carefully trained a successor in the editorial work, and from 1877 until
1907 the responsibility fell upon him.

[New Competitors]

The story of the revisions of 1843 and 1853 has been told. The books
were apparently in satisfactory use in a large part of the West; but
about 1874 the firm thought it wise to exploit a new series. At its
request Mr. Thomas W. Harvey prepared a series consisting of five books.
This series was published in 1875; but the experience of a few years
with the Harvey Readers showed that the people still preferred the
McGuffey Readers and after long discussion and hesitation it was agreed
that these should again be revised. This determination was hastened by
the publication of the Appleton Readers in 1877, and by the incoming of
a number of skilled agents pushing these books in the field that had for
many years been held so strongly for the McGuffey Readers as to baffle
the best endeavors of two or three Eastern publishers who had tested the

The Appleton Readers were prepared by Mr. Andrew J. Rickoff, then
superintendent of the Cleveland schools; Mr. William T. Harris, then
superintendent of the St. Louis schools, and Professor Mark Bailey of
Yale College. They were largely aided in the lower readers by Mrs.
Rickoff. These books, with this array of scholarly and well-known
authors, illustrated with carefully prepared engravings, well printed
and well bound, became at once formidable competitors for patronage and
went into use in many places where the McGuffey Readers had served at
least two generations of pupils. The Harvey Readers stood no chance in
this competition.

[The Revision of 1878]

On April 9, 1878, the firm of Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co. determined upon
making a new series of readers bearing the well-recognized title of
McGuffey's Eclectic Readers and distinguished as a "Revised Edition."
Some details of the plan as presented by the partner having literary
matters in charge were agreed to. The method of teaching in the first
reader was to be adjusted to a phonic-word method, and the gradation was
to be improved. The selections of the older books were to be retained
except where they could be improved.

In accordance with this resolution the editor invited four persons to
aid, during the summer, in this work. These were Thomas W. Harvey of
Painesville, Ohio; Robert W. Stevenson, of Columbus; Edwin C. Hewett, of
Bloomington, Ill.; and Miss Amanda Funnelle, of Terre Haute, Indiana.
Each was a teacher of wide experience.

To these assistants assembled in Cincinnati the plan of revision
was fully explained and the work was alloted. Miss Funnelle and Mr.
Stevenson took charge of the first three readers, Mr. Harvey and Dr.
Hewett of the three higher books. All were perfectly familiar with the
old books and in a few days substantial agreement was reached as to the
changes needed. By two months of constant and intelligent labor the
manuscripts assumed approximate form. The opening of the schools called
the assistants back to their homes and the editor of the firm shaped the
manuscripts for the text and procured the necessary illustrations. These
were made, regardless of cost, by the best artists and engravers to be
found in the country. When the plates were finished, the publishers
printed several hundred copies of each of the three smaller books and
distributed them as proofs to selected teachers in many states, asking
them for criticisms and suggestions. The answers made were of great
value. The First Reader was entirely re-written by the editor and the
plates of other readers were made more perfect. In this revision the
three lower books were almost entirely new. The Fourth was largely
new matter, while in the Fifth and Sixth such matter as could not be
improved from the entire field of literature, was retained. The Fifth
and Sixth readers furnished brief biographies of each author and
contained notes explanatory of the text. These were new features and
they proved valuable at that date.

[Preparations for a Fight]

As soon as these books were completed, large editions were printed and
they were most vigorously exploited not only to take the place of the
older edition of McGuffey Readers, but to supplant the newly introduced
Appleton Readers.

This book-fight was a long and bitter one. Every device known to the
agency managers of the houses engaged was employed. Even exchanges of
books became common. It was war; and like every war was carried on for
victory and not for profit. It is perhaps fortunate that such contests
cannot in the nature of things last long. In the long run business
must show a profit or fail. Contrary to popular opinion, a book war is
not profitable in itself; but it is a form of competition that has
existed for fully a century. It presents no novelties even now.

[Success Attained]

The two chief combatants at length withdrew with one accord. Neither
firm could claim entire victory; but the McGuffey readers came through
with much the larger sales and these increased for years. By this
contest the firm of Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co. won a reputation as
fighters that protected them in after years from ill-considered attacks
by its competitors.

The revised edition of the McGuffey Readers, having no author's name on
the title page, designed and compiled under the direction of the
publishers, but retaining the moral excellences and literary qualities
that had been affixed to the series from its origin, attained the
largest sales that have as yet been accorded by the public to a single
series of books. Of the Sixth Reader, which must have the least sale,
over a million copies have been distributed, as shown by the edition
number. Of the First Reader more than eight million copies have been

[Other Competitors]

At no time in the history of these readers have they been without
formidable competition. Pickett's Readers were published in Cincinnati
as early as 1832. Albert Pickett was at one time president of the
College of Teachers and his books were published by John W. Pickett, who
was probably his brother. Later some additional books were prepared by
John W. Pickett, M.D., LL.D., and published by U.P. James in 1841, and
by J. Earnst in 1845. These readers were vigorously pushed into the
market for several years, but in the end were unsuccessful.

The Goodrich Readers published by Morton & Griswold in Louisville, Ky.,
were perhaps the most constant competitors with the McGuffey Readers in
the early years throughout the states of the Mississippi Valley. These
were prepared by S.G. Goodrich, the author of the then popular "Peter
Parley Tales." The readers were originally published in Boston and
some copies bear the imprint of Otis, Broaders & Co. They were first
copyrighted in 1839 and were frequently revised. They finally became the
property of the Louisville publisher. Mr. Smith and Mr. Morton kept up a
most vigorous schoolbook war, especially in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky
in the years from 1845 to 1860. Cobb's Readers, copyrighted in 1845,
were published for some time in Cincinnati by B. Davenport. These were
once widely introduced but soon went out of use.

It was very much the custom in those early days, before the railroads
made transportation quick and cheap for Eastern publishers to furnish a
set of plates to some enterprising bookseller in the West or to print an
edition for him with his imprint.

Ebenezer Porter's Rhetorical Reader copyrighted in 1835 was sold largely
in the western market by William H. Moore, of Cincinnati, and in 1848
the books bore his imprint. Thus there was ample competition for the
market even at this early date. The Pickett Readers, Cobb Readers,
Goodrich Readers, and even the excellent Rhetorical Reader of Ebenezer
Porter were all swept out of the schools by the superior qualities of
the McGuffey Readers and the persistent energies of their publishers.

[Humorous Advertising]

In these books the publishers found space for a little advertising of
their wares. In Pickett's Readers there is printed conspicuously at the
top of a page a warm commendation of Pickett's Readers, written in 1835
by William H. McGuffey, Professor at Miami University, in which he
"considers them superior to any other works I have seen." That was
before he made his own readers. Mr. Smith responded by publishing a
strong commendation of one of his books signed by Mr. Albert Pickett.
Life is seldom devoid of the lesser amenities.

The Willson Readers, published by the Harper Brothers, were vigorously
pushed into the schools of Ohio and Indiana about 1867. The first supply
was usually sold to the school authorities by agents who operated on the
commission plan. Thus the agents had an interest in the introduction
sales, but cared nothing about the continuance of sales in after years.
Booksellers, meanwhile, kept the McGuffey Readers in stock, and whenever
new readers were desired these were easily obtained. In a few years the
Willson Readers were out of the schools. Of course, there was no lack of
traveling agents and of circulars which freely criticised these Willson
Readers, which were constructed to teach not only reading but science.
After a short time the children wearied of reading about bugs and
beetles they had never seen and gladly welcomed the books that had a
single aim.

[Enduring Qualities]

In the eyes of a publisher a good schoolbook is one that can be readily
introduced and one that will stay when it is put in use. The officials
who adopt a schoolbook are not the users of the book. They are adults
long past the school age. Cases have been known when in important
adoptions the majority of the adopting board had not seen the inside of
a school room for twenty-five years. Of course such men are far behind
the schools. They are governed by their own past experience. When the
teachers are allowed to have a voice in the way of advice, the real
needs of the pupils obtain more consideration. But the final real judge
of the merits of a schoolbook is the boy or girl who uses it. If the
book is truly pedagogical, adjusted in every part to the average mental
development of the child, it becomes a valuable tool in the school room.
If on the other hand it is a mere collection of novelties such as catch
the eye of inexpert judges and impress merely the imagination, the books
may be introduced; but they won't stay.

[Child Nature]

The McGuffey Readers had staying qualities. Teachers often became so
familiar with their contents that they needed no book in their hands
to correct the work, but to each child the contents of the book were
new and fresh. It is the fashion of the present day to exalt the new
at the expense of the old. But the child of today is very much such
as Socrates and Plato studied in Greece. The development of the human
mind may be more generally understood than it was then; but it may be
doubted whether the mass of teachers are today wiser in the results of
child-study than were the philosophers of ancient days. Child nature
remains the same. At a given stage in his upward progress, he is
interested in much the same things. He is led to think for himself
in much the same way, and the whole end and aim of education is
to lead toward self activity. The readers that deal simply with
facts--information readers--may lodge in the minds of children some
scraps of encyclopedic information which may in future life become
useful. But the readers that rouse the moral sentiments, that touch the
imagination, that elevate and establish character by selections chosen
from the wisest writers in English in all the centuries that have passed
since our language assumed a comparatively fixed literary form, have a
much more valuable function to perform. Character is more valuable than
knowledge and a taste for pure and ennobling literature is a safeguard
for the young that cannot be safely ignored.

The success of the McGuffey Readers was due primarily to their
adaptation to the general demand of the schools and secondarily to the
energy and skill of their publishers.

[Moral Teaching]

The books in their first form were strongly religious in their teaching
without being denominational. If a selection taught a moral lesson this
was stated in formal words at the close. The pill was not sugared. Thus
at the close of a lesson narrating the results of disobedience, the
three little girls assembled and "they were talking how happy it made
them to keep the Fifth Commandment." There was in the books much direct
teaching of moral principles, with "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not."
In the later revisions this gradually disappeared. The moral teaching
was less direct but more effective. The pupil was left to make his own
deduction and the formal "haec fabula docet" was omitted. The author
and the publishers were fully justified in their firm belief that the
American people are a moral people and that they have a strong desire
that their children be taught to become brave, patriotic, honest,
self-reliant, temperate, and virtuous citizens.

In some of these books the retail price is printed. In 1844 the retail
price of the First Reader was twelve and a half cents. It contained 108
pages. In the same year, the Second Reader of 216 pages was priced at 25
cents. The Fourth Reader cost 75 cents, and contained 336 pages.

These prices were in a market when the day's wage of a laboring man was
only fifty cents. Relatively to the cost of other articles, schoolbooks
were not nearly so cheap as they are now.

[Copyright Files]

When Truman & Smith began publishing, the copyright law required the
deposit of titles and copies of the several books in the office of
the Clerk of the District Court. At first such deposits were made in
Columbus, Ohio, but later in Cincinnati. When Congress organized the
Copyright Bureau in Washington, the several clerks were required to send
to the Library of Congress all the sample copies deposited; but these
had been carelessly kept and many were lost. A duplicate set was for
years required to be sent to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
These were also passed into the custody of the Librarian of Congress;
but this collection had been carelessly preserved and the files of the
McGuffey Readers at Washington are now quite defective for the earliest
issues. The Library seems to have no copy of any number of the first
edition except possibly the Second and Fourth. The copy of the Second
was deposited December 12, 1836. The Fourth bears date of July, 1837.
All the other early copies found in that library are of later dates and
are "Revised and Improved."

[Early Engravings]

It may be well to indicate in a general way the progress that has been
made in illustrating schoolbooks. The first editions of the McGuffey
Readers as issued in 1836 and 1837 did not contain a single original
engraving. All seem to have been copied from English books. The nice
little boys wear round-about jackets with wide, white ruffled collars
at the neck. The proper little girls have scoop bonnets and conspicuous
pantalets. Most of the men wear knee breeches. The houses shown have the
thatched roofs of English cottages. In one picture a boy has a regular
cricket bat. Other schoolbooks of that date show similar appropriations
of English engravings; but even at that time there were a few wood
engravers in America. When the second general revision was made in 1843
some original illustrations appeared and in the edition of 1853 notice
was given on the title page that the engravings were copyright property
that must not be used by others.

As pictures are closely studied by children, some of the users of these
early books may remember the cut showing vividly the dangers of "whale
catching." Two boats are thrown high in the air by one sweep of the
animal's tail and one seaman is shown head downward still in the boat.
Another represented Jonah being cast overboard from the ship toward the
whale below whose mouth is manifestly large enough to accommodate Jonah.

But the engravings in this edition of 1853 had no considerable artistic
quality and they were very coarsely engraved. In 1863 came the first
employment of a genuine artist in wood engraving. This was Mr. E.J.
Whitney who had made a reputation by work done for New York publishers.
His engravings were to take the place of some then in the books and
their sizes were precisely determined. The drawings were most carefully
made by Mr. Herrick with pencil on the whitened boxwood blocks, and sent
to the publisher for examination. These, when approved, were returned to
the engraver who followed precisely the lines of the drawing. When the
engraving was finished, a carefully rubbed proof on India paper was sent
to the publisher. If this was satisfactory, the block was delivered
and from it an electrotype was made for printing. The block itself was
preserved as an original. Mr. Whitney's work was thoroughly good. He
was a wood engraver of the old school.

[New Processes]

When the revision of 1878 was decided on, the publishers of the
McGuffey Readers realized that much improvement must be made in the
illustrations. About this time the magazines were placing great stress
upon pictorial work and a new school of engravers came into existence.
The wood engravers had already departed from the painful reproduction of
each line of a pencil drawing and had become skilled in representing
tints of light and shade if placed on the whitened block with a brush.
This gave greater freedom of interpretation to the engraver. The next
step was to have the drawing made large and reproduced on the block by
photography. By this method most of the engravings were made for the
edition of 1878. Care was taken to employ artists of reputation and the
engravings were usually signed by the artist and by the engraver.

Before the last edition came out in 1901, photo-engraving had nearly
supplanted wood engraving. By this process the artist's drawing with
the brush is reproduced in fine tints which, when well engraved and
carefully printed, produce effective results. Pen and ink drawings are
also reproduced in exact facsimile. By this process the hand work of
the engraver is nearly eliminated. The blocks are sometimes retouched
to produce effects not attained by the process work. The skill of the
artist in making the drawing thus becomes all important.

[Later Inventions]

The introduction of color work in the schoolbooks intended for young
children resulted from the invention of the three-color plates. From
nature, or from a colored painting, three photographs are taken--one
excluding all but the yellow rays of light, one for the red rays, and
one for the blue. From these photographs three tint blocks are made
which to the eye in many cases look exactly alike. From one of these
an impression is made with yellow ink, exactly over this the red plate
prints with red ink and this is followed by an impression from the blue
plate. If the effects of the color screens of the camera are exactly
reproduced by the printer's inks and with exactly the right amount of
ink, the result is wonderfully satisfactory.

What are the qualities in these McGuffey Eclectic Readers that won for
them through three-quarters of a century such wide and constant use?

[Character Building]

The best answer to this question may be drawn from the many newspaper
articles which appeared in Western and Southern papers after the death
of one of the authors. There is general recognition on the part of the
writers of these articles that while the books served well their purpose
of teaching the art of reading, their greatest value consisted in the
choice of masterpieces in literature which by their contents taught
morality, and patriotism and by their beauty served as a gateway to pure
literature. One editor, who used these books in his school career, said,
"Thousands of men and women owe their wholesome views of life, as well
as whatever success they may have attained to the wholesome maxims and
precepts found on every page of these valuable books. The seed they
scattered has yielded a million-fold. All honor to the name and memory
of this excellent and useful man."

[What Constitutes Real Value]

One of the wise men of the olden time cared not who wrote the laws if he
might write their songs. Among a people devoid of books the folk-songs
are early lodged firmly in the mind of every child. They influence his
whole life. The modern schoolbooks--particularly the readers--furnish
the basis of the moral and intellectual training of the youth in every
community. The McGuffey Readers, from their own peculiar inherent
qualities, retained their hold upon the schools until in some states
laws were passed which in their operation caused schoolbooks to be
regarded as commodities estimated almost solely upon the cost of paper,
printing and binding. The value of these material things can easily be
ascertained and compared; but unless the print carries the lessons that
help to form a life the paper is wasted and the pupil's most valuable
time is misspent. The teaching power of a schoolbook cannot be weighed
in the grocer's scales nor measured with a pint cup. In the field open
to free and constant competition, the books best suited to the wants of
each community will in the end succeed. It was under such conditions
that the McGuffey Readers won and held their place in the schools.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A History of the McGuffey Readers" ***

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