The McGuffey Readers were a series of language arts textbooks that included a primer, a speller, and readers for grade levels 1-6, each successively building on the student's skills. They were widely used as textbooks in American schools from the mid-19th Century to the early to mid-20th Century, extremely popular in multi-age rural schools. While they reached their peak about 1925 with more than 122 million copies, they are still used today in some private schools and in homeschooling. William Holmes McGuffey(1800-1873), the trailblazing American educator, was the author/editor of the first 5 books of the series beginning with the primer, and the 1st and 2nd readers in 1836, and the 3rd and 4th reader in 1837 all published originally by Truman and Smith publishers along with the original speller. His brother Alexander Hamilton McGuffey (1816-1896) created the speller in 1846, the 5th reader in 1844, and the 6th reader in the 1840’s though it wasn’t published until the revised speller was in 1879.
MCGUFFEY"S NEWLY REVISED ECLECTIC THIRD READER was published in 1846 by Winthrop B. Smith & Co. The front light green cover depicts an eagle in the center. The reader contains "selections in prose and poetry with plain rules for reading and directions for avoiding common errors." It contains 216 pages and is an early edition.
William Holmes McGuffey was an American educator and clergyman known for his series of elementary school readers, known as the “McGuffey Readers.” He was taught in an Ohio country school and began teaching in rural Ohio schools and tutoring at the age of 14. His family encouraged a love of learning, so he expanded in own education at church schools, Greersburg Academy in Darlington, Pa and eventually graduating Washington College, Pa in 1826. While on the faculty of Miami University, Ohio, as a teacher of philosophy and classical languages, he assisted teachers at local elementary schools and established a small school for neighborhood children. He was encouraged by his friends Harriet Beecher Stowe and her husband Calvin Ellis Stowe, and developed the curriculum for the “McGuffey Readers.” He became an ordained Presbyterian minister in 1829, and the original versions of the readers incorporated Calvinist values and principles, morality driven tales, excerpts from great books, phonics, controlled vocabularies, woodcut illustrations, and exercises. He also became involved in the common school movement. In his later years he taught at the University of Virginia. While William Holmes McGuffey is identified most frequently as the creator of the Eclectic McGuffey Readers, he worked closely with his brother on the series, and Alexander Hamilton McGuffey created the final three books in the series.
Winthrop B. Smith was a partner in the Cincinnati, Ohio company Truman and Smith (1833-1843), the first publishers of the “McGuffey Readers.” The company became W. B. Smith in 1843, and by 1868 had become the largest textbook house in the country. Smith was the marketing genius who convinced the McGuffey brothers to include the word “Eclectic” in the titles of the book. The W. B. Smith Company eventually became The American Book Company.
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