McGuffey's Second Eclectic Reader - Revised Edition (1920) by William Holmes McGuffey

McGuffey's Second Eclectic Reader - Revised Edition (1920) by William Holmes McGuffey

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
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 1857. The series was revised in 1857 and later in 1879.
McGuffey's Second Eclectic Reader - Revised Edition (1920) is a secularized continuation and extension of the First Reader, published in 1879. New words are introduced at the beginning of each lesson. There are 71 lessons, each of which contains a short selection in prose or poetry. Lessons are generally moral in tone and feature an artistic black and white illustration designed to explain and embellish the text. The multi-colored front cover includes a foliage design within a rectangle. There is also a depiction of an ancient sailing vessel. The back cover repeats the foliage design and includes an image of a cat. This reader is 160 pages in length.
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.
In May 1890, the American Book Company purchased all the copyrights and plates formerly owned by Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co. including those for the McGuffey Reader Series. ABC was based in New York City and specialized in elementary school, secondary school and collegiate-level textbooks. The company was absorbed into D. C. Heath in 1981. Any remaining K-12 assets of the American Book Company were acquired by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 1995.
Object Name
Object Type
instructional materials
date made
American Book Company
McGuffey, William H.
place made
United States: New York, New York City
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
ink (overall material)
printed (overall production method/technique)
overall: 7 1/2 in x 5 in x 1/2 in; 19.05 cm x 12.7 cm x 1.27 cm
ID Number
nonaccession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Dr. Richard Lodish American School Collection
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Education
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object