Harper's Fourth Reader: In Two Parts

Harper's Fourth Reader: In Two Parts

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Harper’s Fourth Reader is an anthology for young readers designed to cultivate reading skills, a taste for the best literary styles, and high moral standards. Some of the entries are adaptions from authors such as Charles Dickens. Others are stories of the accomplishments of famous people such as Christopher Columbus and George Washington, as well as events including the Boston Tea Party and the Pilgrims’ landing. Still other sections appear to be anonymous or devised by the book’s authors, such as “Child Life In Italy” – Lesson V in Part Two. This lesson reads like a travelogue full of 19th Century stereotypes that classify Italian children as either “little beggars” or “little bandits.” Part Two also contains a story about an Arab schoolboy.
There are numerous examples of Americanization in the classroom within the text. For example, one section starting on page 182 is designed to be memorized and contains the following poems and songs: two versions of “Our Country,” “Love of Country,” “The Ship of State,” “Our Fathers,” “My Country,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and “The National Flag.” Another section beginning on page 365 contains recommended poems and prose to be memorized, including the Gettysburg Address and short excerpts from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Thomas Macaulay, William Shakespeare, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The Reader contains several black and white illustrations. There is a dictionary of words in the rear and new words after each lesson. The front cover has an elaborate floral pattern, while the back cover is imprinted with the publisher’s insignia of a lit torch, an open book, and eagle’s wings.
The storied publishing house of Harper and Brothers produced the Harper Educational Series that included readers, high school and college textbooks, and reference books. J & J Harper was originally founded in New York City in 1817 as a book company publisher. The name was changed to Harper & Brothers in 1833. Their texts were mostly British classics though eventually they added American books. This was at a time when common schools were becoming prevalent and libraries were developing.
The American Book Company (ABC) was an educational book publisher based in New York City. In 1890, it bought out the historically important branch of Harpers known for publishing school textbooks and library materials for schools. The ABC was later 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
Date made
Harper & Brothers
American Book Company
place made
United States: New York, New York City
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
ink (overall material)
overall: 7 1/2 in x 5 1/4 in x 1 in; 19.05 cm x 13.335 cm x 2.54 cm
ID Number
accession 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
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