William Holmes McGuffey

William Holmes McGuffey

[muh-guhf-ee]
McGuffey, William Holmes, 1800-1873, American educator, b. near Claysville, Pa. He was graduated from Washington and Jefferson College in 1826, having meanwhile taught in rural schools, and became professor of languages at Miami Univ., Ohio. He remained at Miami until he became (1836) president of Cincinnati College. He later served as president of Ohio Univ. at Athens (1839-43), as professor of philosophy at Woodward College, Cincinnati (1843-45), and as professor of moral philosophy at the Univ. of Virginia (1845-73). He helped to organize the public school system of Ohio but is now remembered chiefly as the compiler of the McGuffey Eclectic Readers, the First and Second of which were published in 1836, the Third and Fourth in 1837, the Fifth in 1844, and the Sixth in 1857. These were constantly revised and passed through edition after edition, maintaining their place for nearly two generations; their estimated sales totaled 122 million copies. Concerned with traditional morality as much as with reading, their influence in shaping the American mind of the mid-19th cent. can scarcely be exaggerated. A memorial was erected to McGuffey at his birthplace in West Finley township, Pa., in 1931.

See Old Favorites from the McGuffey Readers, 1836-1936 (1936, repr. 1969); biographies by H. C. Minnich (1936) and A. M. Ruggles (1950); R. D. Mosier, Making the American Mind (1947, repr. 1965).

(born Sept. 23, 1800, Pennsylvania, U.S.—died May 4, 1873, Charlottesville, Va.) U.S. educator remembered chiefly for his series of elementary readers. McGuffey taught in the Ohio frontier schools and then at Miami University (1826–36). His elementary school series, starting with The Eclectic First Reader, was published between 1836 and 1857. Collections of didactic tales, aphorisms, and excerpts from great books, the readers reflect McGuffey's view that the proper education of young people required their introduction to a wide variety of topics and practical matters. They became standard texts in nearly all states for the next 50 years and sold more than 125 million copies. In these years McGuffey also served as president of Cincinnati College (1836–39) and of Ohio University, Athens (1839–43). He was a founder of the common school system of Ohio. In 1845 he was elected to the chair of mental and moral philosophy at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, a position he held until his death.

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William Holmes McGuffey (September 23, 1800May 4, 1873) was an American professor and college president who is best known for writing the McGuffey Readers, one of the nation's first and most widely used series of textbooks. It is estimated that at least 120 million copies of McGuffey Readers were sold between 1836 and 1960, placing its sales in a category with the Bible and Webster's Dictionary.

Early years

He was born the son of Alexander and Anna (Holmes) McGuffey near Claysville in Washington County, Pennsylvania, which is 45 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. In 1802 the McGuffey family moved further out into the frontier at Tuscarawas County, Ohio. He attended country school, and after receiving special instruction at Youngstown, he attended Greersburg Academy in Darlington, Pennsylvania. Afterwards, he attended and graduated from Pennsylvania's Washington College, where he became an instructor.

Professional life

McGuffey left Washington College in 1826 to become a professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. A year later in 1827, he was married to Harriet Spinning of Dayton, Ohio, with whom he had five children. In 1829, he was ordained at Bethel Chapel as a minister in the Presbyterian Church. It was in Oxford that he created the most important contribution of his life: The McGuffey Readers. His books sold over 122 million copies. He was very fond of teaching and children as he geared the books toward a younger audience.

In 1836, he left Miami to become president of Cincinnati College, where he also served as a distinguished teacher and lecturer. He left Cincinnati in 1839 to become the 4th president of Ohio University, which he left in 1843 to become president of Woodward College (really a secondary school) in Cincinnati.

In 1845, McGuffey moved to Charlottesville, Virginia where he became Professor of Philosophy at the University of Virginia. A year after his first wife Harriet died in 1850, he married Miss Laura Howard, daughter of Dean Howard of the University of Virginia, in 1851. McGuffey is buried at university burying ground, in Charlottesville, Virginia. The School of Education at Miami University is housed in McGuffey Hall which is named for him and his home in Oxford is a National Historic Landmark offering tours on weekdays.

Legacy

McGuffey is credited with the following quotation:

"The christian religion, is the religion of our country. From it are derived our prevalent notions of the character of God, the great moral governor of the universe. On its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free institutions.

The McGuffey School District in Washington County, Pennsylvania is named for William Holmes McGuffey. The industrialist Henry Ford cited McGuffey Readers as one of his most important childhood influences. In 1934 he had the log cabin where McGuffey was born moved to Greenfield Village, Ford's museum of Americana at Dearborn, Michigan.

Notes

References

Source: Biography Reference Bank. The H. W. Wilson Company, 2007.

External links

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