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A History of the McGuffey Readers by Vail

On the Qualifications of Teachers



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 press.

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