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A History of the McGuffey Readers by Vail

McGuffey left Cincinnati in 1839


[Alexander

H. McGuffey]

Dr. McGuffey left Cincinnati in 1839, and when the publisher, Mr. Winthrop B. Smith, found it necessary to add to the four McGuffey's Readers another more advanced book, he employed for its preparation, Mr. Alexander H. McGuffey, a younger brother of Dr. McGuffey. Mr. Alexander H. McGuffey had, in 1837, prepared for Messrs. Truman & Smith the manuscript of McGuffey's Eclectic Spelling Book, and although the nature of this task was very different from the preparation of a reader for the highest grades in the elementary schools, the result showed that the publishers judged wisely in selecting a man competent to prepare a selection from English literature.

[Illustration: ALEXANDER H. McGUFFEY]

Mr. Alexander Hamilton McGuffey was born August 13, 1816, in Trumbull County, Ohio. He was sixteen years younger than his brother, William, and when only ten years of age was placed under charge of his brother at Oxford, Ohio. There he studied Hebrew before he had any knowledge of the grammar of his mother tongue. He was a brilliant student, and he graduated from Miami University at the age of sixteen. Soon after graduation he was appointed Professor of Belles Lettres at Woodward College. In this field of labor his knowledge of English literature was broadened and he acquired a love for the classic English writers that lasted through life. But Mr. McGuffey determined to

become a lawyer and, while still teaching English literature in Woodward College, he read law. He was admitted to the bar as soon as he reached his twenty-first year, and became a noted and wise counsellor. His labor for his clients was in keeping them out of the courts by clearly expressed contracts and prudent action. He was seldom engaged in jury trials; but was expert in cases involving contracts and wills. In such suits his knowledge of the principles of law and his power of close reasoning were valuable. He was often placed in positions of trust, and was for more than fifty years the watchful guardian of the interests of the Cincinnati College.

[The Rhetorical Guide]

He prepared the manuscript of the Rhetorical Guide after the close of his labor as a teacher. The work probably occupied his leisure time in a law office before he acquired remunerative practice in his profession.

[McGuffey's Sixth Reader]

The contract between Mr. A.H. McGuffey and W.B. Smith, dated September 30, 1841, provided for the preparation within eighteen months, of the manuscript of a book to be called McGuffey's Rhetorical Reader, or by any other appropriate name which Mr. Smith might select. It was to contain not less than three hundred and twenty-four duodecimo pages nor more than four hundred and eighty. Mr. Smith paid five hundred dollars for it, in three notes payable in three, twelve, and eighteen months after the delivery of the manuscript. The book was issued in 1844 as McGuffey's Rhetorical Guide. Its material, revised by its author, later became, in modified form, the Fifth Reader in the five-book series, and again much of the same material was used in the Sixth Reader published first in 1855.


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