A History of the McGuffey Readers eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 64 pages of information about A History of the McGuffey Readers.

In a life of nearly eighty years in which he was active in many educational and beneficent enterprises his early work in the preparation of the Rhetorical Guide probably exercised the widest, the best, and the most enduring influence.  Many of the newspapers in all parts of the country published notices of his death, recognizing in kindly terms the service that had been rendered the writers by the schoolbook of which he was the author.


Since the McGuffey Readers became at an early day the absolute property of their publishers, they became responsible for all subsequent revisions and corrections of the books.

[Truman & Smith]

The firm of Truman & Smith was organized about 1834 by William B. Truman and Winthrop B. Smith.  Both had had some experience in the business of selling books.  It is highly probable that this firm became for a short time the Western agent for some schoolbooks made in the East.  But Mr. Smith soon perceived a distinct demand for a series adapted to the Western market and supplied near at hand.  He had the courage to follow his convictions.

Mr. Winthrop B. Smith was born in Stamford, Conn., September 28, 1808, the son of Anthony and Rebecca (Clarke) Smith.  He was, in his youth, an employee in a book-house in New Haven.  At the age of eighteen he went to Cincinnati, declaring that he would not return to his home until he was independent.  He labored there fourteen years before he returned, not rich, but established in an independent career.  He often declared that until 1840, he was “insolvent, but no one knew it.”

Before entering business, Mr. Smith received a sound common school education.  This, grounded on a nature well endowed with common sense, great energy, and strong determination, qualified him for success in business.  He became a man of great originality, clear-headed and far-sighted.  Toward his employees he was just, but exacting.  He was a good judge of the character and qualities of other men, and was thus able to bring to his aid competent assistants who were loyal and effective.

Mr. Smith married in Cincinnati on November 4th, 1834, Mary Sargent.  He died in Philadelphia, December 5th, 1885, in his 78th year.  Of his family, one son is a banker in Philadelphia.

[Their First Publications]

The firm of Truman & Smith published several miscellaneous books, mostly reprints of standard works likely to have a steady sale.  Their first venture in a copyrighted book was “The Child’s Bible with Plates; by a lady of Cincinnati,” which was entered on June 2, 1834.  On June 21st of the same year the firm entered the titles of three books:  “Mason’s Sacred Harp,” a collection of church music by Lowell Mason of Boston, and Timothy B. Mason of Cincinnati; “Introduction to Ray’s Eclectic Arithmetic,” by Dr. Joseph Ray; and “English Grammar on the Productive System,” by Roswell C. Smith.  Of these four books the arithmetic was issued on July 4, 1834.  It was the firm’s first schoolbook.  In revised and enlarged form it later became the first book in the successful series of “Ray’s Arithmetics.”

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A History of the McGuffey Readers from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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