The rise of children’s literature institutions in the late nineteenth century was to prove a mixed blessing. Undoubtedly the availability of educational facilities, however meager, made a difference in many individual lives. On the other hand, those facilities came increasingly under the aegis of the local government, and, since the government at all levels was distancing itself more and more from abolitionist influences, schools and libraries for children could be expected to reflect that trend.
As described earlier, Congress turned down a bill that would have improved education for Blacks (the Blair Bill). At state and township levels increases in the tax base for education were often voted down on the ground that improved opportunities for Blacks were undesirable. The courts upheld actions at the local level to segregate the schools. In a general sense, then, the post—Civil War educational institutions were the outcome of largely conservative public policies.
Two preliminary points need to be kept in mind as we consider the school, the library, and the periodical press in the late 1800s: (1) the library followed the school in its overall intellectual dimensions, and (2) the children’s library started on a course that would eventually make it the major children’s book market and, therefore, a considerable influence upon book content. Behind these developments were the gradual scaling down of Sunday school libraries as organizations important to the secular as well as religious community, and the emergence of philanthropic activities with an educational focus. But as libraries and schools developed, the potential for improving