McGuffey, William Holmes

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

McGuffey, William Holmes

William Holmes McGuffey (məgŭf´ē), 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).

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