William Holmes McGuffey

Hope all of you are doing well.

For the past two months or so I have been posting about the role of Christianity in early America.  I would like to continue on that topic and in particular the influence of Christianity on education.

I would really encourage you to read the writings of David Barton and Frank Pastore.

Today I would like to write about William Holmes McGuffey who was born in Claysville, Pennsylvania in 1800.  He was ordained as a minister of the Presbyterian Church in 1829.  McGuffey served as president at both Cincinnati College and Ohio University.   In Washington County Pennsylvania the McGuffey School District is named for William Holmes McGuffey, and McGuffey Hall on the campus of Cincinnati is also named for him.  He was known as the “Schoolmaster of the Nation.”  There is a book by Delores P. Sullivan published in 1994 by the same name: William Holmes McGuffey: Schoolmaster to the Nation .

I would suggest that McGuffey’s greatest claim to fame are his “McGuffey’s Readers.”  From 1836 to 1960 it is estimated that over 120 million copies of these readers were sold.  This puts them in the same category of the Bible and the dictionary for sales in the same period.

McGuffey is famous for his words: “The Christian religion is the religion of our country.  On its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free  institutions.  In a Christian country, that man is to be pitied, who at this day, can honestly object to imbuing the minds of youth with the language and spirit of the Word of God.” (Wm. H. McGuffy, “Duties of Parents and Teachers,” p. 138, in Transactions of the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Western Literary Institute, Cincinnati, 1836, pp. 129-152).

McGuffey’s most famous work was “The New England Primer” which first surfaced in 1690.  McGuffey added to the original work.  In it the alphabet was taught by memorizing a phrase from the Bible for the letters.  The letter A – A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son in the heaviness of his mother.  That is Proverbs 10:1.  B – Better is a little with the fear of the lord, than great treasure with trouble therewith.  That is Proverbs 15:16.

What do you think?  Was the Bible and Christianity important in the founding of this nation?

Be well.




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