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September 1996

page from reader Object: McGuffey 's New Second Eclectic Reader for Young Learners
by Wm. H. McGuffey, LL. D. Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co.,
Cincinnati and New York. 1885
At left: Detail of Lesson X : The Star-ling

McGuffey Reader CoverClick on cover for a larger image.

The Eclectic Educational Series, more commonly known as McGuffey Readers (published between 1836 and 1920), were the collaborative effort of brothers William Holmes McGuffey (1800-1873) and Alexander Hamilton McGuffey (1816-1896). The Readers provided training for schoolchildren in spelling, phonetics, grammar and classic English literature along with a slightly conservative political philosophy. The books sold over 125 million copies and were used in schools all across the nation, presenting students character lessons of aspiration, responsibility, honesty, fairness, and charity. One of these students was Henry Ford.

Throughout his life, Henry Ford often quoted the simple, fundamental philosophies of McGuffey, from whose Readers both he and wife had been educated. His social outlook of rugged individualism stemmed in large part from the moral precepts of the McGuffey Readers. The story goes that Ford and his wife Clara began collecting the books when they were searching for a verse they mistakenly thought came from the first of the Readers. After fruitlessly searching the house for a copy, they inquired among friends and bookstores. By the late 1930s, the Fords had collected over 468 copies of 145 different editions.

lesson page Ford wanted to pass the fundamental values he had learned onto younger generations. He ordered thousand of reprints of the readers and distributed them to schools and libraries. The Greenfield Village Schools used the primer and readers in their classes. In 1934, Ford moved McGuffey's log birthplace from Pennsylvania to Greenfield Village. With logs from the McGuffey farm, the one-room "McGuffey School" was constructed.


                THE STAR-LING.

    1. THERE was a man once, who kept a
star-ling in his house.
   2.  This star-ling was a very pretty bird,
that had been taught to speak.
   3.  When the man said, "Star-ling, where
are you?" it would say, "Here I am."
   4.  Little Frank, a boy who lived near,
oft-en went to see this man.
   5.  He was very much pleased with the
bird.  He loved to hear it talk. 
   6.  One day, when Frank went to see it,
the man was not at home
   7.  Frank saw the bird, and thought how
eas-y it would be to take it.
   8.  He thought, if he took it, no one would 
know it, and it would be his bird.
   9.  So Frank took the star-ling, and put 
it in his pock-et.
   10. He was just sneak-ing a-way, when 
the man came home.
   11. The man thought he would please 
Frank by mak-ing it talk.
   12. He did not look to see where it was, 
but thought it was in the room.
   13. So he said, in a loud voice, "Star-ling, 
where are you?"
  14. And the bird, in Frank's pock-et, 
cried, as loud as it could, "Here I am."

   EXERCISES.-What did the man keep?    What would the 
man say to it?    What would the starling reply?  Who often 
visited the man?   What did Frank think and do, one day, when 
the man was gone?  What happened then?   Why should we 
always be honest?

If you would like to know more about McGuffey Readers or the McGuffey School in Greenfield Village, please contact the Research Center.


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