Born in Washington County, Pennsylvania in 1800, this teacher moulded the minds of millions of Americans in the last half of the nineteenth century. He was educated at Washington College and spent most of his life as an educator. His first teaching job was in Kentucky where he held classes in a remodeled smokehouse. For ten years (1826-1836) he taught at Miami University in Ohio as professor of ancient languages. He then served as president of Cincinnati College for three years, and as president of Ohio University the following four years. In 1843, unhappy as an administrator, he returned to classroom teaching at Woodward College in Cincinnati. He taught at the University of Virginia as professor of philosophy from 1845 until his death in 1873.
McGuffey had prepared himself for the Presbyterian ministry and was ordained in 1829. McGuffey’s career in the textbook field was launched while serving as president of Cincinnati College. A local publisher, Truman & Smith, invited him to edit the “Eclectic Series” of textbooks for midwestern schools. His McGuffey Readers were extremely popular, eventually selling some 120 million copies to two generations of American youth. Before McGuffey’s Readers, the New England Primer, and Noah Webster’s blue-backed American Spelling-Book dominated the school textbook scene.