Friday, September 26, 2008

William Holmes McGuffey Birthplace (formerly known as McGuffey Birthplace)

If you read the second chapter / blog of this Greenfield Village collection you will remember reading the following:
The year was 1914, and Clara Ford, wife of Henry, watched children play one day as they made their way home from school. A childhood rhyme suddenly came to her, and she said it aloud: 'Hear the children gaily shout, "Half past four and school is out!" '
Henry and Clara both thought the rhyme came from one of the William McGuffey Eclectic Readers, first published in 1836. After a futile search to find which Reader it came from, and through it all amassing a rather large and complete collection of the 145 different editions, he found he had a penchant for collecting. He already had a rather large collection of clocks and watches, which he loved to tinker with as a child. And, he had accumulated objects of his hero, Thomas Edison. So the McGuffey Readers were just another extension of what was quickly becoming his passion.

It seemed that the original McGuffey Reader collection just wasn't enough for Henry Ford; in 1932, Ford purchased the birthplace of Mr. McGuffey (born in 1800) from a direct descendent, Mrs. Henry Blayney, and had the 1780 cabin disassembled from its original West Finley Township, Washington County, Pennsylvania location, and then re-erected it in Greenfield Village two years later. Included in the acquisition of the unoccupied cabin were a few remaining relics such as a stove and kettles.
On Sept. 23, 1934, Ford, with great fanfare, marked McGuffey's 134th birthday with the dedication of the building in Greenfield Village as well as having a fourteen-ton granite boulder placed on the original site of the birthplace in Pennsylvania for use as a permanent marker. It was such a big deal, in fact, that NBC broadcast the two-hour ceremony live over national radio.
Folks today may not realize the importance of the McGuffey reader, 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 century can scarcely be exaggerated.
The cabin, as you can see by the photos, is filled with the atmosphere of the time when McGuffey was born. The presenters at Greenfield Village do a wonderful job in their presentation of how the McGuffey family lived in the 18th and early 19th centuries. A fine example of when a presentation is done right!

To read of the McGuffey Smokehouse please click HERE
To read of the McGuffey School please click HERE


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