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McGuffey Readers were best sellers only surpassed in America by the Bible and Webster’s Dictionary. In 2008, the McGuffey Eclectic Reader was ranked with Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and Alexander Hamilton’s The Federalist Papers as “books that changed the course of U.S. history.” Published originally in the early 1830s, by 1920 over one hundred fifty million had been sold. Even today, sales average about thirty thousand a year. No single series of books dominated America as the McGuffey Readers did from 1836 to 1920.

The texts were the source of knowledge and motivation for American industrialists such as Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, H. J. Heinz, George Westinghouse, Thomas Edison, and John D. Rockefeller, as well as the founder of Kroger Company—A. H. Morrill. McGuffey instilled the basic principles of capitalism and democracy, while promoting the basic virtue of giving to and helping the poor.  The McGuffey Readers are as much the root of American philanthropy as they are the root of American capitalism. Many American presidents, such as Lincoln, Harrison, Grant, Hayes, Cleveland, Harding, Garfield, McKinley, Truman, and Roosevelt attributed their scholarship to the McGuffey Reader. The list of Supreme Court and Federal judges is just as long. McGuffey approached education as a moralistic adventure. He interwove morals, American history, religion, and virtues into basic lessons. McGuffey more than anyone helped defined the American psyche.

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