William Holmes McGuffey

Historical Marker #178 in Paris honors William Holmes McGuffey, creator of the famous "McGuffey Readers" textbooks.

William H. McGuffey was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania, in 1800. He spent his youth in that area, and adjoining Ohio, where he received a classical education common to the time. After early schooling he attended Old Stone Academy. McGuffey graduated with honors in 1826 from Washington College (now Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania).

While attending college in Pennsylvania, McGuffey taught elementary school in Paris, Kentucky, during breaks. In 1823 McGuffey set up a school in the dining room of Reverend John McFarland, a Presbyterian minister, where he taught for three years. In 1827, McGuffey married Harriet Spinning. Shortly after his marriage he was ordained a minister in the Presbyterian Church.

Upon graduating from college, McGuffey was appointed as professor of languages at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. However, soon he left to become president of Cincinnati College, where he quickly became a distinguished teacher and lecturer.

McGuffey was fond of teaching children and desired students to have better textbooks than were then available. The reading books that he authored included selections depicting rural life on the frontier and contained selections to instill a complete code of ethics and good behavior, attitudes he developed from his early religious training. His books were first published in 1836. Later there were McGuffey primer, spelling, and reading books for several different school grades. McGuffey's books outsold all other textbooks for much of the second half of the nineteenth century and first half of the twentieth century.

McGuffey later became president of Ohio University and then president of Woodward College in Cincinnati. In 1845, McGuffey was selected to be the professor of philosophy at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where he spent the final years of his life. He died in 1873 and was buried in the university's cemetery.

Historical marker #178 was originally dedicated in February 1960.

The marker reads:
William Holmes McGuffey
Born September 23, 1800-Died May 4, 1873. Famous for his eclectic readers which introduced thousands of children to the treasures of literature. At this site he taught from 1823 to 1826 before joining the faculty of Miami University.