McGuffey Readers, Bibles used in public schools

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is another article on Findlay area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier.

This is the third article in a series of four dealing with Findlay public schools in the late 1890s. A school manual which belonged to the late Earl Wall provides the information.




The McGuffey readers were long used in the Findlay schools and the school manual prescribed just how much was to be read each year by the pupils in each of the readers.

There were three terms in each school year. The first four months went until the Christmas holidays; the second, of three months, continued through March; and the third term was made up of the last two months.

Schools took up at 8:30 a.m. and lasted until 3:30 p.m. On Fridays, schools were dismissed a half hour earlier at 3 p.m. each week. This custom of early Friday dismissal continued until around 1920, when it was abandoned.

The school calendar listed the fall term as starting the first Monday in September and school closing May 20. Holidays included Friday of county fair week, Thanksgiving and the Friday following, the Christmas vacation and Washington’s birthday.

“Teachers must explain the meaning of these holidays the previous day,” said the manual.

Under the subject “Remarks on Courses of Study,” this statement is made under the topic “Morals and Manners”:

“Aside from the suggestions made throughout the course as to the teaching of morals and manners, it should not be forgotten that the great textbook on morals is the Bible. It is the only book that tells us the origin and destiny of man. Its pages are replete with inspiring hopes and lofty aims of life. Its language is a model of clearness and simplicity. Many of its lessons touch and awaken the finer feelings and moral nature as no other book does.

“Carefully selected lessons from the Bible should be read daily, not occasionally, as a part of the morning exercises.

“Nothing should be offered as a substitute for these Bible lessons. Nothing should take the place of ‘the book of books’ in the morning exercises.”

A suggested course for the primary grades dealt with nature study. For each of the four primary grades, there were definite outlines of study covering all forms of nature. In the A primary grade, the study of trees was suggested as well as a study of spring flowers. In the D primary grade, it was suggested that there be study of the cat and the dog. A beginning study of various forms of weather was suggested.

In a discussion of the importance of memory work, the manual said, “all the grades from the B primary on up are to memorize the words of ‘America,’ so thoroughly that pupils can reproduce them from memory orally or by writing, any time after November.”

The matter of discipline is taken up in the manual. Under the subject “corporal punishment,” this statement is made: “Whenever it is necessary to resort to corporal punishment, the same under ordinary circumstances shall be with a whip and shall not be inflicted on the head or hand of the pupil.”

The manual describes the courses of study for each grade in the elementary schools and in the high schools. The progress that was expected of each grade at various times of the school year is spelled out.

There were three courses of study in the high school. One was the classical, which all expecting to go to college were required to take; another was the Latin-English and the third was the German-English. Subjects to be taken in each of the four years were listed.

Some subjects were offered then that in subsequent years were dropped and sometimes later reinstated. Among them were physiology, botany, astronomy and Greek.

Texts to be used in school work were listed not only for the high school, but for the grades as well.

For the elementary grades, the manual has a timetable that teachers were to follow, each day, taking up new subjects at a specified time.


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