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American Primers and Readers

Featuring the Words and Collection of Richard L. Venezky

An online exhibition of the Cubberley Education Library, Stanford University

The Early Modern Period (1866 - 1920)

Early Modern exhibit case
Detail of left side of exhibit case Detail of frontispiece from The Beacon Fifth Reader

Fassett, James H. [1913-1923?]. The Beacon fifth reader. Boston: Ginn & Company.

Detail of right side of exhibit case
Cover image of Appleton's Second Reader

"Perhaps the most successful of the series issued after the Civil War was the Appleton School Readers, authored by William Torrey Harris, Andrew Jackson Rickoff, and Mark Bailey. This series represents what is probably the first modern, corporately sponsored reading program. The authors were all highly visible educational figures, selected to represent different regions of the country, different expertise in education, and at least with the first two, to facilitate entry into major school systems" (Venezky, 1990b, p. xx).

Cover image of Sheldon & Co's Modern School First Reader

Sheldon & Company. 1882. Sheldon & Co's modern school first reader. New York; Chicago: Sheldon & Co.

Image of Sheldon's First Reader, pp. 94 - 95

"After the Civil War, reading series began to appear much as they do today….New series (e.g., Sheldon & Co.'s Modern School Readers, Monroe's readers, Cyr's readers, and Baldwin's readers) were generally published with a primer and five or six graded readers, plus occasionally an accompanying spelling book" (Venezky, 1987, p. 252).

"By the end of the 19th century both schooling and society in the United States had matured to the point where culture had become an important concern. With the West settled, movement and opportunity were vertical rather than horizontal—rising up the social and industrial ladder rather than running westward to claim another patch of untamed countryside. A flood of immigrant, many from poor, rural areas of Europe, resulted in further pressures on the schools to homogenize and Americanize" (Venezky, 1992, p. 451).

Detail of cover of Appleton's Second Reader

Harris, William Torrey. [1877-1879?]. The 2nd reader. New York : D. Appleton and Company.

Detail of lesson from Appleton's Third Reader

Harris, William Torrey. [1877-1879?]. The 3rd reader. New York : D. Appleton and Company.

Cover image of the Beacon Fifth Reader

Fassett, James H. [1913-1923?]. The Beacon fifth reader. Boston: Ginn & Company.