From Ohio History Central
William McGuffey was born on September 23, 1800, in Pennsylvania. When he was two years of age, his family moved to the Western Reserve, near Youngstown, Ohio. His family placed a heavy emphasis on education. McGuffey attended public school but also received special tutoring in Latin from a local minister. He eventually enrolled in Washington College in Pennsylvania, graduating in 1826.
McGuffey embarked on a career in academia, serving first as a professor of languages at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. By 1832, he had become the chair of the Department of Mental Philosophy and Philology at Miami. In 1836, he resigned this position to become president of Cincinnati College, a position that he would leave in 1839 to become the president of Ohio University. He remained president of Ohio University until 1843, when he returned to Cincinnati as a professor at Woodward College. In 1845, McGuffey accepted the position of chair of the Department of Moral Philosophy at the University of Virginia. He held this position until his death on May 4, 1873.
McGuffey is most famous for completing a series of textbooks that became the standardized reading text for most schools across the United States during the mid-to-late nineteenth century. First published in1836, McGuffey's Reader, as it became known, eventually consisted of a multi-volume work with six levels of difficulty. Very different from modern-day textbooks, the McGuffey's Reader contained religious messages and sought to instill morality in its readers. Between 1836 and 1890, McGuffey's publisher printed and sold more than one hundred million copies of McGuffey's Reader. Practically every American who attended public schools during the second half of the nineteenth century learned moral and ethical lessons from McGuffey's Reader.