The McGuffey Museum

I have previously written on this blog (here) about some of the sights and sites in our area that I haven't yet done or seen, but would LIKE to. One of those, which I pass regularly on drives through Oxford, is the McGuffey Museum on the campus of Miami University.

Well, this past Friday I was driving through town and noticed the "Open" sign. So I found a parking place (only because graduation was the previous weekend, so most students have left town for the Summer) and headed in.

I was met by Steve Gordon, the museum's administrator, and a history student who was assisting him. They very capably and charmingly showed me around this fascinating piece of American (and local, as well as publishing and educational) history, starting with the maps on the wall in the entry, and the kitchen (above). The large round thing in the corner is a child's bathtub that was discovered in the attic of Lewis Place on East High Street, the home of Miami University presidents since 1903. The frame on the table in the foreground shows how buttons were made in that era.

The Rev. William Holmes McGuffey (1800-1873) defined primary education in nineteenth-century America with his "McGuffey's Readers," six of which he wrote in this two-story Federal style home at 410 Spring Street in Oxford, where he lived from 1833-1836 (he was a professor at Miami from 1826-1836, and bought the plot in 1828). The series, which sold over 120 million copies, was the dominant schoolbook in the nation until the 1920s.

Though some of the pieces in the museum are period pieces that don't have a connection with McGuffey or the house, a surprising number of furnishings and paintings do. For example, the three-piece desk against the wall in the photo above, and the distinctive rotating desk in the middle of the room, were owned by McGuffey and used by him. He used the octagonal desk so that he could work from his seat and by rotating the desk (like a lazy susan) have access to all the materials he needed. This room, however, was not a part of the original structure; it was added by a later resident.

The dining room features portraits of McGuffey and his wife (she is seen in the picture above).

The parlor at the front of the house contains a couch (not in the picture) that was used by McGuffey in his Virginia home, if I recall correctly.

The home includes two staircases, this one at the front and another in the kitchen.

The center bedroom on the second floor was the one used by the McGuffeys during their residence there. Also on the second floor is the front bedroom which is used for the display of many fascinating period artifacts, and a small room that was originally part of the hall but was closed off at some point, and was used by a resident as her bedroom, and possibly also as an artist studio at some point. The upstairs hall also includes three paintings of a former resident of the house who taught in Oxford and maintained an art studio in town for many years.

I could have spent much, much more than the hour the guided tour took (I'm told the standard tour is roughly thirty minutes, so I'm grateful for the extra attention I was given). The McGuffey Museum is located at 410 East Spring Street in Oxford, Ohio. Admission to the museum is free (though donations are accepted) and the hours are Thursdays-Fridays-Saturdays from 1-5 p.m. I highly recommend it. It would be well worth a special trip for that purpose, though there are of course many other reasons to visit Oxford and the Miami University campus.

1 comment:

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