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The Early American Spellers Catalog represents a unique historical collection of spelling books used in schools and homes during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the United States. The 231 texts described in this catalog are a portion of the titles in the Early American Textbook Collection housed in the Educational Research Library of the U.S. Department of Education.
The main collection, consisting of 8,000 titles covering all academic disciplines, was started in the Bureau of Education when administrators recognized the growing scarcity and historical worth of the school books. Henry Barnard, the first U.S. Commissioner of Education, was especially interested in the collection and donated many books from his private library. A “Museum of Textbooks" was planned but was never realized due to a shortage of space and a lack of funds.
The Bureau of Education was established within the Department of the Interior in 1869. In 1953 when the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was created, the former Bureau of Education Library was merged with the newly created departmental library. Only a small part of the Early American Textbook Collection was retained in this library. Most of the volumes in the collection were deposited in various public, college, and university libraries in the District of Columbia area. In 1973 those textbooks housed at the department library were transferred to the National Institute of Education to form the nucleus of the Library's textbook collection. The Library is now part of Information Services.
Cognizant of the need for a comprehensive collection of early American school books, the Library initiated steps to acquire the remaining volumes, and in 1977 the final portion of the textbook collection was officially transferred to the Educational Research Library. For the first time in several decades the school books are integrated and housed in a single collection.
The Early American Spellers Catalog provides a useful resource for studying the early developments and trends in American education.
The Early American Spellers
U.S. Department of Education