William Columbus Ferril.

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rivalry in them, for the Webster book stood in conspicuous pre-eminence.

In the lists of books studied in the early schools, Morse's Geography fre-
quently meets the eye. This book was written by Jedidiah Morse, a learned
and talented man, whose birthplace was Woodstock, Connecticut. The first



68 EARLY TEXT BOOKS IN CONNECTICUT.

geographical work that he issued, called " Geography Made Easy," was adapted
from some of the larger English works on the subject.

Dr. Morse had used this system of geography written in manuscript in
teaching his pupils before he issued it in book form to the public, and his stu-
dents so much liked it that they frequently made copies of it for their own
purposes. This induced Dr. Morse to have the work published for general
use, and the first edition appeared in the year 1784 as the first work of the kind
published in the United States. This fact brought the geography into prom-
inence as being first in the field, and the great excellence of the work gained
for it the favor of the public. These remarks are in the preface: " Geography
made easy, being a compendious system of that very useful and agreeable sci-
ence." And farther on we read: " To the young gentlemen and ladies through-
out the United States this compendious S)'stem of geography, a science no
longer esteemed as a polite and agreeable accomplishment only, but a very
necessary and important part of education, is with the most ardent wishes for
their improvement, dedicated and devoted by their very humble servant, the
author."

Some time after this geography was published. Dr. Morse brought out The
American Geography, in the year 1789. This book passed through many edi-
tions, and was deservedly popular. In the year 1812 we find it issued in two
bulky volumes, between whose leathern covers lay a very encyclopedia of
knowledge. The American Review and Literary Journal for the year 1802
gives a long, comprehensive and critical article to this work which was just
then issued, in one of its editions, and in an improved style. The Review
makes the statement that "The blunders of European geographers are many,
and sometimes ridiculous, and that Americans who wish to gain a knowledge
of the geography of their own country would find this work of Dr. Morse's
authentic, and they would do well to study it." This geography gives in its
introduction an account of all geographical theories in a concise manner, from
the time of Thales, the philosopher. The American Review closes its article
with this paragraph: "The public has been so long acquainted with the merit
of Dr. Morse as an aiithor that we need not here enter into a particular exam-
ination." As Dr. Morse wrote so early among text-book makers of our coun-
try, and with but poor material, it cannot be expected to find in his work the
advanced ideas and methods which came later on as the geographical science
was developed, but it was a wonderful book for its time, and contains for a
reader of the present day even much valuable information. These geographies
had a large circulation, and gained for Dr. Morse the title of the father of
American geography.

I wish to speak now of perhaps a less famous and less widely known geog-
raphy, but of one deserving great commendation, which was the joint work of
Mrs. Emma Willard, of honored memory, and of William C. Woodbridge, who
lived from his infancy almost his entire life in Connecticut. He was born in
Massachusetts, but when he was an infant his parents moved their family to
Middlctown, Connecticut. In regard to the subject of geography, Mrs. Willard
wrote: "The books of geography, being closely confined to the order of place,
and those of history to that of time, by which much repetition was made neces-
sary, and comprehensive views of topics by comparison and classification were
debarred." She also goes on to write in detail of the faults in the geographies



EARLY TEXT BOOKS IN CONNECTICUT.



69



of her time, and points out how these errors may be remedied, and also to tell
the way in which she formulated her own geography. Her methods of teach-
ing she had for some time previous to publication used in her seminary at
Troy, New York, and the young ladies under her instruction had so greatly
benefited therefrom that Mrs. Willard concluded to have the geography pub-
lished, setting forth her views of that science.

At the same time that Mrs. Willard was preparing for the publication of
her work, William C. Woodbridge was similarly engaged in regard to the same
study. It so happened that Mrs. Willard was persuaded to mingle her ideas
on the subject with Mr. Woodbridge's, and the result of this happy conjunc-
tion of thought was the Willard- Woodbridge geography. As Mrs. Willard was
a Connecticut woman, her class-books are of educational interest to this state;
these works were all of a high grade of excellence and the results of the



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Online LibraryWilliam Columbus FerrilThe Connecticut quarterly (Volume 2) → online text (page 7 of 46)