Composing Legacies

Testimonial Rhetoric in Nineteenth-Century Composition

by Christopher Carter (Author) Russel K. Durst (Author)
©2021 Monographs XII, 182 Pages


In 2015, Professor Emerita Lucille M. Schultz donated to the University of Cincinnati her set of composition materials gathered from fifteen libraries and collections around the country. With 350 entries ranging from 1785 to 1916, the collection includes picture books for early primary schools, grammar textbooks, student writing, and advanced rhetoric textbooks for undergraduates. The documents afford a thrilling glimpse into nineteenth-century ways of thinking and teaching, highlighting practices we would today identify as prewriting, collaborative invention, freewriting, and object-oriented pedagogy. Composing Legacies relates these pedagogies to expressions of social class, nationalism, and public engagement that run throughout the Victorian era and the Gilded Age. Early chapters show how writing and grammar handbooks aimed to reproduce social hierarchies; later ones show how textbook authors aimed to mitigate lecture-style pedagogy with attention to student backgrounds, personal interests, economic aspirations, and presumed audiences. Often, those authors demonstrated a pronounced interest in national unity, but not without exception. Little-known Confederate textbooks took the ideology of unity to be a form of Northern aggression, promoting the maintenance of state and local traditions through their classroom exercises and sample passages. Composition scholars who see the nineteenth-century as a period of skills-and-drills teaching, devoid of explicit political concern, will find surprises in the archival texts’ testimonies about national crises and civic participation. Those scholars will also find that the “social turn” in writing and rhetoric, however recent as a historical framework, has been underway for more than two hundred years.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Dedication
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Foreword (Lucille M. Schultz)
  • Introduction: Textbook Histories and Testimonial Legacies (Christopher Carter and Russel K. Durst)
  • Chapter One Testimony of the Senses: Materialist Pedagogy in Nineteenth-Century Composition Textbooks (Christopher Carter)
  • Chapter Two Testimony of the Tongue: Grammar, Aspirational Pedagogy, and the Cult of Correctness in Long-Nineteenth-Century Composition (Russel K. Durst)
  • Chapter Three Composing American (Daniel Floyd)
  • Chapter Four Jessie Macmillan Anderson: A Composition Microhistory (Rhiannon Scharnhorst)
  • Chapter Five Elizabeth Spalding: Fellow-Worker in Composition (Kathleen Spada)
  • Conclusion: The Long Memory (Christopher Carter and Russel K. Durst)
  • Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index


←viii | ix→

I am grateful to the University of Cincinnati Libraries for adding the Lucille M. Schultz Archive of Nineteenth-Century Composition to their repositories, and for making the materials available online for continuing research. Particular thanks go to Nathan Tallman and James Van Mil for overseeing the process of digitization. I am also grateful to Beth Carter for the love and encouragement through every stage of the project; to our sons, Benjamin and Jonah, for motivating our work; and to Bella for reminding us to play.

—Chris Carter

I thank my department head, Leah Stewart, for supporting me with an academic leave to work on this book project, and to the UC Libraries for their invaluable help in digitizing the Schultz Archive. I want to acknowledge my friend Peter Smagorinsky for his astute feedback on an early draft of my grammar chapter. I am always grateful for the love and support of my adult children Alexander, Isaac, Jacob & Lori, and grandson Ian. And most of all, I wish to thank Kathy Wekselman, the love of my life, for the pleasure of living and working alongside her.

—Russel Durst ←ix | x→

I wish to acknowledge Lucille Schultz for her work compiling the texts in the Schultz Archive, as well as the works, scholars, and students from which my chapter was crafted. I would also like to thank my family, particularly Kristy, Avery, and Gibson, for their continued support and the joy they bring. Additionally, I want to express my gratitude to Chris Carter and Russel Durst for all their help completing my chapter, even though they told me not to thank them.

—Daniel Floyd

Thanks first to the generous funding of Pat Belanoff, whose award for graduate students in rhetoric and composition at the University of Cincinnati provided me with the time to write and locate all the materials for this project. I must also thank Russel Durst and Chris Carter, who invited me to write this chapter in the first place and offered lots of encouragement along the way. Finally to Ben and Lou, my fearless first readers who listen patiently every time I threaten to quit and gently guide me back to writing again. And most of all to Jessie Macmillan Anderson, a comrade who continues to inspire me every day.

—Rhiannon Scharnhorst

I am grateful for the gift of time made possible by the P.E.O. scholar’s award, and especially for the support of women in the local chapter who sent notes of encouragement while I rambled, wrote, rewrote, and revised this chapter. I am grateful as well to Chris Carter and Russel Durst for their support and guidance. I am also indebted to my family (Dale, Ellen, Mom, Tyler, Devon, Denny, and Colleen) whose patience was unending, and who let me know they were proud of my work; and to Sophie, the sweet pup who sits loyally by my side.

—Kathleen Spada

The whole team wishes to express warm thanks to Alice Horning, series editor for Studies in Composition and Rhetoric, for her historical expertise and generous feedback. Her perceptive questions kept us returning to the Archive, each time with newly refined lenses, honing our research methods in ways that enriched the book, and that will continue to resonate as we undertake new projects.


lucille m. schultz

It’s been years since I discovered the first books that, over a period of years, would become what is being called the Schultz Archive. I was on sabbatical at the Library of Congress when, taking the advice Bob Connors had offered when we chatted at a 4C’s gathering, I headed for the PE shelves. There, often dusty, with faded covers, broken spines, and foxed pages, were the books that allowed me to read, to take a crack at beginning to understand something about school-based composition writing in the early nineteenth century.

At that time, the LC allowed scholars access to the warren of shelves that a researcher might itch to wander through. And so, in dusty jeans, often sitting on the floor, I read hundreds of shelves, selecting piles of books, skimming them for what might jump out, putting them aside, and moving on to the next shelf, the next pile of books. At this stage of my work, I was letting the books tell me about themselves; I wasn’t quite sure what I hoped to find, or was looking for.

I didn’t know it at the time, but those small books were the beginning of this archive. As is so often the case, books led to more books, and in my case, to more than thirteen libraries, big and small, public and private. I remain grateful for the travel and housing support from the Taft Research Center and from the English Department of the University of Cincinnati that helped fund the research. And, just as importantly, to the librarians and archivists that listened ever so patiently to my requests for help. Within a couple of years, I distilled what I found and read ←xi | xii→ and sent off my arguments to journals and presses. And within a decade or so, I realized I had an archive on my hands, an archive of more than 300 xeroxed copies of nineteenth-century texts that to a small or large extent focused on the teaching of writing. And, I laugh as I think of this, I discovered part of the “real” work of a researcher: feeding quarters into a xerox machine hour after hour. Thanks to my UC faculty colleagues Russel Durst and Chris Carter and UC digital preservationists Nathan Tallman and James Van Mil, this archive is now online and can be accessed at hand. No more dusty jeans. No more jumping up to turn on the light that had gone off at the end of a stack.

What I have learned since then is something about an archive; on the one hand, it is rows of books on shelves dedicated to a particular subject during a particular time period. On the other hand, what I would now argue is that an archive is organic and has agency. An archive, any archive, is far from static. Rather it invites readers and scholars to speculate about what’s there and what’s not there; invites multiple ways of categorizing its contents; invites critique; invites its own growth; and asks question after question, even about its authors. And reading an archive offers the invitations that no single book can … invitations to place a single book in a cultural and ideological context and thus acquire meaning beyond itself; to notice differences in form and content over time, differences from one book to another. It allows reading the books chronologically, forward and backward; and not least, it allows readers to see similarities and differences to books outside the archive.

As John Brereton reminded us long ago, “an archive exists in the eye of the beholder.” So this archive is limited and in many ways, not only by my eye, but by what I could find after years of searching, and by circumstance. But it is testimony to the agency of an archive. Consider the ways in which the authors and contributors of this book, having pored over this archive, are, in their different ways of seeing, making it new. They have added new books. They listen for the questions the archive asks, and they respond to some of them; that is, like any archive, the Schultz Archive will continue to ask questions as long as there are readers and scholars to hear them. May the questions and the scholars abound. May we ever continue to increase our understanding of writing instruction in nineteenth-century schools.

←xii | 1→ Introduction: Textbook Histories and Testimonial Legacies

christopher carter and russel k. durst

In 2015, Professor Emerita Lucille M. Schultz donated to the University of Cincinnati’s English Department her set of composition materials gathered from collections around the U.S. The culmination of a decade’s research at more than a dozen different sites, including the Library of Congress and Harvard’s Monroe C. Gutman Library, the archive gathers 340 works in ten different genres, and we continue to add works of historical interest to the collection. Represented genres include composition histories, moral and social manuals, grammar handbooks and histories, general teaching advice, epistolary texts, studies of education, student papers, and studies in rhetoric, though handbooks and composition textbooks make up the bulk of the archive. From these materials, Schultz produced two award-winning books, The Young Composers: Composition’s Beginnings in Nineteenth-Century Schools and Archives of Instruction: Nineteenth-Century Rhetorics, Readers, and Composition Books in the United States (with Jean Ferguson Carr and Stephen L. Carr). But Schultz herself observes that the majority of the archive has not yet been studied. This book responds to the implicit invitation in that claim while also encouraging other field historians to offer their own replies.

The collection contains rhetorical treatises from as early as 1739 and student papers from as late as 1995, but 295 entries, or nearly 90 percent of the whole, fits squarely into nineteenth-century history. The Schultz Archive contains the world’s most organized, concentrated, and extensive body of nineteenth-century ←1 | 2→ texts about U.S. writing instruction, all of which have been digitized so that scholars can access them off-campus. Digital preservation specialists Nathan Tallman and James Van Mil used optical character recognition software to make the documents searchable, allowing scholars not only to locate titles but to perform keyword searches within the portable document format (pdf) files. Such searches made the arguments in this book possible, permitting us to perform swift and efficient retrieval of sources featuring terms such as “inductive” learning, “handbooks,” “taste,” “Saxon” etymology, “citizen” and “citizenship,” and “virtue,” to provide only a brief list. The holdings can be accessed through the UC Libraries Digital Collections and Repositories at digital.libraries.uc.edu/collections/schultz/. Daniel Floyd, Ian Golding, and Ben Hojem all spent a portion of their graduate studies at UC helping to organize the materials in the digital database, categorizing them by subject and period while also drafting abstracts for each entry.

As of December 2020, the processes of acquisition and categorization continue, partly due to Daniel Floyd’s discovery of relevant Civil War-era textbooks. His efforts clarify the archive’s condition as a living repository that grows and evolves with our historical investigations. It also clarifies the inventive character of Schultz’s project, which represents a career’s worth of effort while also nudging field historians to fill out and refine the picture. Taking her cue means at once deriving new lines of argument from the material she gathered and enlarging the stock of primary materials wherever we see an opportunity. Every nineteenth-century composition text we mention in the following pages is either part of the archive or shortly to become so.

Publication data shows a steady rise in the number of texts released each decade, from sixteen titles in the first ten years of the century to fifty-seven in the last. Temporary declines occurred in the eighteen-teens and after the outset of the Civil War, but the broad shape of the data indicates persistent increase. Many of the materials circulated in U.S. schools and colleges from 1830 to 1900, and many reflect the economic developments and social changes underway at the time. The rise of a middle class during the era meant that more families could send their children beyond elementary school. After the Morrill Act established land-grant colleges, postsecondary education was booming. Widespread population movement from rural to urban areas was leading to the rise of cities as centers of commerce, factories, and education, as the nation’s economy transformed from agrarian to industrial. Immigration from southern and eastern Europe was in full swing, along with efforts to Americanize newcomers through English instruction and civics education. The number of literate Americans was on the rise, leading ←2 | 3→ to the expansion of the publishing industry and greater numbers of newspapers, magazines, and inexpensive books.

But as we link publication trends to those broad historical tendencies, we pay close attention to singular texts and the responses of particular authors to cultural exigencies. Authors who make the largest contribution to the archive in terms of sheer volume include Philadelphia high school English teacher John Frost, British educational reformer Elizabeth Mayo, New Jersey school principal John Seely Hart, New York teacher and editor George Quackenbos, and Connecticut-born philosopher and educator Henry Noble Day, who spent much of his career in Ohio. Frost’s entries date from 1828 to 1857, and they exemplify the anticipatory quality that we encounter again and again in the archive, showing that much of what writing pedagogy scholars attribute to late twentieth-century educators was already present, if only in nascent form, more than a hundred years before. Frost insisted that students only learn to write by writing, encouraging them to compose from personal experience while also drawing ideas from interviews with local citizens and tradespeople. Mixing fieldwork with high-energy classroom activities, he brought art and engravings to his lessons as catalysts for imagination and narrative play. Elizabeth Mayo’s entries in the catalogue show similar leanings, and they unfold over an even longer period of time, the earliest published in 1832 and the last in 1876. A teacher at the Cheam School in Surrey, she advocated an “object pedagogy” that was based on students’ protracted sensory engagement with tangible things. She devised “boxed object lessons” in which the boxes contained “a material encyclopaedia of natural and processed specimens native to Britain and gathered from across the British Empire, both precious and quotidian” (Wade 21). The results were sanguine enough that Frost incorporated her ideas into his own books.


XII, 182
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (June)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2021. XII, 182 pp., 5 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Christopher Carter (Author) Russel K. Durst (Author)

Christopher Carter is Divisional Dean of Humanities at the University of Cincinnati. His recent books include Rhetorical Exposures: Confrontation and Contradiction in US Social Documentary Photography, Metafilm: Materialist Rhetoric and Reflexive Cinema, and The Corruption of Ethos in Fortress America: Billionaires, Bureaucrats, and Body Slams. Russel K. Durst is Professor of English at the University of Cincinnati, where he teaches courses in composition, writing pedagogy and research, and English linguistics. He has published numerous books, articles, and chapters in the field of composition studies.


Title: Composing Legacies
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