Grandpa’s Reader

This was my grandfather Leslie Casbon’s (1894–1990) Third Reader.

Cover and title pages of Indiana State Series, Revised Third Reader, 1899.[1]
I know it was his book, because he wrote his name inside the front cover. It must also have been used by his brother, Lynnet (1899–1983), whose name is written inside the back cover.

Inside front and back covers. (Click on image to enlarge)

Since Leslie was the oldest child of Lawrence (1865–1950) and Kate (Marquart, 1868–1959) Casbon, and Lynnet was the youngest, it’s likely that the middle son, Loring (1896–1970) also used the Reader, although he failed to leave his mark in the book.

Photo of Lawrence & Kate Casbon with sons Lynnet, Loring, and Leslie, ca. 1898, near Hebron, Indiana.
Names of horse & dog unknown. (Click on image to enlarge)

Up until I started writing this post, I assumed that this book was part of the famous McGuffey Reader series, named for the original author, William Holmes McGuffey. The McGuffey Readers dominated American Education throughout the 19th century.[2] Generations of school children were raised on them.

Upon closer inspection, however, although the book is very similar in appearance to the McGuffey books, they are not the same. The cover indicates that this book is part of the Indiana Educational Series. Nowhere is the word McGuffey mentioned.

In the McGuffey series, the Third Reader was written at a level equivalent to today’s 5th or 6th grade.[3] Since most rural students, including my grandfather, were taught in one-room schoolhouses, the modern concept of grades was not in use. I suspect the same applies to this book. It might be that the book was intended to cover several grades, since the readings become progressively longer, with more complex concepts and vocabulary. There were also fourth and fifth readers, which probably would have gone up to about the eighth-grade level.

The Indiana Educational Series of readers, which included this book, was selected by the State Board of School Commissioners “to be used in the public schools of Indiana for the next five years,” beginning in the summer of 1899.[4] This ensured that a standardized curriculum for reading would be used throughout the state.

In the Introduction to the Third Reader, the author writes,

In choosing material for reading books to be used by pupils who have already acquired some facility in recognizing word forms, the purposes of the reading lesson must be clearly apprehended. These seem to be three: first, to inculcate a love for what is best and highest in literature; second, to train the child in correct habits of thought getting from the printed page; and, third, to train him in vocal expression.”[5]

The contents include poetry, literary excerpts and historical writings. Some of the readings contain moral lessons, such as the poem “They Didn’t Think,” by Phoebe Cary. Here is the final stanza:

Now, my little children,
You who read this song,
Don’t you see what trouble
Comes of thinking wrong?
And can’t you take a warning
From their dreadful fate
Who began their thinking
When it was too late?
Don’t think there’s always safety
Where no danger shows;
Don’t suppose you know more
Than anybody knows;
But when you’re warned of ruin,
Pause upon the brink,
And don’t go under headlong
‘Cause you didn’t think.[6]

Some of the better-known readings in the book include Clement Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” “The Owl and the Pussycat,” by Edward Lear, an excerpt from Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell, and “The Ugly Duckling” by Hans Christian Andersen.

Grandpa Les would have probably started using this book around 1903-1905, when the family was still living near Hebron, in southern Porter County. By the time it was Lynnet’s turn, they had probably already moved to their new farm in Morgan township, just south of Valparaiso.

This photograph was taken about 1905 – maybe Leslie was using the Third Reader then.

L to R: back  – Lawrence, Lynnet, Kate; front  – Loring, Leslie (I think)

The Reader must have served the boys well. All went on to graduate from high school and complete some higher education.

[1] Indiana State Series, Third Reader, revised by S.H. Clark and H.S. Fiske (Indianapolis: Indiana School Book Co., 1899).
[2] Susan Walton, “(Re)Turning To W.H. McGuffey’s Frontier Virtues,” 2 Feb 1918; online newsletter, Education Week ( : accessed 7 November 2018).
[3] National Park Service, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, “William Holmes McGuffey and His Readers,” The Museum Gazette, leaflet [undated]; PDF Download, National Park Service ( : accessed 7 November 2018).
[4] Indiana School Journal and Teacher, Volume 44, no. 7 (July 1899), p. 446; online image, Google Books ( : accessed 7 November 2018).
[5] Indiana State Series, Third Reader, p. 3.
[6] Ibid., pp. 16-17.

5 thoughts on “Grandpa’s Reader”

  1. I agree, although I don’t recall any bad feelings about Dick, Jane and Sally. Learning to read was such a journey of discovery – I only have good memories of the experience.

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