I am working on a scholarly project concerning the production, marketing, and pedagogy of history education in the mid-nineteenth century. One of the authors in the study is Marcius Willson, probably the most prolific textbook writer (especially of school Readers) in this period, under contract with Harper and Brothers since 1860. He and his rival authors were deeply involved with marketing their works through commission agents who fanned out across the midwest and South to secure adoptions by school districts. In 1864, his Readers’ penetration into the midwest sparked a major war with the Cincinnati-based publishers of his chief rival, McGuffey’s Readers. In a series of planted articles, “reviews” of rival works, pamphlets and advertisements peppered with endorsements by teachers, principals, and superintendents, the publishers and authors battled for markets in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, and Kansas (and later, California).
In June 1864 the Textbook Committee of the Board of Trustees of the Bloomington, Ill. school district completed a scathing critique of Willson’s Readers and urged retention of McGuffey’s. Some authors of the Report claimed they never intended it to be published, but others said it was a public document. Willson & co. responded in a series of ads and reviews, provoking a 30-page response in an ad supplement by McGuffey’s people, replete with letters and testimonials from the parties involved, published in state teacher journals in Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois.
So far, I have been unable to locate the “Bloomington Report.” It might have been published in the Bloomington Pantagraph, whose editor at the time was also president of the local board of education, but brief searches on this side of its paywall have not turned it up. I haven't been able to determine where the records of the Bloomington school district are kept.
I would be grateful for any leads that H-Midwest readers might offer to help me in locating either this document or an archive I might approach to search for it.
Peter Knupfer, Michigan State University, firstname.lastname@example.org