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Kitchen (1830s)

Kitchen (1830s): food preparation & storage, setting the table, cookies and puddings, butter molds

Kitchen (1830s): food preparation & storage, setting the table, cookies and puddings, butter molds

Pie Safe CupboardPie Safe Cupboard

Poplar with pierced tin panels, 1840–1850

Cupboards of this type were used for food storage. The pierced tin panels allowed air circulation without letting rodents and large insects foul the foodstuffs.

Dining Room (1850s)


Dining Room (1850s): special dining occasions, knife rests and salt dips, dual-purpose room

Bishop SideboardBishop Sideboard

Mahogany, 1790–1815

This sideboard belonged to the first president of Miami University, Robert Hamilton Bishop. President Bishop owned the sideboard during his tenure in Transylvania University, Lexington, Kentucky (1804–1842). It is thought to have descended through the family of his wife.

The sideboard was brought to Oxford by the Bishops in 1824 and stood in the spacious front entry hall of the Bishop home until the 1930s. it belonged to Robert H. Bishop, MD, from 1940 until 1955. The sideboard was then lent to a cousin in Massachusetts. In 1991, the sideboard was given to Miami University by Dr. Jonathan S. Bishop and placed in McGuffey Museum.

Formal Parlor (1880s)

Formal Parlor (1880s): fabrics and colors, wallpaper, horse hair, parlor games

Formal Parlor (1880s): fabrics and colors, wallpaper, horse hair, parlor games

McGuffey's Eight-Sided Table

It is thought that McGuffey wrote the first four books in the series in this house, very possibly on this table.

McGuffey's Eight-Sided Table It is thought that McGuffey wrote the first four books in the series in this house, very possibly on this table.

Alexander McGuffey's Chair

1884This chair, carved in Cincinnati by the famous woodcarving brothers Fry, sat in the hallway of Alexander's law office. It personifies discomfort and the story is that Alexander would leave clients sitting there until they were ready to agree to his terms when negotiating a legal case. The carved motto, nemo me lacessit impune, freely translated, means that "I will harm you if you harm my good name."

Alexander McGuffey Chair   Alexander McGuffey Chair Upclose of Carved Emblem

Portrait of Caroline Virginia Rich McGuffey

Portrait of Caroline Virginia Rich McGuffey

By Thomas Buchanan Read
Oil on Canvas, 1867

Caroline Virginia Rich, shown here in her wedding attire, became the second wife of Alexander H. McGuffey in 1866 when she was 27 years old. The Cincinnati home of Caroline and Alexander McGuffey, "Sunbright," has been the source of many items with McGuffey associations that have been placed at McGuffey House and Museum.


Portrait of Unknown WomanPortrait of Unknown Woman

Oil on Canvas, Circa 1830s

This unidentified woman is believed to be one of a pair of wedding portraits. The paintings are from the Richmond, Indiana area and date to the period of McGuffey's residence in Oxford.

Wintertime Paintings

With the heavy snows and frigid temperatures Ohio receives, it seems fitting to highlight two winter scenes painted by Miami’s most prominent and productive 20th century artist, Marston Hodgin (1903-2003). Both paintings are on exhibit in the museum.

The work at left, titled February Thaw, likely depicts Four Mile Creek, aka Tallawanda Creek, circa 1940. Four Mile Creek flows along the north and east sides of the Miami University campus, and has become a favorite outdoor location for hikers and bikers on the newly opened Oxford Area Trail System (OATS). Transfer from Miami University Housing and Dining.
This painting is titled Hueston Woods and was painted in 1937. Calvin Conrad, a long-time resident of Oxford, believes the scene is along or near the road that today provides access to the Maple Sugar Shack at Hueston Woods State Park. The painting predates the establishment of the park. Gift of Molly Shera Lampert.

Bedroom (mid 19th century)


Bedroom (mid 19th century): candlestick, chamber pots, quilts

Peter Bruner's Top Hat and Hat Box

Overcoming years of slavery, voluntary service in the Union Army, and decades of manual labor, celebrated Oxford citizen Peter Bruner's life is a story worth telling and re-telling. Our collection includes his top hat and hat box.

Peter Bruner Hat Box

Band Box

Clayton's Ascent, 1835–1836

This oval cardboard box is covered with "Clayton's Ascent" paper printed from hand carved wood blocks.

Collection Curiosities

Boot Jack

Note: A fascinating aspect of everyday household objects is how they frequently incorporated contemporary fashion with function. This column shares one of McGuffey House and Museum’s many collection curiosities.

A Bootjack

It is winter 1833. Oxford’s weather is rainy and raw. Professor McGuffey enters through the front door of his new house on Spring Street after a long day teaching and preparing class lectures in Old Main. Careful not to track in mud from the unpaved walks and street, not to mention the ire of Harriet McGuffey, William Holmes McGuffey pauses over a simple yet invaluable household object. It is a bug-like artifact by the fire place known simply as a boot jack. Produced by numerous local foundries during the 19th century, boot jacks were used to easily remove boots hands free.

The boot jack in McGuffey House and Museum is the most common “cricket” style because of the two antennas coming out of the top of its head forming a “U” shape. One heel is placed inside the antennas and the other foot is placed on the insect’s flat back. Then, by putting your weight on your back foot and lifting your front heel, the boot jack removes the boot without having to bend over. Bear in mind men’s boots did not have laces, and few things proved more challenging than removing wet boots.

A person uses the bootjack to remove a work boot

The designs showed pride not only in how the items worked, but also how they looked. Boot jack models ranged from detailed insects, as seen in the museum, to depictions of comic strip characters from comics such as “Foxy Grandpa.” Many boot jacks that were patented in the 19th century were never put into mass production. Those that were manufactured only had a limited output, making them somewhat rare today. Next time you visit the museum feel free to take your boots off and stay a while.

Text by Rachel Dimeff, Miami Class of 2021 and Steve Gordon, Administrator; Photos by Chandler Williams, Miami Class of 2021

First Grade Report Card for Henry Heath McGuffey (b. 1928)

This report card records First Grade for Henry Heath McGuffey (b. 1928), great nephew of William Holmes McGuffey. Dearborn School was the school at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. This historical village, essentially a re-assembled homage created by Henry Ford to celebrate America's past, included William Holmes McGuffey's log cabin birthplace that had been moved from Washington County, PA. Interesting to note that nearly a century after McGuffey authored the first four Eclectic Readers, his great nephew would attend the school erected in honor of his great uncle.

Page 1 of Report Card

Transcript: Front and back cover of report card.

Back cover contains signatures of parent for first and second period, with assignment of Grade 2, dated 6-21-35 and signed. Below that, the following paragraphs.

To parents: If further information is desired, you are invited to make inquiry of the teacher. Kindly remember that such conference cannot beheld while school is in progress.

Your signature indicates that you have inspected this card--not that you approve or disapprove. Plese return card promptly.

Punctual and regular attendance is required. Sickness constitutes the only legitimate excuse for absence. On returning to school after absence the pupil should bring with him a written statement giving definitely the cause of absence. A verbal report by parent to teacher or principal is sufficient.

Your cooperation will be appreciated.

Front cover contains the following:

PUBLIC SCHOOLS of Dearborn, Michigan

Greenfield Village School

Report card of Henry Mac Guffey (sic)

Grade first

To parents:

We give two separate reports. The first indicates the progress made by the pupil in the formation of the essential traits of character and attitude of mind that makes for good citizenship. Upon these depend the future of democracy and the stability of government. In this training we recognize that the school shares responsibility with the home. The second report indicates the progress in the regular studies.

Ray H. Adams, Superintendent 

Inside pages of Grade Report Card

Transcript: Interior of report card.

On left, grids of grades beneath 6 categories, plus attendance record at bottom. All grades are top marks of G (good) or F (fair)

Heading: Citizenship: Habits and attitudes desirable for good citizenship

I. Obedience. Willingness to follow directions; respect for law and order

II. Dependability. Honesty; keeping of promises; promptness; loyalty; willingness to cooperate; self control

III. Courtesy. Courtesy to associates and to teachers; respect for rights of others; fair play; cheerfulness

IV. Cleanliness. Of person; of clothes; of behavior; of speech

V. Thrift. Respect for property; care of books, furniture, and building; care of own property; consideration for the property of others; recognition of the value of time

VI. Effort

Attendance record, with attendance across 4 quarters of 74, 156, 240, 156 and absences of 4, 4, 20, and 49

On right, scholarship grades ranging from As to Cs, and teacher's signature

Grades awarded in categories of Music, Penmanship, Reading, Numbers, Spelling

Teacher's signature: B. Cadaret

Peter Bruner

Peter Bruner: Novel in Death, Not in Life (PDF)

Manuscript by Kaylie Schunk, Masters in History candidate at Miami University and student aide at McGuffey House and Museum, 2018


Full length studio portrait of Peter Bruner, wearig his silk top hat, photographed by Frank L Bader

by Sara Eagin, McGuffey Museum Intern, 2006

Peter Bruner was born a slave in 1845 in Winchester, Kentucky, just east of Lexington.

Peter repeatedly tried to run away, and finally succeeded by joinin

g the Union Army at Camp Nelson, Kentucky in 1864. Now emancipated, he joined Company C, 12th Regiment U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery.

In 1866, he was mustered out of the army and came to Oxford to live with an aunt and uncle. When the Western Female Seminary burned down in 1871 he was hired to assist with the cleanup and rebuilding.

He then went to work for Oxford College and was so popular with the faculty and students that they threw him and his wife a party for their 25th wedding anniversary in 1893. One of his favorite gifts that he received was the silk top hat that is on display today. He wore it for every formal occasion the rest of his life, and today there are a number of pictures of him wearing the hat.

After a number of years at Oxford College, Bruner was offered a janitorial position on Miami’s campus under Dr. Thompson. On the Bruner’s 50th wedding anniversary, the University held a party for them, and Peter wore his silk top hat.

Although Peter could not read or write, he dictated his life story to his daughter, who wrote the book A Slave's Adventures Toward Freedom, published ca. 1920.

In 1938 Bruner was named Oxford’s Mayor for a Day. Soon after he died on April 7th, 1938 at age 92. He asked that after his death his hat be returned to Miami University.

William Holmes McGuffey House and Museum

We aim to collect, preserve, interpret, and exhibit materials relating to the life of William Holmes McGuffey, the McGuffey Eclectic Reader series, the history of Miami University, and 19th-century domestic life and architecture of southwest Ohio.

Hours of Operation

Thursday - Saturday
1:00pm - 5:00pm

McGuffey House and Museum observes Miami University closings and other special events.

Summer Hours 2024

Thursday - Saturday 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM


Saturday, May 25 for Memorial Day
Thursday-Saturday July 4-6 Independence Day