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.

A person uses the bootjack to remove a work bootThe 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.

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.

Front of report card. Transcript in text.


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 of report card. Transcript in text.


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