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Bringing Montessori to America: S. S. McClure, Maria Montessori, and the Campaign to Publicize Montessori Education

Bringing Montessori to America: S. S. McClure, Maria Montessori, and the Campaign to Publicize Montessori Education

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Bringing Montessori to America: S. S. McClure, Maria Montessori, and the Campaign to Publicize Montessori Education

469 pages
6 hours
Apr 1, 2016


2016 Choice Outstanding Academic Title!

Bringing Montessori to America traces in engrossing detail one of the most fascinating partnerships in the history of American education—that between Maria Montessori and S. S. McClure, from their first meeting in 1910 until their final acrimonious dispute in 1915.
Born on the Adriatic, Montessori first entered the world stage in 1906 as the innovator of a revolutionary teaching method that creates an environment where children learn at their own pace and initiate skills like reading and writing in a spontaneous way. As her school in Rome swiftly attracted attention, curiosity, and followers, Montessori recruited disciples whom she immersed in a rigorous and detailed teacher-training regimen of her own creation.
McClure was an Irish-born media baron of America’s Gilded Age, best known as the founder and publisher of McClure’s Magazine. Against the backdrop of Theodore Roosevelt’s Bull Moose insurgency, the brilliant and mercurial McClure used his flagship publication as a vehicle to advance Progressive Party causes. After meeting in 1910, McClure and Montessori embarked on a five-year collaboration to introduce Montessori’s innovative teaching style in the United States.
Gerald and Patricia Gutek trace the dramatic arc of the partnership between the Italian teacher and American publisher united by a vision of educational change in the United States. After her triumphal lecture tour in 1913, Montessori, secure in her trust of her American partner, gave McClure her power of attorney and returned to Italy. The surge in popularity of Montessori education in America, however, deeply concerned Montessori, who had heretofore exerted total control over her method, apparatus, schools, and teacher training. The American entrepreneurial spirit, along with a desire to disseminate the Montessori method quickly, led to major conflicts between the Italian educator and American businesspeople, particularly McClure. Feeling betrayed, Montessori ended her relationship with her erstwhile collaborator.
Gutek and Gutek describe the fascinating story of this first wave of Montessori education in the United States, which did not sustain itself during Montessori’s lifetime. It would not be until the 1950s that Montessori education was revived with the successful establishment of Montessori academies throughout the United States.
Apr 1, 2016

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Bringing Montessori to America - Gerald L. Gutek



S. S. McClure, Maria Montessori, and the Campaign to Publicize Montessori Education


The University of Alabama Press


The University of Alabama Press

Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35487–0380

Copyright © 2016 by the University of Alabama Press

All rights reserved.

Inquiries about reproducing material from this work should be addressed to the University of Alabama Press.

Typeface: Garamond

Manufactured in the United States of America

Cover photograph: Maria Montessori and S. S. McClure; courtesy of Bain Collection, Library of Congress

Cover design: Michele Myatt Quinn

The paper on which this book is printed meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48–1984.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Gutek, Gerald Lee, author. | Gutek, Patricia, 1941– author.

Title: Bringing Montessori to America : S.S. Mcclure, Maria Montessori, and the campaign to publicize Montessori education / Gerald L. Gutek and Patricia A. Gutek.

Description: Tuscaloosa : The University of Alabama Press, [2016] | Includes bibliographical references and index.

Identifiers: LCCN 2015031838| ISBN 9780817318970 (cloth : alk. paper) | ISBN 9780817389314 (e book)

Subjects: LCSH: Montessori method of education—United States. | McClure, S. S. (Samuel Sidney), 1857–1949 | Montessori, Maria, 1870–1952.

Classification: LCC LB1029.M75 G88 2016 | DDC 371.39/2—dc23

LC record available at


List of Illustrations


1. S. S. McClure: Cyclone in a Frock Coat

2. Maria Montessori: An Educational Wonder-Worker

3. The Montessori Method

4. Creating a Favorable Climate of Opinion for the Montessori Method in the United States

5. McClure’s Magazine Publicizes Montessori

6. McClure and the Montessori Educational Association

7. Montessori’s American Lecture Tour, December 1913

8. The Montessori-McClure Breakup

9. Montessori Education in the United States Post-McClure

10. McClure and Montessori: The Later Years






1. S. S. McClure, from The Booklovers Magazine, January 1903.

2. Maria Montessori at her desk, from Dorothy Canfield Fisher’s A Montessori Mother, published by Henry Holt and Company in 1912.

3. Montessori children at dinner, from Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method: Scientific Pedagogy, as Applied to Child Education in The Children’s Houses.

4. S. S. McClure and Maria Montessori during her American lecture tour, December 1913 (Harris and Ewing, photographer, Library of Congress).

5. Above: Training the sense of touch. Below: Learning to read and write by touch. Both from Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method: Scientific Pedagogy, as Applied to Child Education in The Children’s Houses.

6. Above: Children touching letters. Below: Making words with cardboard script. Both from Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method: Scientific Pedagogy, as Applied to Child Education in The Children’s Houses.

7. Postcard advertising S. S. McClure’s lecture series on the Montessori Method. 1914 (Special Collections and Archives, Knox College Library, Galesburg, Illinois).


1. Maria Montessori’s December 1913 Lecture Tour Report of Net Receipts (Montessori’s, Keedick’s and McClure’s Shares of Net Receipts in Dollars)

2. Maria Montessori’s December 1913 American Lecture Tour Receipts and Expenses


This book tells the story of the meeting of two remarkable individuals, Maria Montessori and Samuel Sidney (S. S.) McClure, in the second decade of the twentieth century. Maria Montessori (1870–1952) is acclaimed internationally as one of history’s great pioneering educators. Montessori schools operate worldwide in countries as culturally diverse as the United States, the United Kingdom, India, the Netherlands, Spain, and her native Italy, all nations in which she taught and lectured. Montessori’s biographers agree that she was a unique individual, a remarkable woman, a physician, and an educator who used her medical and scientific training, her life experience, and her insights to construct a highly innovative philosophy and method of education. Her method challenged the conventional educational wisdom of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Not only did she have to challenge the rote and routines in schools, she had to overcome the late Victorian era’s gender-based restrictions that defined women as wives, mothers, caregivers, and in some cases primary school teachers and nurses. Her biographers, especially Rita Kramer and Phyllis Povell, tell the life story of a determined woman who successfully surmounted the barriers that limited the freedom of women to chart new careers.

While the life story that Montessori’s biographers tell is true, might there be something more to the woman whose students referred to her as La Dottoressa (the doctor)—the physician turned educator? The five years from 1910 to 1915 when she was connected with S. S. McClure, her American publicist, reveal a multidimensional woman who, while truly a great educator, was a complex personality, determined at all costs to control what she had created.

Montessori’s relationship with S. S. McClure (1857–1949) provides a fascinating account of an initially promising, then tortured, relationship between two very strong but totally different personalities. While Montessori’s biographers have stood in awe of their subject, history has not been as generous to McClure. Today, books on American history, particularly on the Progressive Era, devote a few lines, perhaps a single short paragraph, to McClure and the journal he founded, McClure’s Magazine. The energetic publisher and editor, once acclaimed as the pioneer of modern American publishing and journalism, certainly would resent his contemporary place at history’s margins. However, when McClure met Montessori in 1910, his fame in the United States, perhaps even in Western Europe, overshadowed that of the Italian educator.

McClure commanded center stage in American journalism during the height of the Progressive Era, the years from 1890 to 1920. During these three decades, reform-minded political leaders, journalists, settlement house workers, conservationists, and educators formed a loose but broad coalition to root out political and corporate corruption and reform American life and institutions. The articles of leading Progressives such as Theodore Roosevelt and Jane Addams were featured in the pages of McClure’s Magazine. When McClure brought Montessori to lecture in America’s major cities in 1913, the Progressive former Princeton University president, Woodrow Wilson, was in the White House. Montessori’s educational philosophy even reached the nation’s first family as Wilson’s daughter Margaret became an enthusiastic Montessori supporter and a founding member of the Montessori Educational Association established by McClure and Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell.

McClure, who came to the United States as an immigrant lad from Northern Ireland, epitomized the American model of the successful self-made man who climbed, in Horatio Alger style, from rags to riches. But in McClure’s case the riches were transitory. As an enterprising and innovative publisher of a leading national magazine, McClure sought to dissolve the distinction between elite and popular literature. He introduced American readers to Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Robert Louis Stevenson through the serialization of their novels. He hired the great investigative Progressive journalists Ida Tarbell and Lincoln Steffens as writers for his magazine. He possessed an uncanny acumen in searching out and popularizing talented authors and reporters. McClure believed that Maria Montessori was indeed a talented figure, a genius, in the usually staid field of education. With boundless enthusiasm, McClure developed an ambitious plan to bring Montessori to the American public with him on a joint lecture tour and, later, create a Montessori teacher training institute.

The story of McClure and Montessori is about the meeting, intersection, and interfacing of two highly interesting but very different persons. This intersection occurred in the twentieth century’s second decade when prospects for progress seemed bright. But, halfway through that decade the lights would go out all over Europe, as World War I, the Great War, dimmed these prospects.

The relationship between McClure and Montessori went through stages that are examined in the chapters in this book. First, biographies of McClure and Montessori tell readers about the lives and careers of these two main characters at the time of their relationship. However, other leading personalities come into and out of the McClure-Montessori saga: Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, and his wife, Mabel; Gilbert Grosvenor, the editor of the National Geographic and the treasurer of the Montessori Educational Association; Carl Byoir, pioneer in American public relations; Dorothy Canfield Fisher, noted writer; Margaret Wilson, a daughter of President Woodrow Wilson; Anne E. George, the first American trained by Montessori; Lee Keedick, the lecture impresario; Helen Parkhurst, founder of the Dalton Plan of Education; and William Heard Kilpatrick, the Progressive Columbia University professor. These noteworthy persons of their times were drawn, like moths to a bright light, by Montessori. Much of the illumination of Montessori’s ideas came from the series of articles about her in McClure’s Magazine from 1910 to 1912. McClure’s campaign to publicize Montessori in the United States led to her triumphal lecture tour in 1913.

Our book narrates the story of the dynamic but difficult relationship between McClure and Maria Montessori from 1910 to 1915; it describes and interprets the agreements, misunderstandings, and tensions between these two dramatically charged personalities. McClure, a publisher, had decided that he would capitalize on Montessori’s method and become its leading proponent in the United States. Montessori, in turn, was determined that only she would control the method that she had developed.

The questions explored in the following chapters are:

1. How did such different personalities decide to cooperate in bringing the Montessori Method to America?

2. Did Montessori seek to use McClure’s Magazine and connections to promote her method?

3. How did McClure seek to profit from his association with Montessori?

4. Did McClure’s irrepressible enthusiasm and lack of attention to details doom the relationship with Montessori?

5. Did financial issues over the profits from the sale of Montessori’s didactic apparatus and other items contribute to the disintegration of the Montessori-McClure relationship?

5. Why was the successful establishment of Montessori education in America delayed for three decades after the break-up of the McClure-Montessori relationship in 1915 until its renaissance in the mid-1950s?

Our research on the McClure-Montessori story has been enjoyable, entertaining, and challenging. We were helped along our way by the capable and highly professional archivists at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, and the Indiana University’s Lilly Library in Bloomington, Indiana. Yolande Wersching, the Head Librarian of Lewis Library at Loyola University, Chicago, was especially helpful in finding and assessing articles, books, and dissertations on our subject. We are very grateful for the superb translators who translated the French and Italian handwritten and hard-to-read correspondence of Maria Montessori and her associates. Dorina Spiering translated from Italian and Anie Sergis translated from French. Sabine Haenen of Legal Confidential Certified Translations in the Netherlands translated from French while using her knowledge of Italian to accurately interpret Montessori’s meaning.

We are also grateful for the expert genealogical assistance on Anne E. George by our friend Joanne Periolat Siadak.

We hope that you will enjoy reading our book as much as we enjoyed researching and writing it.


S. S. McClure

Cyclone in a Frock Coat

The personalities of S. S. McClure, editor and publisher, and Maria Montessori, physician and educator, made them the most unlikely of associates. Their short transatlantic alliance was both energized and flawed by their distinctive traits of character. The McClure-Montessori relationship, from 1910 to 1915 is a fascinating historical episode that reverberated with alternating currents of enthusiasm and depression, trust and mistrust, promise and failure.

Born in 1857 and thirteen years older than Montessori, McClure’s life circumstances were dramatically different from the Italian educator. Unlike the gentility and security of Montessori’s middle-class family, Samuel McClure, the son of Scots-Irish working-class parents, endured an insecure childhood. Born on February 17, 1857, at his maternal grandparents’ home in County Antrim, in the northeast section of Northern Ireland, he was named Samuel after his paternal grandfather. Unlike Maria Montessori, an only child, Samuel was the oldest of Thomas and Elizabeth (Gaston) McClure’s four surviving sons.

In 1858, Thomas bought a small nine-acre farm at Drumalgea from his father, Samuel McClure Sr. Because he could not support his family solely by farming, Thomas McClure left for Scotland to work as a laborer in the shipyards in Glasgow. An accident at work took his life at age 32, in November 1864. Thomas McClure’s twenty-seven-year-old widow, Elizabeth, who was pregnant, returned to her mother’s home with her sons. In addition to sons Samuel, John, and Thomas, a son named Robert died when he was one and one-half years old. Subsequently, the youngest McClure son, born in 1865 after Thomas’s death, was also named Robert.

Facing a bleak future in Antrim, Elizabeth decided her only hope was in America. By selling her farm back to her father-in-law for one hundred pounds she was able to pay for the passage. On June 14, 1866, Elizabeth McClure and her four young sons sailed from Londonderry on the Mongolia, landing at Quebec June 26. She planned to go to Indiana where her two married sisters and two single brothers were living, in Lake and Porter Counties. After traveling by train for seven days, Elizabeth and her children arrived in Valparaiso, in northwest Indiana on July 3, 1866. Nine-year-old Samuel McClure now began his new life as an American.

With some reluctance Elizabeth’s sister, married to a Mr. Coleman, took in the five McClures. The Colemans, who lived on a farm near Valparaiso with a large family of their own, were financially strained with the addition of the McClures to their household. To bring in desperately needed funds, Elizabeth hired out as a laundress; but as she was required to live in her employer’s home, leaving the four McClure boys added an unwelcome burden on her sister.

Samuel McClure, in his Autobiography, published in 1914, largely shaped the narrative of his early life. He told the story of the Irish immigrant lad in Indiana, who in Horatio Alger style, went from rags to riches. He relished telling of his upward climb from poverty and obscurity to wealth and fame. Like the Scottish Andrew Carnegie, McClure came as an immigrant child to the United States. As with Carnegie, McClure’s account, though sometimes embellished, was largely true.

McClure, who would become an editor, said he had loved books and reading as long as he could remember. He had learned to read at age four as a pupil in a national school in Antrim. McClure remembered how as a child he searched for something to read: "During these years the lack of reading matter was one of the deprivations which I felt, most keenly. We had no books at home. . . . When I was about thirteen years old I first read, in the weekly edition of the Chicago Tribune, ‘The Luck of Roaring Camp.’"¹ He made his fondness for literature the core of his editorial quest for talented writers of engaging stories.

McClure’s childhood search for books and magazines made an imprint on his mind. For a time, he lived in the house of Dr. Orpheus Everts, a prominent physician, in Valparaiso, where his mother worked as a housemaid.² There, the doctor gave him access to his library. Sam remembered, For the first time in my life I found myself in a house where there were plenty of books. I sometimes read two or three books a day.³ He also recalled finding some books left at a deserted hunter’s camp: I . . . found . . . several old paper-backed novels and a few tattered magazines. These were a great find for me. Years afterward, the idea of forming a newspaper syndicate first came to me through my remembering my hunger, as a boy, for something to read.

Like his appetite for reading, Sam McClure hungered for an education. Unlike Montessori, who had a complete education from primary school through medical school, McClure struggled to attend school. While the Montessori family could pay for Maria’s education, McClure’s widowed mother could not. In Antrim, Sam attended a national primary school when he was four. Never humble about his achievements, McClure claimed he excelled as a student, always first in his class. Passing two forms (classes) a year, at age eight he was in the sixth form with fourteen- and fifteen-year-old boys.

After immigrating to Indiana as a nine year old, McClure’s formal education grew increasingly sporadic. Like many farm boys in rural America at the time, chores took priority over school. He had to work on his uncle’s farm for over a year before attending the local Hickory Point School. Despite all the obstacles that blocked his path to an education, Sam managed to attend whenever possible. He recalled, The second winter I attended school for the first time since we came to America. I went to the Hickory Point School. . . . I was so fond of school that, if I had to work at home for part of the day, I would go all the way to school to get the last hour, from three to four, there.

Two years after her arrival in Indiana, Elizabeth McClure married a neighboring farmer, Thomas Simpson, an immigrant from Tyrone, Ireland. She and her sons moved to his one-hundred-acre farm. Elizabeth had four children from her second marriage, but only one daughter survived infancy. Samuel remembered his mother during these years as a hard worker who milked cows, made and sold butter, and was usually carrying a new baby or caring for a sick toddler.

Though undereducated, Elizabeth McClure, valuing learning, encouraged her sons to go to school. In the 1870s, high schools were slowly being established around the country and Valparaiso opened one in 1871. The school, however, was over fourteen miles from the Simpson farm. McClure’s ever-practical mother encouraged her fourteen-year-old son, Sam, to move to Valparaiso, enroll in the high school, and support himself by working in private homes for his room and board. A character trait that McClure developed as a child was to move head first into challenging situations and then figure out how to surmount them. Samuel, eager to attend high school, went to Valparaiso without money and only the clothes he was wearing. He knocked on doors offering to do chores in exchange for room and board and was hired first by the Cass family; then he worked for the Kelloggs during the winter term, and later for the Shreeves.

When he learned his classmates all had middle names, Sam decided he needed one too. Because he admired Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman, he told his teacher his middle name was Sherman. Recalling how he came to be S. S. McClure, he said, Later I changed the Sherman to Sidney. I am usually known now as S. S. McClure, but there never was any S. S. McClure until that morning.

While Montessori’s teaching experiences led her to create her own method of education, McClure’s teaching experiences were less promising. During the summer vacation following his first year as a high school student, McClure, who needed to earn some money for his next year, tried teaching. At a time when credentialing teachers was a local matter, McClure passed the Porter County examinations and was hired as a teacher at a country school near his stepfather’s farm. He decided to change the school’s daily routine, The custom was then in country schools to keep the little children in their seats all day, although they had only three or four recitations during the school period. This seemed to me inflicting a needless hardship, so I decided to give the youngest children eight short recitations periods a day and to let them play out of doors the rest of the time. . . . This was not the usual way of managing a country school, however, and a hired man who worked in the fields near the schoolhouse complained to the directors. . . . The school directors met and asked me what I had to say to this charge. I was then fifteen, had had no experience in teaching before. . . . The charge was dismissed. I could not, however, teach out my term of three months. The humdrum of teaching was more than I could endure. . . . One thing I could never do was teach a country school. I tried it twice afterward, but both times I had to run away from the job before the term was over.

As an adolescent, McClure began to experience an unsettling feeling he called attacks of restlessness. Most likely due to the onset of a psychological condition, perhaps manic-depression, McClure experienced this for the rest of his life. Not understanding what was happening, he wrote,

I simply had to run away for a day, for half a day, for two days. It was not that I wanted to go anywhere in particular, but that I had to go somewhere, that I could not stay another minute. . . . These fits were apt to come on at any time; but in the spring . . . they were sure to come. . . . There was no standing up against them. . . . Usually I didn’t try; I simply ran down to the station and took the first freight-car out of town. . . . I ran away like this, not once or twice, but dozens and dozens of time. It was a regular irregularity in my life. It was, indeed, more than most other things, a necessity of my life. . . . This restlessness was something that I seemed to have no control over. I have had to reckon with it all my life, and whatever I have been able to do has been in spite of it. As a lad I followed this impulse blindly, but later I realized that this restlessness was a kind of misfortune, and that it could be at times a hard master.

As an adult, McClure periodically had to be on the move, either by train or steamer. He became so famous for his frequent Atlantic crossings that ship captains would signal to each other asking if McClure was aboard their ship.

After his stepfather, Thomas Simpson, died in early 1874, his twice-widowed mother asked seventeen-year-old Sam to leave high school in Valparaiso and come back to work the farm she had inherited. Though farming did not appeal to him, McClure returned reluctantly but hoped to find an escape so he could continue his education.

McClure’s opportunity came when his uncle, Joe Gaston, Elizabeth’s brother, a student for the ministry at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, urged him to go to Knox. Eager to leave the farm and needing little encouragement, McClure was ready to go to college. He recalled that his vague project instantly became a definite plan. I was going to Knox College. . . . When September came I set off for Galesburg.¹⁰

Beginning the first of his seven years as a student at Knox College in September 1874, McClure would not graduate until June 1882. His extended time as a college student was due to his dire financial situation, which required absences to earn money for tuition and board, his deficiency in the academic prerequisites required for admission as a college student, and his bouts of restlessness.

Before being admitted as a freshman in the College, McClure had to pass a three-year classical college preparatory program. Knox, like many colleges at the time, had a preparatory department, the Knox Academy, in which students could fulfill their college-entry requirements. McClure recalled beginning his study at Knox: I was seventeen, and it was a seven years’ job that I was starting upon.¹¹ McClure credited Professor George Churchill, the Academy’s principal, as being a positive influence on him.

McClure’s move from northwest Indiana to Galesburg in northwest central Illinois kept him in the familiar small-town midwestern environment. As in his high school years in Valparaiso, Sam struggled financially and often lacked money for food and clothing. During his first year at Knox, he worked for room and board and stayed at the home of Galesburg’s mayor, J. C. Stewart. He recalled, I earned extra money for books and pocket-money by sawing wood about town. . . . I had no outside help at all; and at the end of the school year I had made my own way, and had six dollars left.¹²

A small coeducational college with religious origins and a faculty of fifteen professors and instructors, Knox College made a deep and lasting imprint on McClure. In 1895, McClure’s Magazine published an article on Knox College and Galesburg by Madame Blanc (Therese Bentzon), a French writer who was studying coeducational institutions in the United States. Blanc’s visit to Knox College in 1893, when it had an enrollment of 600 students, portrayed the college much as it was when McClure was a student. She found the prairie college inseparable from the little town of pretty painted wood houses, on maple-lined streets with board sidewalks. The town was named for its founder, Rev. George Gale, who, in 1836, led thirty families from upstate New York to settle on the western Illinois prairie. The college, supported by Congregationalists and Presbyterians, received a charter from the state of Illinois in 1837 and opened in 1838 with forty students.¹³ Its goals were to prepare well-educated evangelical ministers and women as worthy educators of future generations. In her article, Blanc referred to McClure as the honest little peddler who worked to pay his college expenses and one of those late in beginning who are likely to show superior talents.¹⁴

Blanc noted a religious spirit pervaded the campus in which students and faculty attended a service each morning in the auditorium of Alumni Hall, a large brick and red sandstone building in modified Roman style, where there was prayer, Bible reading, and commentary. Attending the same classes, the young women and men voluntarily separated themselves on different sides of the classroom.

McClure recalled that Four-fifths of the students at Knox . . . took the old-fashioned classical course, in which Greek was obligatory. . . . I enjoyed Greek and mathematics more than any other subjects. The Classical Course to which he referred was a four-year program consisting of Latin and Greek languages and literature; mathematics; geography and history; natural sciences; philosophy; and English language, literature, and rhetoric. With a strong concentration on academic disciplines, McClure found there were no fraternities, no organized athletics, no student dances, no concerts, no students’ orchestra or glee club. . . . A boy’s standing among the other boys depended entirely upon his scholarship. . . . One felt that Knox College was a place set apart for boys to . . . develop in mind and body . . . a kind of monastic calm.¹⁵

Although he described Knox College as a place of monastic calm, McClure, definitely not a monk, was rarely calm. He had a restlessness about him that required him to be on the move. He had to struggle for the basic necessities— food, clothing, and even enough coal to heat his room. Resourcefully joining his need for money with his need for movement, he became a door-to-door peddler, traveling through the Midwest. In his sophomore year, he started his journeys as a traveling salesman, Whenever I ran short of funds, I shouldered my pack and went away into the country for a few days, and returned with money enough to go on for a while. I had at last found a vocation exactly suited to my nature and to my needs, that could be taken up and dropped again at will: a means of making money that was easy, pleasant, nomadic, and especially adapted to broken time, such as school breaks and summer vacations.¹⁶

McClure, whose vivacious personality attracted his classmates, enlisted his friend and roommate, Albert Brady, to join him the summer after their junior year, traveling around the Great Lakes selling microscopes. McClure recalled they had traveled upward of three thousand miles, had made a little money, and were better friends than ever. Then [began] . . . senior work at Knox.¹⁷ Brady, a lasting friend, would join McClure as the Advertising Manager of McClure’s Magazine.

Years later, McClure, reflecting on his peddling experiences, felt that they had given him insights into publishing his popular magazine. The people of the small midwestern towns and farms subscribed to McClure’s Magazine because they were interested in exactly the same things . . . that interested me. . . . I could never believe in that distinction made by some editors that ‘this or that was very good, but it wouldn’t interest the people of the Middle West, or the people in the little towns.’ My experience had taught me that the people in the little towns were interested in whatever was interesting—that they were just like the people in New York or Boston. I felt myself to be a fairly representative Middle-Westerner. I bought and printed what interested me, and it usually seemed to interest the other Middle-Westerners.¹⁸

Although both Montessori and McClure were ready to seize an opportunity when it came their way, their different personalities caused them to exploit it differently, sometimes successfully and others not. Both were bright intellectually but uneven in their dispositions. Montessori, as many said, was a near genius; McClure was an extraordinary innovative, but not systematic, thinker. Scientist and physician, Montessori was cautious and deliberate but also guarded and suspicious. McClure, excitable, typically acted quickly on his myriad ideas.

At Knox College, McClure met and fell in love with Harriet Hurd, the daughter of Albert Hurd, a highly respected Knox faculty member. Hurd, a graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont and a student of Louis Agassiz, the pioneer American natural scientist, had a long distinguished career at Knox. A professor of chemistry and Latin for forty-one years, Hurd also had served as Knox’s acting president for three years.¹⁹ The match between Harriet and Samuel, a most unlikely one, appeared doomed to failure. Like everyone else at the College, Professor Hurd was well aware of McClure. He did not find the penniless Irish immigrant, a restless part-time peddler who took seven years to earn his bachelor’s degree, to be at all suited to his intellectual and capable daughter. The professor, determined to thwart his daughter’s relationship with McClure, however, like others, underestimated his relentless determination. When McClure wanted something, even if it appeared unattainable, he persisted until he got it. McClure’s two aims were to earn a college degree and to marry Harriet (Hattie) Hurd.

Like Professor Hurd, McClure’s mother, Elizabeth, opposed her son’s relationship with a college professor’s delicate daughter. She developed a scheme to thwart the romance. In the summer of 1876, she had Sam accompany her on a visit back home to Northern Ireland. Elizabeth, who paid for the trip with funds from the sale of her husband’s farm, had a plan. She would return to the United States, leaving Sam in Ireland without money for his voyage back home. Stranded, he would have no choice but to stay and work in Ireland. Sam, however, was more than a match for his mother when it came to devising strategies. Nineteen-year-old Sam McClure would not be left behind. He had his own plan; he would return to Knox College and to Harriet Hurd, with whom he was very much in love.²⁰

When an idea came to him, McClure acted on it. He attempted to stow away on a ship sailing to New York but was discovered and ordered off. Sam pleaded with the ship’s first officer that he be allowed to stay on board. He earnestly told the officer that he was a medical student who needed to complete his degree in the United States so he could achieve his life-long dream of returning to Ireland to care for the poor. Impressed by the young man’s altruism, the officer agreed to take him on as the assistant to the ship’s doctor. McClure’s lack of medical training was discovered after the ship had left port. He was put to work as a deck hand and mess server to pay for his passage.²¹ Now that he had thwarted his mother, McClure would next deal with Professor Hurd.

Back at Knox for the beginning of the fall semester in September 1876, Sam McClure asked Harriet, whether, if I turned out to be a good man, she would marry me in seven years. She said that she would.²² When Sam was eligible to begin his freshman year in 1877, Harriet, the valedictorian of her class, graduated from Knox in July 1877. Professor Hurd, still determined to end his daughter’s involvement with McClure, arranged for her to study French in Canada. Harriet reluctantly agreed to her father’s plan. Parting with McClure, Harriet told him that her father was going to send her away to school, and that she had promised him not to see . . . or . . . write to him. McClure did not see her or hear from her again for four years and two months.²³ Despite his problems with the professor, the Knox Student, which McClure edited, praised Hurd for his unfailing interest and labor in assembling Knox’s mineralogical, geological, conchological, and botanical collections.²⁴

McClure pursued his long and often interrupted courtship with the same determination he displayed in the seven years he spent earning his bachelor’s degree. In 1882, Harriet, back in Galesburg, again began seeing Sam. McClure wrote, On September 15 of my senior year I saw Harriet Hurd for the first time in nearly five years. . . . She . . . said that she felt that things had never changed between us. . . . We met again as if we had not been separated for nearly five years, with complete sympathy and understanding. . . . After that I saw Miss Hurd nearly every day until she left Galesburg in March to take a teaching position at the Abbot Academy, in Andover, Massachusetts.²⁵ Professor Hurd had persuaded his daughter to take the job as a way of ending her involvement with McClure. Although Professor Hurd won this battle, he would lose the war—as Harriet would eventually marry Samuel S. McClure.

Despite his troubled relationship with Professor Hurd and his daughter, McClure’s seven years at Knox College had a pronounced influence on his life, especially his career as the editor and publisher of McClure’s Magazine, the journal that won his place in the history of American journalism. At Knox, he made a circle of friends who later joined him in creating America’s foremost magazine of the Progressive Era. Showing a talent for journalism, he served as editor-in-chief of The Knox Student, the college newspaper, during his senior year (1881–1882), with his close friends John Phillips as Literary Editor and Albert Brady as Business Manager. These three friends

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