19th Century textbook writers, on the whole, were quite a serious lot, although some books did contain a little humor. In Alonzo Reed's 1889 "English Language Grammar," he advises in the introduction, "The teacher should guide the thought of his class, but, if he attempts to do all the talking, he will find, when he concludes, that he has been left to do all the thinking." Reading books of the time also lacked the amusing plots children today expect. Nelson M. Holbrook's Progressive Pictorial Primer" in 1857 offers this entertaining story: "We go. Do we go? We do go. We do so. See us go. We go so. Go as we go."
Unlike modern schools, the teacher had to be able to teach all subjects from what is now called kindergarten through high school. This required a much more comprehensive education on their part, for an average salary of around $30 a month. Lessons usually lasted from 9:00am to 5:00pm, with a two hour break for lunch and recess.