Helen Jernegan was in charge of her children's schooling while away from Edgartown, so she must have used her experience as a teacher to choose resources to bring along on the whaling voyage. Since Laura was just beginning to learn how to read and write, she may have used The New England Primer. Originally designed for the American Colonists, it became a successful educational textbook published in early days of American history. The primer remained in print throughout the 1800s and into the early 1900s.
Even more popular than the New England Primer were the McGuffey Readers, by William McGuffey (1800-1873). It is estimated that at least 120 million copies were sold between 1836 and 1920, placing its sales with the Bible and Webster's dictionary. These textbooks were amongst the first in America that became progressively more challenging with each volume. Word repetition, sounding–out, enunciation and accents were all emphasized, unlike The New England Primer's dependence upon memorization.
Herbert Hoover Presidential LIbrary and Museum