In 1980, Dr. Benjamin Walker, a member of the ISU faculty, made a donation of 300 early American textbooks, many of them from New England, thus establishing the collection bearing his name. The core of the collection, containing primarily nineteenth-century textbooks, provides examples of seminal school textbooks which influenced the direction both of textbook writing and of teaching in the United States for scores of years.
Only the famous McGuffey readers, which were pervasive throughout American schools, have been widely reprinted; otherwise, relatively few copies of early American textbooks remain extant. Therefore, Dr. Walker's gift, painstakingly amassed over several generations, serves an especially useful purpose as important examples to students and researchers.
In 1987 the Special Collections Department began to acquire primarily pre-1900 imprints of textbooks for addition to the Walker Collection. Both in 1992 and 1994, Dr. Walker generously donated additional books to the collection bearing his surname. While many of them were destined for the Walker Collection, others which had been used in Indiana were added to the Floyd Family Collection. The Walker Collection now contains about 1,050 titles. Relatively few of the titles have more than one volume, and few of them have duplicates, so the volume and title count are nearly the same.
An HTML catalog was completed in December 2000. The catalog is arranged by main entry in separate alphabetical groupings for fast downloading. In addition, there are a complete HTML version and a PDF version of the catalog.
Ben Walker, a World War II veteran who served in the Pacific Theater with distinction, passed away on April 21, 2009. A modest man to the point of our having no photographs of him, he will be greatly missed. A brief biography is available for those interested in knowing more about this generous man.
The Cunningham, Floyd Family, and Walker collections are collectively referred to as "Classics in American Education." Although emphases among the three collections vary somewhat, they all have in common a focus on American themes--beliefs, practices, texts. Taken together, the three collections provide a significant base for advanced study and research in American education.