Ridgefield notables: Charles A. Goodrich, textbook writer

Charles A. Goodrich

Charles A. Goodrich

Unlike his father, the Rev. Charles Goodrich would rather produce prose than pastor flocks.

A son of the Rev. Samuel and Elizabeth Goodrich and brother of S.G. Goodrich (“Peter Parley”) and Abigail Goodrich Whittelsey (“Mrs. Whittelsey’s Magazine”), Charles wrote more than two dozen books of history, geography and religion that helped educate generations of Americans.

Charles Augustus Goodrich was born in Ridgefield in 1790. His father was the third minister of the First Congregational Church. His mother was a member of one of Connecticut’s founding families. He grew up in a house on West Lane and later lived in a larger home that still stands on High Ridge at the head of Parley Lane.

After graduating from Yale in 1812, Goodrich studied theology and was ordained in 1816. His first post was at the First Congregational Church in Worcester, Mass. In 1820, after dealing with much “acrimonious controversy” involving local church politics, he left Worcester and headed for Berlin, Conn., to which his parents had moved. There he started to write magazine articles and books.

His History of the United States of America, published in 1822, quickly became one of the most popular textbooks in the nation, used in thousands of schools until more than 30 years after his death. The New York Times called it “one of our best standard school books.”

Other books were Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (1829) and A Child’s History of the United States, first published in 1855. Both were being published long after he died. He also wrote books on religious themes, one of the most popular being Geography of the Chief Places Mentioned in the Bible (1855).

His interests also included civil politics; he served as a Connecticut state senator from Berlin in 1838. He moved to Hartford, home of his ancestors, in 1848 and died there in 1862 at the age of 71. An obituary in The New York Times called him “a very gifted man and a most accomplished scholar. His mental organization was active, though of that sensitive nature which caused him to shrink from rough contact with the world. Mr. Goodrich’s love for his fellow men was refined, charitable, and of the most enlarged order.”

What is perhaps Charles Goodrich’s most famous legacy is a motto still often heard. Various authorities say he popularized “A place for everything and everything in its place” by being the first person to have used the concept in print — in an 1827 magazine article on “Neatness.”

His version wasn’t quite as pithy as today’s epigram. He wrote: “Have a place for every thing, and keep every thing in its proper place.”