After 1785, the production of children's books in the Untied States increased but remained largely reprints of British books, often those published by John Newbery, the first publisher to produce books aimed primarily at diverting a child audience. Ultimate]y, Line however, it was not the cheerful, commercial-minded Newhery, but Anglo -Irish author 5 Maria Edgeworth who had the strongest influence on this period of American children's literature.
The eighteenth century had seen a gradual shift away from the spiritual intensity of earlier American relig ious writings for children, toward a more generalized moralism. Newbery notwithstanding, Americans still looked on children's books as vehicles for instruction, not amusement , though they would accept a moderate amount of fictional 10 entertainment for the sake of more successful instruction.
As the children's book market expanded, then, what both public and publishers wanted was the kind of fiction Maria Edgeworth wrote: stories interesting enough to attract children and morally instructive enough to allay adult distrust of fiction, American reaction against imported books for children set in after the War of 1812 15 with the British. A wave of nationalism permeated everything,and the self-conscious new nation found foreign writings (particularly those from the British monarchy) unsuitable for the children of a democratic republic, a slate of self-governing, equal citizens.
Publishers of children's books began to encourage American writers to write for American children. When they responded, the pattern established by Maria Edgeworth was at hand, attractive 20 to most of them for both its rationalism and its high moral tone. Early in the 1820's, stories of willful children learning to obey, of careless children learning to take care, of selfish children learning to "tire for others," started to flow from American presses, successfully achieving Edgeworth's tone, though rarely her lively style.
Imitative as they were, these early American stories wee quite distinguishable from their British 25 counterparts. Few servants appeared in them, and if class distinctions had by no means disappeared, there was much democratic insistence on the worthiness of every level of birth and work. The characters of children in this fiction were serious, conscientious. self -reflective, and independent-testimony to the continuing influence of the earlier American moralistic tradition in children's books.