Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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DOWNEY, John, educator, born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, in 1770; died in Harrisburg, 21 July 1827. He received a classical education in the old academy at Germantown, and in 1795 opened a Latin and grammar school in Harrisburg. At this time he proposed, in a letter to Governor Thomas Mifflin, a plan of education that foreshadows the present public school system, which placed him in the front rank of early American educators. Henry Barnard, of Connecticut, far in advance of the age in which he lived, pronounced this plan. He was the first cashier in the Harrisburg bank, was one of the corporators of the Harrisburg and Middletown Turnpike Company, and was largely instrumental in the erection of the bridge over the Susquehanna. In 1817 he was a member of the Pennsylvania legislature. He wrote frequently for the press, and was the author of a series of humorous sketches under the signature of "Simon the Wagoner." He compiled a work entitled "The Justice's Assistant."
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