Joseph Baldwin, son of Joseph and Isabella (Cairns) Baldwin, was born near New Castle, PA on October 31, 1827. After completing his secondary education at Bartlett Academy in New Castle in 1848, Baldwin entered Bethany College, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in 1852. While at Bethany, he lived in the home of the school's founder and President, Rev Alexander Campbell, founder of the Disciples of Christ Church. He received an honorary LLD from Bethany in 1891.
Prepared for the Disciples of Christ ministry but newly married and needing to earn a living, Baldwin moved to Missouri and entered the teaching profession. He taught in the Platte City Academy for a year then was Principal of Savannah Normal Institute, 1854-56. In the spring of 1856, he helped organize the Missouri State Teachers Association and was elected Vice President. That fall he returned to Pennsylvania and enrolled at Lancaster County Normal School for a year's training as a teacher.
From 1857 to 1863, Baldwin conducted normal schools at Burnettsville and Kokomo, IN. When the Civil War intervened, he organized a company of the Kokomo students for military service and closed the school to serve as an officer in the Union Army, 1863-64. After the war, he moved to Logansport where he became Principal of both Logansport Seminary and Cass County Normal School.
In February 1867, Baldwin decided to open his own normal school. After consultation with Major J.B. Merwin of St Louis, editor of the American Journal of Education, and at the urging of his own kinsman, J.J. Grigsby of Kirksville, MO, he selected Kirksville as the location. He was offered the use of the empty Cumberland Academy building, and on September 2, 1867, the North Missouri Normal School and Commercial College opened its doors. Three years later, the Missouri Legislature provided for the creation of a state normal school system and Baldwin, who was named a member of the organizing Board of Regents, offered his school to the state. His offer was accepted and the school came under state control as the First District Normal School on December 29, 1870. Baldwin was named President.
Baldwin remained in Kirksville until 1881 then accepted the Presidency of the Normal Institute at Huntsville, TX (now Sam Houston State University). In 1891 he took the newly created Chair of Pedagogy at the University of Texas and remained there until his retirement in 1897, when he was named Professor Emeritus. He continued to live in Austin until his death, January 13, 1899, and is buried there.
Joseph Baldwin's wife, Ella Sophronia Fluhart, was also a teacher. They married in Wascon, OH on August 26, 1852, and became the parents of nine children: Anabel (Mrs GW Sublette), Olivia, Coramantha (Mrs JB Haston), Joseph R, Harold, Norma (Mrs CD Kinney), and Zoe (Mrs WJ Sublette); and Victor and Rachel who died in early childhood.
He was the author of several books on education which became the standards of the profession: Art of School Management (1880), Elementary Psychology and Education (1887), Psychology Applied to the Art of Teaching (1892), and School Management and School Methods (1897).
Two Baldwin Halls ("Old" Baldwin burned in 1924; "New" Baldwin was built in 1938) on the campus of the school at Kirksville have been named for him. His portrait hangs in the Presidents Gallery and his statue, dedicated on his 100th birthday, stands prominently in the central "Quad".
Ryle, Walter H. Centennial History of the Northeast Missouri State Teachers College. Kirksville: the College, 1972.
Selby, P.O. One Hundred Twenty-Three Biographies of Deceased Faculty Members. Kirksville: Northeast Missouri State Teachers College, 1962.