During the 1840s and 1850s the transformation of schoolkeepers into a professional corps of educators hinged more on the efficiency of contemporary revivalist strategies than on any conception of scholarship or systematic pedagogy. At best, theories and ideologies of instruction generally offered only supplementary argumentation to justify immediate practices and experiments. Little educational activity seems to have been inspired directly by any ideological treatises on learning, although professional schoolmen of the ante-bellum period freely invoked Pestalozzi, de Fellenberg, Rousseau, Lancaster, and the European educational systems as models of various educational practices. In New England the effective plan behind the call for professional educators came not from adaptations of foreign instruction, but rather from already proven measures which had been applied and perfected by religious evangelicals of the 1830s. The major institution for educational improvement in the ante-bellum period was the teachers' institute which operated as a kind of revival agency. The origin, spread, and eclipse of this institution for professional teachers, both in its conceptual and institutional features, illuminate the shifting contours of educational policy and practice in New England before the Civil War.