Friday, June 17, 2011

See No Evil, Hear No Evil

"Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see."   -Mark Twain

     Thomas Braidwood was a teacher whose school was located in Edinburgh, Scotland then he relocated to London,England.  Mr Braidwood changed his vocation from teaching the hearing to teaching the deaf and renamed his building 'Braidwood's Academy for the deaf and Dumb'.  This was the first deaf school in Britain and taught the combined method which was speech and sign.
     Colonel William Bolling of Cobbs,Virginia was influenced by his father to begin an American school for the deaf.  His siblings (two deaf brothers and a deaf sister) were educated at the Braidwood's school and he had a son who was deaf.  John Braidwood, grandson of Thomas and also a teacher for the deaf came to America to start a school in one of the larger cities such as Baltimore or NY.  When Colonel Bolling heard that Mr Braidwood had come to America he invited him to his home in Virginia.  The colonel established the very first deaf school in the United States in March of 1815 in Cobb,VA which was located near Petersberg. Mr Braidwood ran the school and also ran into debt with the local merchants in Petersberg. He fled to the north and the school closed in the fall of 1816.
     While Colonel William Bolling was starting a school in Virginia, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet at the request of Mason Fitch Cogswell was headed to Europe to learn a method of teaching deaf students.  Mr Cogswell's young daughter, Alice was deaf and he had asked Mr Gallaudet to help her.  Mr Gallaudet studied under Laurent Clerc and in 1816 they returned to America.  Thomas Gallaudet, along with Laurent Clerc and Mason Cogswell co-founded an institution for the education of the deaf in North America.  The 'Connecticut Asylum for the Education and Instruction of deaf and Dumb Persons' located in Hartford, CT opened its doors in April of 1817.  Mr Gallaudet was the principal of this school which became the first permanent deaf school in America and over time had its name changed to the 'American School for the Deaf'.  Mr Laurent Clerc was America's first 'deaf' teacher of the deaf and was responsible for bringing OFSL (Old French Sign Language) to America, where it would play a large part in the development of American Sign Language (ASL).
     On the 10th of September in 1851, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet died.  In 1853, the New England Gallaudet Association of the Deaf was founded to address concerns regarding the eduction of deaf children, discrimination, and a general lack of public understanding about deafness.
     In 1864, Bernard Engelsman, a teacher from Vienna, founded the 'Institution for the Improved Instruction of Deaf Mutes' located in Manhattan, NY.  This was the first pure 'oral' school in America.  Oralism is a method of speech training and lipreading which forbids the use of sign language.  Alexander Graham Bell was in support of oralism rather than the manualism (sign language) method of teaching.
     On the 11th day of December in the year 1894, my maternal great-grandmother, Josephine Duper was born.  Josie was born healthy but at some point in her very, very young life (before age 5) was afflicted with Scarlett Fever causing her to lose her hearing.  According to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, at the age of 5, Josephine Duper is listed as a 'pupil' of the Institute for the Improved Instruction of Deaf Mutes.  Ten years later, she is still in that school but the wording on the census is different.  In 1910, my great-grandmother is an 'inmate', not a 'pupil'.  Although Josie was in a school that focused on oralism, she also knew sign language.
     In January of 1911, a fire broke out in the school but luckily no one was hurt and everyone remained calm.
Another tragedy struck this school 15 years earlier. In February of 1896, an artist named Max Eglau was murdered.  I will write about that in an upcoming post.  I recently discovered a book by Victoria Thompson entitled 'Murder On Lexington Avenue which takes place at this school. I just ordered it and can't wait to read it.
     The Institution for the Improved Instruction of Deaf Mutes is now the Lexington School & Center for the Deaf and is located in Queens, NY.  The school that was located on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan was beautiful.  They don't make buildings like that anymore.
     After researching and writing this blog post I seriously want to enroll in a sign language class.

Bolling Hall
Built before 1799. Organized education for the deaf in America had it's origins here when William Bolling brought Scottish teacher John Braidwood in to teach his two deaf children. His success led to the establishment of the nation's first formal school for deaf children. It is on the Virginia Landmarks Register.
Photographed 16 Oct 2007 and Contributed by George Seitz

The Connecticut Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons, Hartford,CT

American School for the Deaf, Hartford, CT

This is the school that my great-grandmother, Josephine Duper attended. Isn't it beautiful? I love the architecture.

The Institution for the Improved Instruction of Deaf-Mutes- NYC 1883

The Manual Alphabet

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