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A Brief History Of The American Asylum, At Hartford, For The Education And Instruction Of The Deaf And Dumb

Creator: n/a
Date: 1893
Source: Available at selected libraries
Figures From This Artifact: Figure 2  Figure 3  Figure 4


This pamphlet, published in 1893, outlines the origins of what became the American School for the Deaf. It includes information on the educational offering at the institution as well as a compilation of occupations of former pupils at the school.

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In the year 1807 Alice, the youngest daughter of Mason F. Cogswell, M.D., of Hartford, Conn., a man eminent in his profession and in philanthropic works, became deaf through scarlet fever. Anxious for the education of this beloved child, Dr. Cogswell appealed to the General Association of the Congregational Clergymen of Connecticut to aid him in ascertaining the number of persons in the State afflicted in like manner, and at a meeting of the association, held at Sharon, in June, 1812, it was reported by a committee previously appointed for the purpose, that there were eighty-four deaf and dumb persons within the limits of the State. If a like proportion of deaf-dumbness existed in other States there were probably four hundred such persons in New England, and in all the United States about two thousand. Surely enough of these must be of school age to sustain a good school on this side of the Atlantic.


Bringing these facts to the attention of his wealthy and influential friends, Dr. Cogswell succeeded in interesting them in the project of establishing a school for their education.


On the 13th of April, 1815, the following gentlemen met by invitation at his house, viz.: "Ward Woodbridge, Esq., Daniel Wadsworth, Esq., Henry Hudson, Esq., Hon. Nathaniel Terry, John Caldwell, Esq., Daniel Buck, Esq., Joseph Battell, Esq. (of Norfolk), Rev. Nathan Strong, D.D., and Rev. Thos. H. Gallaudet." After prayer by Dr. Strong invoking the Divine blessing upon their deliberations, and after a full discussion of the practicability of sending some suitable person to Europe to study the art of instructing the deaf and dumb, Dr. Cogswell and Mr. Woodbridge were appointed a committee to ascertain the name of some suitable person, who would consent to go, and to obtain subscriptions to defray his expenses. In one day Mr. Woodbridge, who was one of the leading business men of Hartford, raised sufficient funds for the purpose. The Rev. Thos. H. Gallaudet, a graduate of Yale College and of Andover Theological Seminary, was solicited to make the journey and fit himself to take up the new enterprise. On the 15th of April, 1815, he signified to the committee his willingness to do so, and on the 25th day of May he sailed for Europe. It is not necessary in this brief history to recount the story so often told of the obstacles encountered by Mr. Gallaudet in England and Scotland in his endeavor to acquire the method of instruction in use there, and of the open-armed hospitality extended to him by the Abbe De l'Epee at Paris, where every facility was afforded him to accomplish the purpose for which he had crossed the Atlantic. Having secured as his assistant Laurent Clerc, who had been a brilliant pupil and, later, a teacher in the Royal Institution for the Deaf and Dumb at Paris, Mr. Gallaudet returned to New York August 10, 1816. These two spent the following eight months in visiting prominent places throughout the country to obtain subscriptions and to interest the general public in the cause of deaf-mute education, the accomplished deaf-mute exciting universal wonder and admiration.


While Mr. Gallaudet was abroad, friends at home were active in forwarding the project. At the session of the General Assembly of Connecticut, held at Hartford, in May, 1816, an act of incorporation was passed in accordance with the petition of sixty-three citizens of Hartford, who, with their associates, were by it "formed into, constituted, and made a body politic and corporate by the name of the Connecticut Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons, with the rights and powers usually granted to incorporations for educational purposes."


Under this charter the school was opened at Hartford, April 15, 1817, with seven pupils, increasing within a year to thirty-three, the first permanent school for the education of deaf-mutes in America.


In other countries, schools of this class had been sustained entirely by private charity, and had had only transient means of support. The founders of the school at Hartford, while availing themselves of private charity to put it in operation, and demonstrate the need of it, and its ability to meet that need, at once set to work to put it on a reliable basis of support. In October, 1816, the Legislature of Connecticut was appealed to for aid and made an appropriation of five thousand dollars. In 1819, the Congress of the United States, under a motion made by Henry Clay, gave to the school twenty-three thousand acres of public land, and with the proceeds of the sale of this land grounds were secured, suitable buildings erected, and a permanent fund provided. In 1819, Massachusetts provided by legislative appropriation for the education of twenty indigent pupils here. In 1825, New Hampshire and Vermont adopted the same policy of educating their deaf-mute children here at the expense of the State. Other States soon followed this good example. Thus, through the efforts of the founders of this school the humane, just, and wise policy of educating deaf-mutes at the public expense was firmly established in this country, and has been adopted by almost every State in the Union. In some of the Western States means for the education of deaf-mutes are secured by Constitutional provision. This has put the schools for deaf-mutes in the United States on a better basis, financially, than those in any other part of the world.

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