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A Brief History Of The Pennsylvania Institution For The Deaf And Dumb

Creator: H. Van Allen (author)
Date: 1893
Source: Available at selected libraries
Figures From This Artifact: Figure 2  Figure 3  Figure 4  Figure 5  Figure 6

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In October, 1830, the principal, Mr. Weld, was called to Hartford to take charge of the American Asylum, from the principalship of which Rev. T. H. Gallaudet had just retired, and A. B. Hutton was appointed to the vacancy thus created. Mr. Hutton filled the position most ably and acceptably until his death in 1870.


The long period intervening between 1830 and 1870 was marked by no startling events, but was characterized by steady growth and improvement. The efforts of the directors to give the blessing of education to the deaf of the State were liberally seconded by the Legislature, which in 1837 appropriated $20,000, and a few years later the further sum of $8000 to enable the Institution to enlarge its buildings to accommodate the increasing attendance. The two lateral wings were extended westward, and the chapel addition was built to the central portion of the building and this enlargement increased the capacity of the building to 150. The number of pupils at this time was 107. The State had sometime before extended the term of instruction to six years.


For several years the growth of the Institution was retarded by the smallness of the legislative appropriations, but in 1854 the State inaugurated a more liberal policy, and to accommodate the increased attendance the north and south wings were added to the central building. The capacity of the building was thus increased to 200.


In less than five years the building was crowded to its utmost capacity, and in 1859 the board of directors came to the conclusion that it would be advisable to sell the property at Broad and Pine streets and secure a site in the country, but within easy reach of the city. This step was all the more desirable because the property of the Institution, although originally on the outskirts of the city, was now rapidly being surrounded by new streets and dwellings. The civil war, however, with its disastrous effects upon the financial condition of the country, prevented the sale of the property on advantageous terms, and the design was abandoned for the time being. However, the desirability of a location in the country was not lost sight of and in subsequent years various plans for effecting a removal were brought forward. During the trying times of the war the demands for admission decreased somewhat, although still exceeding the ability of the Institution to grant, and this furnished an additional reason for deferring action in the matter, at that time at least. The State, however, voluntarily increased the per capita appropriation, in view of the increase in the cost of the necessaries of life, and it was decided to slightly enlarge the buildings. In 1863, therefore, an additional story was added to the two wings in the rear.


On July 18, 1870, the Institution suffered the loss of its able and devoted principal, Abraham B. Hutton. Mr. Hutton died at Stuyvesant, N. Y., while on a visit to his sister. Joshua Foster, who had been a teacher in the Institution for upwards of thirty years was appointed to succeed him.


The fifteen years of Mr. Foster's principalship may be termed the transition period of the Institution. While not itself marked by any striking events or important changes, during this period were slowly shaped those forces which at a later day were destined to exert a marked influence upon the future of the Institution.


From the time of the establishment of the Institution the Board of Directors had been assisted in the management of the school, and especially in the direction of the affairs of the domestic department, by a committee of ladies. Through the exertions of this committee the inception was made in 1871 of a fund for the aid of destitute deaf-mutes, which steadily grew from year to year by donations and bequests. This fund was the means of assisting many worthy graduates to make a start in life. At a later date a portion of the income of this fund was devoted to assisting deserving graduates of the school to take a course at the National Deaf Mute College. At one time the ladies seriously considered the advisability of establishing a "nursery" at some suburban point for the training of young deaf children before they were of school age. However, the extension of the term of instruction allowed by the State, permitting the admission of children at a considerably earlier age, and the conviction founded upon experience and observation, that the proper place for a very young deaf child is at home with its mother, led the committee to defer action upon the matter.


On February 8, 1871, the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Institution was celebrated by a gathering of the graduates. The celebration began with religious exercises at St. Stephen's Church in the morning, and in the afternoon a meeting was held at Rev. Dr. Wylie's church on Broad Street, opposite the Institution. Addresses were delivered by Thomas Jefferson Trist, John Carlin, Joseph O. Pyatt and others. The exercises of the day concluded with a reception and banquet at the Institution in the evening. Some three hundred graduates were present on this interesting occasion, and as a result of the gathering a fine oil portrait of Lewis Weld, painted by John Carlin, one of the graduates, was presented to the Institution.

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